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Metallica’s “St. Anger“ has been reviewed so many times, so what’s the matter to do this all over again? My reasoning is simple. Usually, this controversial record is hated by many and adored by a few. There seems to be nothing in between and this release still divides the masses as only few metal albums will ever do. My point is that I initially hated this album but I adore it a lot today.
Let me explain. When I got into metal music back in 2005, I stumbled over many great current records of the most famous bands. When a friend introduced me to “St. Anger” I thought it was stupidly aggressive, annoyingly noisy and endlessly repetitive. This album didn’t include anything I was looking for back then. I was looking for a catchier single, some emotional guitar solos, an epic or progressive surprise here and there, a touching ballad or maybe a song with sophisticated lyrics. This album includes none of these things. I decided to listen to other stuff from Metallica and I found many records quite mellow as well. For me, Metallica was the most overrated metal band in the world. When I gave the band another chance after the release of the solid “Death Magnetic” in 2008, I started to dig some of the band’s earlier records but I didn’t listen to that “St. Anger” abomination again because I only had bad memories of it. It’s only back in 2011 when I coincidentally listened to that album again when I introduced a friend of mine to the metal world. At that point, I knew much more about the tensions in the band prior to the release of “St. Anger”, my English had become better and I spent some time to analyze the lyrics of this record and my personal tastes had expanded and become much more open-minded towards extreme (sounding) metal. Suddenly, something had changed and I started to appreciate “St. Anger” to my own surprise.
This album transports so many extreme emotions that go straight in your face: it’s full of anger, black humor, cynicism, fear, frustration, pain, pressure, social criticism and spite. It’s an unvarnished drain valve, an authentic still life, the handle after the last straw. It was an uncompromising make it or break it release created with tons of burden and pressure six years after the band’s last release. It was an album that would see Metallica die or survive. It was the kind of album that the band simply had to do no matter what while the previous records had always aimed for a mainstream audience. The band didn’t give a damn about the question if this album was going to please the critics and fans or not at all. All these negative emotions the band gathered over the years culminated on this release which makes this record absolutely authentic, gripping and unique to me. This album absolutely has to sound raw and dirty. Guitar solos are too beautiful for the negative lyrical topics on here. The repetitive, down-tuned, chugging riffs perfectly represent the never-ending hell the band was going through. The tinny, dirty, annoying drum sound is perfectly in context because it’s as annoying as ripping headaches and negative thoughts that won’t ever leave you. The aggressive and sometimes out-of-tone vocals and the respective lyrics feel like the desperate rant of an insane mind. Yes, this album has a very special atmosphere and it sounds completely unique. It’s an album for special moments when you simply feel mad about something and want to reduce your aggression or when you are in need for some uncompromising and straight music. People tend to compare “St. Anger” to other stuff and cite nu-metal bands (pejoratively called mallcore by the closed-minded elitists) like System Of A Down or Limp Bizkit. Those who say so just didn’t understand “St. Anger” or they simply don’t want to. Both bands never wrote eight-minute long repetitive and desperate rants with down-tuned instruments and extremely raw productions anyway. It took me more than half a decade to realize this and respect this raw diamond.
It’s really hard to pick out any song on here because “St. Anger” really works as a whole. Let me just say that I started to love the songs I really hated in the beginning. “Some Kind Of Monster” had always sounded way too long, repetitive and unnecessarily brutal to my ears when I was young but today I literally feel the menacing main riff and dig the angry lyrics. Another good example is “My World” which sounded aimless to me in the beginning but today I definitely understand this track that perfectly represents the spirit of Metallica back then. It’s their world and it’s a mad world and if you don’t like it and want to dig in the past, than get along, suckers! The extremely aggressive “Purify” felt like pointless brutality to my ears when I was young but today I consider it as maybe the most concise song writing on this record where Metallica literally try to purify itself.
Note that the songs that I initially liked have become even greater as time went by. I might cite the pitiless opener “Frantic” where the vocals sound like a ticking time bomb and where the tinny drum sound and simplistic riffs perfectly introduce us to what this record is all about. The desperate “The Unnamed Feeling” that mixes hysterical passages with menacingly calm and almost mantra-like parts is my favourite song on the album. It feels like the individual that tells the story desperately tries to keep control but in the end completely looses it in the middle part of the song.
Everything about this album suddenly works. The riffs are chugging and simplistic but that’s why they work so well. The raw drums that were mixed in the foreground represent that hammering in your head that is suffering from a severe migraine. The drum play is straight but incredibly effective. Metallica’s drummer gets regularly criticized but I think he did the best job of his career on this album because and not despite he lacks diversity, elegance and technique. It simply fits on this particular record while his drum play might slightly spoil other Metallica records. The vocalist simply sings his heart out with slightly hysterical and imperfectly perfect vocals. Yes, there is a lot of “uh!” and “yeah!” on this album and these elements sounded out of place and mildly amusing on other albums but on here, these initial flaws have become strengths as they sound unpolished, natural and honest. The singer doesn’t think about how he should perform, it feels as if he just lets himself go and that’s what was needed for this release. Oh yes, there is also a bass player on this record but he wasn’t really needed on here and that’s why the unimpressive bass play simply doesn’t matter to me even though I usually adore this instrument. This is James Hetfield’s, Lars Ulrich’s and Kirk Hammett’s most personal record. Jason Newsted is a nice guy but never really fitted into this band anyway and session bassist Bob Rock was just there to fill in for the least important spot in the band.
