Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Metallica - Quebec Magnetic [Blu-ray review]

Released in December

Metallica's Death Magnetic album came out in 2008, but there's been no shortage of official live home video releases from the metal icons since then documenting a few stops on their 26 month World Magnetic Tour. First was the Francais Pour Une Nuit release in November 2009 (here's my review of it), then a week later came Orgullo, Pasión, y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de Mexico. The former was released only in France and the latter only in Latin America, although both could be picked up as pricey imports or downloaded (*hand up*) by anyone with a rudimentary understanding of how to use Google. October 2010 saw the worldwide release of The Big Four: Live From Sulfia, Bulgaria on Blu-ray and DVD, featuring Metallica and the other three bands considered "the big four" of thrash metal: Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth. The newest one is Quebec Magnetic, shot in Quebec City on Halloween night and November 1st back in 2009. Now, four home video releases in one album cycle (even one as long as Metallica's tend to be) probably sounds like complete overkill to most folks...but they're probably not Metallica fans, who are happy to get their hands on anything the band puts out (except for the ill-advised Lulu album). But wait...there's more! There's another Metallica concert-related project set for theatrical release this summer, a 3D and IMAX film entitled Metallica - Through The Never, which will incorporate live footage shot in Vancouver last year with fictional elements starring Dane DeHaan (best known from the movie Chronicle). It's being teased as something akin to Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same film, so I'm prepared for the project to be either really amazing or stupendously terrible.

Quebec Magnetic expectedly doesn't differ markedly from the other three post-Death Magnetic live video releases, with the most notable deviation being the arena-sized setup for their production at Colisée Pepsi, as opposed to the stadium settings that the other videos were filmed in. Unlike, say, the St. Anger album's songs that were scarcely played on its accompanying tour, the band's rightfully strong belief in the Death Magnetic material translates into exactly a third of the 18 song setlist being made up of the album's compositions, with two more appearing on the Blu-ray's bonus content. All of them sound excellent and right at home in the setlist with other Metallica classics like "The Four Horsemen", "The Shortest Straw", "One", "Master Of Puppets", "Battery", "Battery", "Seek And Destroy" (featuring the band members sporting amusing Halloween masks), "Enter Sandman", and "Whiplash", although concert opener "That Was Just Your Life" doesn't get the visual punch it deserves, with a lackluster lighting design that finds only one small upwards-facing spotlight on frontman James Hetfield and the rest of the stage lighting coming from a rather ineffective display of laser beams. And the concept involving part of the lighting system being encased in four large mobile coffins doesn't really work for me, either - it's a little on the Spial Tap-ian side. The main concert set features a nice rarity during the band's portion of the show where they pay tribute to a group that influenced them, with an aggressive "Killing Time" by Ireland's Sweet Savage getting the nod here. An always kickass performance of Budgie's "Breadfan" turns up on the bonus content, with a performance of Metallica's relatively rarely played  "Phantom Lord" also appearing. Another welcome surprise on the bonus portion is The Black Album's "Holier Than Thou", one of the few tracks from that release that qualifies as a "deep cut", considering the album spawned six singles. Additional bonus content includes an eight minute featurette titled Quebec City Love Letters, a boring throwaway made up of a mutual love-in of testimonials between Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammet, bassist Rob Trujillo, and their fans.

My standard source of annoyance with nearly all contemporary live music video releases taints Quebec Magnetic even more than usual: the short attention span video editing. Quick picture cuts suits the breakneck nature of Metallica's music, but the rapid-fire editing used here is patently ridiculous. I rewatched the first three songs of the main set to see just how bad it was and didn't count a single shot that lasted longer than three seconds. A viewing of Led Zeppelin's recent Celebration Day video release provides stark contrast to this frenzied visual approach, as shots are allowed to linger and details actually allowed to be absorbed. Celebration Day also barely shows any audience reaction shots (another pet peeve of mine), something Quebec Magnetic goes way overboard with. There's just no good reason to have as many shots of middle-aged men showing off their tattoos, banging their heads, throwing the devil horns, and hilariously flicking their tongues like Gene Simmons while the concert is unfolding as is included in this production. One cool and unexpectedly heartwarming moment does occur during the extended sequence after the band has finished playing and are shaking their fan's hands before departing the stage, where Hetfield takes off his sweatbands and gives them to a visibly appreciative young man with Down's Syndrome.

So sure, Quebec Magnetic isn't exactly necessary and the seizure-inducing visuals are a chore to endure, but it's still an official Metallica video release, which is good enough for anyone (like myself) calling themselves a hardcore fan of the band. Finally, I need to acknowledge the pristine sound on this Blu-ray. I don't know diddly squat about home video sound formats, but the Uncompressed PCM 2.0 setting I listened to Quebec Magnetic on, which I had cranked through an excellent pair of headphones, sounded spectacular, delivering a distinct separation of the instruments and vocals (extra impressive when you consider the volume and speed at which the group plays) and providing the best audio I've ever heard for a live Metallica recording.

Rating: B

Related posts: my November 2011 review of Metallica's Lulu album and March 2012 review of the group's Beyond Magnetic EP

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know there were any other releases other than the Big 4 DVD so I'll have to look for those other 2. You're right about the quick editing on Quebec Magnetic. You never get a chance to appreciate much of the visuals.


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