Since its launch in 2015, Masterclass has not only expanded the variety of its online course offerings but sought out ever-bigger names for its teachers. Names don’t come much bigger than Metallica in the world of heavy metal, and indeed in the world of rock music in general. Hence the broad title of the new Masterclass “Metallica Teaches Being a Band.” Having been a band for 40 years now, they presumably know more than a little about everything involved in that enterprise: not just recording hit albums like Master of Puppets and songs like “Enter Sandman,” but also weathering dramatic changes in both the music business and popular culture while cooperating for the good of the group.
Not that, to the men of Metallica, such cooperation has always come naturally. “There’ve been times when it’s been fractured and it looks like we were on the verge of breaking up,” says guitarist Kirk Hammett in the trailer for their Masterclass above.
He joined the band in 1983, which means he has very nearly as long a standing in the band as its founders, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. All of them, along with bassist Robert Trujillo, appear here as teachers to share their accumulated wisdom, have to do as it may with songwriting, performance, interpersonal communication, or the management of time and anger.
Like all Masterclasses, Metallica’s course is divided into many easily watchable video lessons, most with a practical slant. Musically inclined viewers, even those with no interest in becoming heavy-metal icons, will benefit from learning to work “From Riff to Song,” the principles of “Putting Together an Album,” and the art of “Navigating Egos.” But for Metallica fans in particular — whom, collectively, the band consider their fifth member — few lessons in any Masterclass could be as gripping as the deconstructions of “Enter Sandman,” “Master of Puppets,” and “One.” They do all this in a calmer, more reflective psychological place than the bitter, near-dysfunctional one in which the 2004 documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster found them — but not so calm and reflective that they can’t finish the course off with, as Hammett puts it, “a bad-ass performance.”
When you sign up to become a Masterclass member ($180 per year), you will have access to Metallica’s course plus 100 others.
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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.