If I had written a review for this album back in 2005 or the years after, I would have given this album an utterly bad grade. Today, it’s close to perfection for me. I only cut off a few points because the record doesn’t work in all situations as you have to be in a very particular mood to get into this and because “Sweet Amber” is the only song I never got into on this release. It sounds like the rest but in a less convincing manner as it’s neither outthought enough to grab our attention nor straight enough to conquer us by all means.
In the end, I would like to suggest you to give this album a fair chance from time to time. Maybe you will be going through the same experience as I did and deeply appreciate what you profoundly hated one day. Just listen to this record once or twice every two or three years. If it doesn’t work, put it away and try again two or three years later. Maybe you need a special event in your own life to dig this vulgar negativity of an album like the loss of a job, the death of a beloved friend or a complicated divorce. Or maybe you are just like me and you will look beyond this album and empathise with the band and its particular situation back in the days so that this record suddenly makes sense. Anyway, such a timelessly controversial album should be known by any metal fan. If it’syou’re your case, discover the madness right now! Even if you hate it, your listening experience might be more interesting than the discovery of many so-called classics that didn’t age so well.
Few albums in the world of music get as frequently criticized and as much maligned as Metallica's St. Anger. Released in 2003 to mild critical acclaim, the tables swiftly turned and those that had previous been praising the album for its return to the angry style that Metallica had mastered throughout the 1980's were now claiming it to be a tragic attempt to go back to their roots minus any of the creativity. It was seen as Metallica jumping on yet another bandwagon, this time tapping into the nu-metal craze of the early 2000's. Combining simplistic down-tuned guitar riffs with no soloing whatsoever, then added to the drum sound that resembles all the cutlery in Lars Ulrich's kitchen being rattled around and some of the most pathetic attempts at lyricism to be spewed from James Hetfield's mouth, it could be said that this album was destined for disaster.
The first song on the album is entitled Frantic, and displays all that is wrong with this album, but also one of the positives that can be found. The riffing is simple chugging, with heavy use of playing open strings, and the drum sound will stick out straight away. Another album attempted this sound beforehand, the album in question being Death's The Sound Of Perseverance, except that on that album the rattling sound achieved by Lars turning off the snares on his snare drum is far more irritating and clear on here, having been done with considerable more taste on The Sound Of Perseverance. Also noticeable is the absurd and very childish lyrics written by James Hetfield, containing lines such as "My lifestyle determines my deathstyle" and "Fran-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tock". However, the aforementioned positive is found in that the band is clearly playing with genuine energy again. Far from the abomination that was Lars' drumming on the previous three releases, with over simplified patterns, he here thunders away at his drum kit, no matter what impact it has on the listener. The guitar work is incessant, and James utterly bellows his lyrics with a passion unheard from the band since ...And Justice For All. The music is by no means brilliant, but the rage that accompanies the chorus to this song and the intensity generated from the angered men playing it is more than enough to be considered a positive.
The genuine anger behind this album stems from the back story of it. The band was in turmoil following the release of Reload, having lost both their singer and bassist in the space of five months. To begin with, Jason Newsted left the band for supposed physical damage he had sustained over the years of playing metal music. The real crippling blow came in July 2001, when James Hetfield entered rehabilitation for being an alcoholic. The sound that one hears upon inserting this album into their disk player is the sound of a band playing with real hate for what they had done to themselves over the years. The lyrics, ridiculous though they may be, are James venting his fury at what he had become and using them to overcome his past life. Lars is crashing away at his drums with a passion almost unmatched in the entire music scene. This Metallica was a very different band to the one that had pressed out thrash masterpieces consistently in the 1980's. Musically inferior though they may be, the emotional performance here is still enough to make for a decent enough album to listen to.
The songs that are the best on here are Frantic, My World and The Unnamed Feeling. The former two are two raw, pissed off, unadulterated numbers that definitely merit a listen, despite the appalling sound quality and clear lack of creativity. Frantic is the most straight up aggressive number on here, whereas My World is a much more refined form of anger, until the second half, with the refrain "not only do I not know the answer, I don't even know what the question is" spewed from the mouth of Hetfield with a tortured shout that reminds us of the broken man he has become. This is outlined more so in the latter song, The Unnamed Feeling, in which James takes us through the story leading up to this album in a personal manner, providing one of the best vocal performances he has ever unleashed, with a decent enough instrumental to accompany this. These songs prove that Metallica are still a competent enough band and should be taken more than seriously, rather than the joke the media would have the listener believe.
