By now, even if you've never seen the 2004 Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, you probably know that the band was rescued from the brink of its own creative and personal disintegration through a couple years of intensive group therapy sessions led by life coach Phil Towle. Granted, St. Anger — the 2003 album Metallica recorded in the midst of that turmoil — was shit, but Towle said at the time that the fruits of that soul-searching experience would actually be heard on the next album. That album, the recently released Death Magnetic, certainly ain't Master of Puppets, but its actually pretty good. Loads of critics have been calling it Metallica's "return to form" and "best album in two decades" and blah blah blah. You can probably credit Towle with making the band best friends forever and a creative success once again, but the path certainly wasn't easy. In fact, we've unearthed some of Towle's journal entries from those therapy sessions, detailing how some of his early strategies — which never made it into Some Kind of Monster — were far from effective:
Day 3: Today, we attempted the time-tested trust-building exercise in which one member of the band allows himself to fall backward, demonstrating faith that another member of the band standing behind him will catch him. Began well, with Kirk Hammett catching James Hetfield, but quickly devolved when Hetfield pulled his arms away at the last second and allowed Lars Ulrich to crash to the floor while laughing, "You're a fucking midget. How could you possibly get hurt by that short of a fall?" Note: Try something less physically dangerous next time. And bring ice packs.
Day 18: So, today I suggested a "scrapbooking exercise" in which each member should bring photos, magazine articles, various souvenirs, and the like to put together in a book so that they could better appreciate their shared history and all that they would be throwing away if they ended things. Unfortunately, James Hetfield brought an article explaining how Lars Ulrich alienated Metallica's entire fan base by taking on Napster, while Ulrich brought a Polaroid of Dave Mustaine drawing a penis and balls on Hetfield's face while he was passed out in a pile of beer cans. Fistfight ensued. Note: Ice packs came in handy. Try to better harness their aggression next time.
Day 29: To build their confidence and teamwork skills, took the band into the woods for a paintball battle against former bassist Jason Newsted's new band, Echobrain. However, during the first skirmish, Kirk Hammett refused to participate in "such warfare simulation against my brother." Newsted subsequently captured James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and forced them to re-create the Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter with paintball guns. Note: Aggression not a good idea. Avoid guns of any kind. Try something more spiritual next time.
Day 47: Brought in my assistant, Jeanine, who drew astrological charts of each band member to help them better understand their own behavior as well as understand that, perhaps, there is a greater power in the universe guiding them and the band. Kirk Hammett seemed extremely interested, but James Hetfield grabbed the charts and tore them up, insisting it was "too fucking Spinal Tap," even after Jeanine reminded him Metallica had once put out an album with an all-black cover. Note: Astrology is bullshit. I should have known better. Maybe we should all just try simply talking to one another . . .