However, it is songs such as the title track and Some Kind Of Monster that prove the mishaps that occurred with this album, and drag this album down quite a bit. Both were enjoyable enough listens in their radio edit forms, but on here both exceed seven minutes and twenty seconds, dragging on far too long and using the same repetitive instrumental that has been heard thirty times already on the song. This is the worst aspect of the album, where many of the songs just reuse the same idea that has already been heard to the point it is stale. The shorter cuts on this album are, for the most part, the better songs, and even they clock in at over five minutes without ever really needing to. This was grating enough on ...And Justice For All, despite the fact that that album had enough musical ideas and creativity to save it. However, there is no excuse on St. Anger for having a running time of seventy five minutes, with around fifty minutes of this being rendered completely unnecessary due to the over-usage of the same ideas.
This album certainly deserves the hate that is thrust upon it, for there is enough to despise about the album, from the repetition of the same three-note riffs to the lack of solos and the excruciatingly long running time. None of this is helped by the fact that the lyrics are as immature as can be and the ear piercing drum tone. However, there are a few redeeming features, with three or four of the songs being entirely listenable, and some of the others being tolerable for a while. The fury on display here is a force to be reckoned with, and any supposed Metallica fan should give this a listen simply for the significance it has to the band themselves.
Originally written for Sputnik.
The year was 2003. Jason Newsted had left the band. I, like the many other die hard Metallica fans, was disappointed by this. Jason was a great bass player, and it is a shame he never got to show his full potential in Metallica. Listen to the last two Voivod albums to see what I mean. His live backing vocals also gave more power to even the most lack-luster of Metallica songs and he had an amazing stage presence. As soon as Jason jumped ship, I knew this meant trouble, BIG trouble. If this wasn't bad enough, they didn't get a new bass player right away. Instead they had their producer, Bob Rock, play bass, while the band searched for a replacement and trying to record this album. When this disc was released, the album was met with very mixed reviews but since when is this new for Metallica? I had to check it out for myself.
At first glance, in spite of everything I mentioned above, things looked promising. Updating the logo that hearkened back to the days when they were truly great, plus the positive initial reviews, brought a false sense of security. Was I wrong or what? Now the purpose of what you have read up to this point was to back up the fact that I do not hate Metallica. In all honesty it is very much the opposite. I am a die-hard fan, although not to the point of blind allegiance, and had practically grown up with them. This band was my gateway to metal as a whole. That being said, I really wanted to like this disc. But after listening to "St. Anger" all the way through a few times, I could not bring myself to like it, much less tolerate it. Musically, it is not good in any way. It doesn't matter what genre you try to fit it in; it's simply not good. It's not pleasant, thought provoking, exciting, or stimulative of any of the emotions music is supposed to invoke. Any shred of the Metallica of old has been lost completely with "St.Anger". This album was not a return to form as promised, but a cheap attempt to get fans who had long abandoned Metallica after the "Load" era, to give the band more money and another chance. You can't blame the band for trying, but almost everything about this album is just wrong. The concept behind the album honestly isn't all that bad. "St. Anger" for the most part, is an exploration of James Hetfield's inner demons. He was fresh out of rehab, after all. So conceptually the album isn't bad, but musically it's one of the worst things I've ever heard.
My main complaint is that the songs sound unfinished and production is horrid. My first issue is the songs are lacking guitar solos completely. Kirk actually wrote solos for the songs, but Bob Rock saw that these were totally removed from the final recording. He must have lost his mind. Metallica and scorching guitar solos just go hand in hand. Kirk helped pioneer single note solos, and you knew right away you were listening to Metallica due to the solos alone. Hetfield's vocals, although rougher and angrier ("Kill em All" days), are dry, cracking, and sometimes straining. The guitars have no unity or coherence and due to the down tuning just sound muddy. They are also completely buried under the drums at almost all times. The worst part about the production is the now-infamous drums (the snare in particular). Seriously, it sounds like a friggin' trash can lid. Every song on this disc is annihilated by the drums. Drums are not supposed to screw up the song or give the listener a headache; however in this case they do both. While I am happy to hear Lars is using double bass again, this does not make up for the rest of his performance. Another major production flaw is that it sounds like they just hung a microphone in someone's garage and jammed on half-assed ideas for an hour. The production, however, is not the sole reason this album fails. It is one of many major reasons this album fails. You know things are bad when "...And Justice for All" seems like a good production job. The difference here is that "Justice" was a metal masterpiece despite the bad production. St. Anger is just abysmal. The worst part is that they spent millions of dollars on the production for it to sound this way on purpose. Hell, even the "No Life 'til Leather" demo sounds better than this.
The lyrics are another major complaint I have. They are uninspired as well as immature. It sounds like something a 16 year old would write in a notebook at school or like they came from motivational posters at an AA meeting. Lyrics such as "my lifestyle determines my deathstyle" are an example of the great songwriting you will find here. All four members of the band are in their 40's, so there is no excuse for this. Cliff Burton, had he not been cremated, would be rolling in his grave. Even though he did say in an interview once that he could see Metallica playing softer music, that means yes, "Justice", and the "Black Album" would've happened, he would not have stood for this. I was, and still am, so disappointed by this disc and it is really hard to believe it was Metallica who put this out. This was no longer the band I once loved and supported.
To be honest, on rare occasions I have gone back and listened to this album a few times since my initial listening. Very rarely, I will find an album I couldn't stand the first couple times around actually grows on me. This, however, is not the case with "St.Anger", as it fails to change my opinion each and every time I hear it. The only song it is possible to suffer through is "Frantic" as it is easily the "best" song on the album. This isn't saying much, as it only serves as a forewarning for the garbage ahead. If you have been able to listen to the album entirely, you would know the songs get progressively worse. By the end of the last track, you will probably be searching for something to kill yourself with. This disc is the James and Lars show. Period. Some songs start strong, such as "Some Kind of Monster" and "Dirty Window", the latter sounds like a Motorhead song in the beginning; however, as soon as James sings, everything but his voice and those annoying drums fade to the background. I can't even make out a decent chord progression. It is just a wall of unintelligible garbage invading your eardrums. If they would have sought a tighter, crunchier sound, allowed Kirk to keep the solos he wrote, engaged the snare, and not looped the hell out of each song, this album could have lived up to what it should have been.
Looking back at the album six years later, the album actually sounds worse now than it did then. This, I would say, is due to the release of "Death Magnetic". Also, because the album mainly dealt with the band's issues at the time, it feels very dated. The only reason I give a 15%, is because with the release of "Death Magnetic", Metallica showed us (or rather assured us) that "St.Anger" was not a permanent stylistic shift. Rather, it was a brave, albeit horribly failed, experiment.
Right, honesty time here. I used to absolutely LOVE St. Anger. It was my first ever Metallica album and my bible for ages upon ages, but after a year or 2, I collected the rest of their albums and St. Anger fell out of favour. When I decided to dig out St. Anger again for this review, I was sceptical. I was going to listen through it then just give it a 60% rating on the basis that "It's pretty poor, but I like it for some reason. It's Metallica, it's good. End of." But something unplanned happened. I began to recall just how good this album was and it climbed in percentage with nearly every song and I've remembered why I loved this album in the first place.
Now, the above paragraph is tantamount in the metal community to saying that Bruce Dickinson sucks big fat ones and that Trivium are the greatest band of all time, with Atreyu second. It will most probably get you lynched. The derision for this album is unreal. Imagine Cold Lake, Swansong and The Unspoken King wrapped into one big fat package of hate. Then times it by a million. This album was being hailed as "a return to their roots" and when the previews hinted at 8-minute long epics, people started comparing it to ...And Justice For All and Master of Puppets. The first couple of weeks were positive, with Number 1s in Charts all over the world and mostly Positive reviews. But then something happened. I don't know what but SOMETHING did happen. Everyone turned on the album. Critics who had hailed it as a return to form started panning it, the fans were decidedly unpleased and the album withered away.
But why? Well, where do we start? There's so many tired-old excuses raised about the flaws of this album. But the main one is usually about the production. It's not very good, and not in a Darkthrone kind of "not very good". It's just not very good. They've certainly succeeded in achieving a "raw, garage sound", and it is a good production to an extent. But it's TOO raw. It's too rough and muddy, there is many parts during this album where the infamous "wall of noise" comes into play, where it's all just one big lumpen thrashy mess. It can be good at times, but not at others. It sort of depends on what mood you're in and it varies from song-to-song. The drums ARE REALLY FUCKING LOUD IN THE SAME WAY THAT SOMEONE SHOUTING IN YOUR EAR ALL THE TIME IS REALLY FUCKING LOUD. Well, it is for the first song or 2, but they are 2 of the best songs on the album. Also, there's the snare. It CAN grate very easily, but those with a patient ear will be able to become accustomed to it. They might not necessarily love it, but they'll come to accept it.
Another aspect of the sound is the guitar tone. I fucking love the tone on this album. It sounds so sludgy and doomy and well, raw. But it has a sense of pervading gloom hanging over it that is just mind-boggling. To try and describe it is hard, but I'd say, you know that ever-annoying question that comes up every so often when you run out of things to say about Metallica, "What would it be like if Load was more metal?". Well, this is it. It's got the tone of Load (Which I loved by the way) but with more crunch. The Bass is only audible sometimes, and James' Vocals are possibly the only thing clear in this mix.
The Guitars are another much-maligned part of this album. Kirk Hammett doesn't really need to play on this album at all. This is Hetfield's album essentially. There is no Solos, hell there isn't even any lead parts. That is not an overexaggeration. Hammett just copies Hetfield pretty much all the time throughout this album, the closest we got to a lead is on The Unnamed Feeling, but he just makes random noises. It's as much a SunnO))) lead as it is a Metallica lead. The Bass is fairly interesting, when you can hear it, which is very rarely ever, and it's in short bursts, but it is pretty funky and well done to Bob Rock. But most of the time, it just blends in, playing the same riffs as the guitars. The drums, once you get past the toe-curling sound, are actually pretty good. I've seen many a review accusing Lars of being lazy on this album, but I fail to see how. He's brought back the double bass (and very well, might I add) and he does some fairly interesting patterns throughout the album. Alright, so he's no Mike Portnoy, but was he ever a Mike Portnoy? Even on Justice, he didn't go over-the-fucking-top, ala DT. He did what was needed and that was that. It's hardly fair to expect him to buck the trend by now, is it? I personally believe Lars' performance on this album is exceptional and possibly the best thing on it. Hetfield's vocals are a bit out-of key but they show passion. Each song sounds like he's screaming his lungs out with rage, but also he sounds like he's having fun doing it, that it's not a drag or a chore that he has to do these vocals, it feels like he wants to fucking shout and scream and generally go "AAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGGGGGGH!!"
In terms of actual songs, it's a mixed bag. There is some absolutely amazing songs, Frantic and Dirty Window spring straight to mind, as being absolute classics. Two of the more thrashier ones, they just BLISTER along, unrelenting. Dirty Window sounds like so much fun to play, and that main riff is absolutely fantastic, I love it. These two songs are absolute classics and would make sensible additions to any Metallica setlist. Songs getting the silver medal include All Within My Hands, a monolithic sludge epic, which gets to the point where it's so fractured that it collapses around itself and dies. (The acoustic version reinforced this, adding more depth.) and Sweet Amber which is more brooding and dark than the other songs mentioned, but still has the quality associated with Metallica. The singles, St. Anger, The Unnamed Feeling and Some Kind of Monster, are all not bad, but not as good as the four mentioned before. The rest of the songs are also not bad but are all interchangable. Many of the songs sound identical and you'll get lost in the mire and they'll just fly by. And I now come to another point of derision on this album. This album is 70 minutes plus, with only 13 songs, that's roughly 5 or 6 minutes per song. Now this is the norm with Metallica, the average song by them is about this length if not longer. But the problem is that they are very drawn out. For example, St. Anger seems to consist of about 3 riffs for the whole song and it's about 6/7 minutes long. The radio edits cut sizeable chunks of the song out, and it flowed much better and didn't grate nearly as much as the album version. An example would be Some Kind of Monster, a song so drawn out that I have witnessed Autumns which last for a shorter length of time. On the SKOM EP, the video edit was considerably shorter and is favoured by most of Metallica's diehard fanbase. It seems that Lars went mental with Pro Tools and just pressed Ctrl+V a lot. The lowest of the low, though, has to be Purify. It isn't anything horrific on this studio version, but the DVD which came with this album consisting of rehearsal footage totally ruined this song for me, it's the broken-voice backing vocals of the chorus. Woeful. It's got some not bad ideas in it, but I just do not like it for that simple reason. But that's only because I'm harbouring a grudge.
In short, there is many flaws with this album. MANY, MANY flaws with this album. The drums ARE REALLY LOUD AND GO DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN ALL THE TIME. This album is way too long, they've taken the idea of repetition to the extreme, and there isn't much in the way of variation. There isn't any solos, or anything in the way of progressive riffs like on Justice. The production isn't very good, and Hetfield is out of key. These are all valid points, but the question must be asked: If Metallica were to re-record this with a better production, fixing that snare and re-working the songs so to add solos and trim fat, would it get a better reaction? Well, If it was released tomorrow, I believe it wouldn't simply because it's St. Anger. There's a stigma attached to this, it's an unwritten law that if you are Metal, you must hate this album. Fact. But if they had released this hypothetical "St. Reworked" album instead of the original album, would it have fared better? And, once again, the answer is no. Not only did they put solos into Frantic when they played it live, but they didn't sound very good and forced as a result of the fan's reaction. Regardless of their output, there will always be people who will slate this and shout "OMFG SELLOUT MALLCORE FAIL LOLZ KREATOOOOOR!" on Blabbermouth until they turn blue. There will always be people who regard Sepultura to have peaked with Morbid Visions, and that Kreator should just do nothing but play "Flag of Hate" or stuff off Pleasure To Kill over and over again. There will always be people who regard the heart and soul of Metallica to be Lloyd Grant and will slate this to death. Perhaps they'd give it a 5% rating, instead of a 0%, because Frantic had more of a thrash vibe to it.
Basically, what I'm getting at is that Metallica can do no right. Every move they make will end up in SOME people who'll view them lower than a holocaust-denying sex offender who once pissed on the constitution. If they decided "Right, we'll just go and re-do our 80s thrash stuff again", they'll get called "Sellouts" for trying to pander to the metalheads, but if they decide to do their own thing, they'll get branded "Sellouts who don't care about their fanbase". All this, despite the fact that Metallica are possibly one of the least sellout-y bands in the upper echelons of Metal. It boggles my mind as to why people call Metallica sellout. Do they release a live album every 3 weeks like Maiden or Testament? No. Do they put out endless compilations? No. Metallica offer good value for their fans through things such as Mission Metallica, Live Metallica and the Metallica Fan Club. All those people who call this a "business venture" are obviously not very business-savvy. The idea of making money in business is to give your customer fanbase something they want. If this was a money-making exercise for them, they would simply have rehashed MOP on every album, and not bothered with progressing or making new ideas. I would say a band like Cannibal Corpse, or Kataklysm would be more of a money-making venture than Metallica. I'm pretty sure that NO Metallica fan specifically wanted them to go in this direction. If I went out into the streets in 2001/2002 and asked hundreds of Metallica fans "What do you want from their new album?", I can pretty much guarantee you that they would not have said a description of St. Anger. The idea that this album is a business venture is like Mr. Kipling deciding his next "business venture" is to put bits of glass in his cakes, because he thinks they'll sell more.
If this had been released by any other band, it would've probably have done far better. If a band like Trivium had released this as a debut, they'd probably be more acclaimed by metalheads for being more avant-garde, and if a band like Evile or Gama Bomb had released this, or even just a new band in general, not necessarily a thrash one, they'd be praised for their vision and originality, and it would be hailed as a troubled classic. As a result of it being Metallica, it will never get the recognition it deserves. The fans' backlash against the fact that it wasn't MOP has become contagious to the point where it's illegal to like this album, the press (which gave it good reviews at first) have latched on to the bandwagon and now hate this release. The album's downfall doesn't lie with Metallica, but with it's fans. The fact of the matter is that this record is a perfectly good release with a bad reputation. The Napster scandal and the 90s output have alienated people to anything by Metallica (A point proven by the hatred emanating from certain corners of the metal world for Death Magnetic, a record designed with the 80s in mind).
As a purely musical object, this is 70/75%, but the no remorse, no relent aesthetic and Metallica's reluctance to pander to the baying audience elevates this album higher than most. This has heart, unlike recent Megadeth or Slayer releases which seem to be forced and going through the motions. As Hetfield himself says on this album "St. Anger never gets respect" and it is because of this that it never gets respect. An album with as much vision and individuality as this will never be seen ever again, it is a once in a lifetime album. In years to come, maybe people will relax their inhibitions about it and slowly begin to like it, but I doubt it. Metal Archives rules states that reviews aren't meant to be JUST about the music, but about the album as a whole. This album is about so much more than the music. The back-story of the SKOM film, the uniqueness of this album, and Metallica's sheer reluctance to do anything other than what they want to do are just some of the reasons why this album gets a perfect rating from me.
You will never hear another album like St. Anger, it is a wholly unique entity and for that, it should be praised.
It’s that time again boys and girls. We as thrash fans, as metal-heads, as sentient life-forms in general, find ourselves on the eve of a new Metallica album. With only a few mere days until the release, I’d just like to remind readers of what happened the last time we all got hyped up over the latest Metallica disc. Though I remain optimistic, it’s only because there’s one Metallica album that I’m positive Death Magnetic will be heads and tails above; their controversial St. Anger of 2003.
A lot of people having been constructing positive interpretations of this album of late. As such, many of your individual experiences with this long-awaited “comeback” album are probably different from mine, but maybe some of you can relate. My experience with St. Anger came in three stages.
Stage one was Confusion. I had heard the first single off the album (the title track) a few weeks prior to purchasing the album. It wasn’t magnificent, but hell, it wasn’t that bad either. Certainly not bad enough to discourage me from getting the album. I had to take a flight back from Denver to Philadelphia which was to last several hours, so I figured that the album would be an easy way to pass the time. About half-way into the first run through, I began to notice that something was amiss. There were no dazzling Kirk Hammett guitar solos to bring my senses to climax. Nor were there any trademark Metallica riffs. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything: everything sounded low-fi and sludgy. Listening to it on my sound system at home proved that it wasn’t the headphones: St. Anger just sounded shitty. Metallica wasn’t supposed to sound shitty, in fact, they were supposed to sound quite the opposite (an early magazine review of the album gave it a pretty favorable review too). As I struggled to come to terms with what I was hearing, I slowly moved into stage two: Denial.
Slowly but surely, I found myself convinced that St. Anger wasn’t nearly as bad as I initially concluded. In fact, some of the songs were downright cool. Hetfield’s frantic, screechy screams (found all over the place) seemed energetic, songs like “Shoot Me Again,” “Purify” and “Dirty Window” had heavy, pummeling riffs, and there were a nice batch of lyrical nuggets I found to my liking. I tried hard to find the good in the album and I succeeded: for a period of time I actually legitimately enjoyed the album. This wasn’t meant to be, however, and after much more scrutiny I moved into the third and most inevitable stage: Anger.
This wasn’t Metallica returning to form, they were merely pulling the same trend-hopping bullshit they pulled back with Load but with a nu-metal flavor. Metallica had sold out, again. Hearing the album as it really was, I became massively disenfranchised and completely pissed that I blew $16 on this fucking shitstorm. I shelved it in dismay, listening to it only once more at the request of a friend to find that it had only grown worse with time.
Was this the album’s true purpose after all? As an expression of Metallica’s own anger, was it designed to extend that feeling to their audience? Indeed, I sympathize with those that consider the album avant-garde. Such an intentionally vitriolic album would have the merits of an artistic masterwork. But I don’t buy albums to display as conversation pieces; I buy them to listen to. And if an album’s listenability is crippled in order for it to be artistically relevant…well…I’ll reflect it in my review.
But now listening to the album for the first time in years; objectively, disregarding all past bias and disappointment and generally not comparing it to past Metallica albums, I can still honestly say that the album is terrible. The song arrangements are notoriously basic, yet regularly drag on for 7-8 minutes. Hetfield sounds terrible when he tries to vocalize anything outside of mellow singing or a low snarl (he falls apart during the “Frantic” chorus, the end of “All Within My Hands”, etc.) and his guitar sound sucks (tuned to Drop-C, the same tuning utilized by System of a Down, but with a shittier distortion). There are no guitar solos and only a handful of spots where the guitars aren’t doing the exact same thing, so Kirk didn’t even really have to play on this album. Lars’ return to aggressive drumming is a major plus (parts of “St. Anger” and elsewhere), but as everyone knows, his kit was so poorly recorded (not just the snare, people) that it strangles the tempo. Rob Trujillo is a great bassist, but Bob Rock wrote/recorded all the bass lines (read: copied the guitar lines) and mixed them into obscurity. Additionally, the lyrics are infantile and angsty, which along with the low-tuned guitars and lack of solos, brings the album just on the periphery of nu-metal territory (only the drumming keeping a semblance of metal intact).
But however marginally it may appear, Metallica’s chemistry is nonetheless still present on the album. Once the shocking disappointment fades away, the album’s critical problems become limited to these three: the drum production, the lack of guitar solos, and the low-tuning. The drum production is the worst of the three: this is the reason the album feels so sluggish. Had even this alone been addressed, I could realistically see scoring this over 50%, as several of the songs would then become quite solid. Maybe then the final stage of the St. Anger experience is really Complacency: acceptance with what the band attempted to express to their listener has come with time. But it is the way they chose to express it that continues to trouble me, hence this single-digit slap to the face.
Perhaps Death Magnetic will indeed redeem this long misguided band. We’ll find out shortly, but until then, Metallica in my eyes remain unforgiven.
This misunderstood and much maligned album is like the bastard son of Metallica. I'm hoping to provide a new perspective on this album with this review.
What’s to like about St Anger? Plenty:
It’s very heavy throughout.
It’s got a raw garage production (reminds me of Garage Days).
It’s got crushing riffs.
It’s got mean-ass angry vocals.
Okay now a few ideas about what’s not to like (according to many people and I'll tell you why I think they are 180 degrees wrong in a moment):
Production is too rough.
Songs are too long.
Drums sounds like they don't give a shit (and some say sound like shit).
Lyrics are repetitive.
I like most of you initially reacted the same way. I even wanted to love this album. I've though many times listening to it that I would edit every song to take out the repetitive sections and make my own better St. Anger mix. And, I asked myself again and again why would Metallica create an album so unlistenable and so seemingly uncalculated?
Even the Load era music, while hard rock, was still great for hard rock and respectable in its own right. Though I don't want to listen to Metallica watered down (doing hard rock) at least it made sense in its own genre.
With St. Anger if you listen to Frantic you hear the same apparently cheesy "Tic-Tic-Tic-Toc" lyric repeated over and over. But, you hear some great heavy riffs in the song! The verse riff itself is seriously fast, buzzing, and fun to play if you're a guitarist. This is one of Hetfield's greatest riffs. However a riff like this gets overshadowed by the negative impression of the lyrics and overall song length.
If you listen to the title track you hear a somewhat cheesy arena rock sounding chorus reminiscent of Load era rock, but it's sandwiched between more incredible heavy riffing and, if not for the song repeating itself apparently ad nauseum, otherwise solid song writing.
Dirty Window starts off with machine gun rapid snare work and then breaks into a nearly thrash riff with snarling angry lyrics about recovery from personal disaster. The delivery of the lyrics by Hetfield is more intense than anything we've heard from the band in years. You get the sense that he's lived the shit he's singing about and it's brimming with emotion. And, you can hear something on this song that you couldn't hear much on any of the early Metallica songs…bass guitar. However the song does end with strange whining vocalizations that do appear annoying.
Because I believe that Metallica is a smart band, and I believe they consciously decided to create every aspect of this album as it is, I had to ask why then did they choose to make these creative decisions leading to an album most people think is garbage?
After some pondering I hit upon an answer that I found very satisfying.
First I knew I wanted to connect to the album the way the band did, and I also knew in my heart that I didn't "get" the album yet. Hence I couldn't fully appreciate it until I did. So, I did what I usually do to connect to music more deeply, I started learning the lyrics and singing along with them (as best I could).
It was only then that I noticed that when I sang the songs they seemed to fly by. They felt like they were the *right* length instead of way too long. Shoot Me Again which is just over 7 minutes long felt more like 3 or 4 minutes. And I also clearly realized how f'ing angry this album was because singing along made me feel the anger--and how each song carried on like a tantrum--and it was also then that I realized how to relate best to this album. With James growling and then screaming the lyrics "come on shoot me again" over and over and exclaiming "I ain't dead yet!" you can hear the angst just dripping of this song. The answer became obvious to me!
See, some people relate to this album with the intellectual side of their brain, however I believe that is where they go wrong. Maybe you are one of them. The correct way, if I may be so bold, is to listen to this album with the emotional part of your brain--and I mean by this with Anger. This should seem like a no-brainer when you remind yourself of the title of the album.
You must get angry and let the anger get to you ("Join the Dark Side of the Force" so to speak) and listen to this album again--then the songs don't seem so long. In Purify the pummeling bass drum and lurching song structure and riffing sounds completely appropriate, as do the repetitive lyrics tantruming like a child. Everything just makes more sense. The "I don't give a damn about the quality of the production" attitude sounds fitting--including Lar's fucked up trash-can snare sound--remember Lar's chose this sounds for a reason. Anger is not polished--it doesn't always make sense. You get the point right?
Tantrums are long drawn out repetitive processes of venting discontent and anger. Anger is also a very selfish internal emotion--the "I" is big in anger. Look at the songs like My World where the lyrics are about the singer and what is in the singers mind. James seethingly whispers "not only do I not know the answer" then screaming angrily "I don't even know what the question is"--then "God it feels like it only rains on me"--making the point again that this music is pissed off and about that feeling.
The bottom line is the music on this album celebrates anger. It is the musical sonic expression of anger.
Another review of this album claimed that Metallica gave birth to a new genre with St Anger and I agree. Call it avant-garde, call it anger metal, call in tantrum thrash, whatever. If this were another genre say doom metal, then long boring songs would be acceptable. If it were black metal shitty production would be a requirement. Why then is Metallica wrong for St Anger? They aren't. The music is right and it's not the music that needs to change, it's the perspective of the music's listeners in many cases.
I later realized just how smart and insightful Metallica is about their music. James knew exactly what I discovered and I have written about here. Here's a direct quote from James Hetfield spoken in Los Angeles in May of 2008 regarding St Anger: "It was very one-dimensional and abusive to the listener. That was the anger coming out. And if you weren't feeling that, it didn't feel so good."
There you have it. Isn't it possible Metallica didn't screw up a thing but created an album far ahead of its time?
The only thing now I might fault Metallica for is a self indulgence in an unfriendly emotion. Should they have shared their catharsis with their fans? Well I'm glad they did.
I remember the day St.Anger came out; instead of studying for an exam that was on the next day I caught the bus to the nearest record store and upon finding out that buying the cd would leave me with no money to catch the bus back I bought the cd and walked the 12 or so kilometres back to my house while the wind howled and the rain poured (it was winter down here.) I put it on and I freakin’ loved it.
And, in a sense, I still like it. Despite listening to it now and being surprised at just how many mediocre/bad/horrible moments there are crammed into this album I just can’t bring myself to really, genuinely dislike anything that my man Hetfield has put out. Unfortunately, the (obvious) reality has been sinking in pretty hard of late; I guess I’m just going to have to face up to facts and admit that this release just isn’t very good. At all.
Well, I still maintain that this record has some pretty good, maybe even excellent moments; occasional glimpses where the unhinged fury we were promised is actually delivered in a listenable, even enjoyable format. Like glittering diamonds in a lake of poo, the beauty of these moments is accentuated by just how rarely they come up. When Frantic’s otherwise awful TICK TICK TOCK-isms are stripped back for a bit in the bridge, a fairly good riff is finally allowed to blossom for a few seconds and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Purify’s bridge is absolutely furious; it’s not the best song otherwise (in fact it’s pretty horrible) but in terms of straight forward heaviness it’s one of the heaviest songs Metallica have done, just dripping with aggression; although it takes a bit of skipping to get to the better parts. Likewise, skipping past the first 6 or so minutes of the aimless, almost nu-metallish Some Kind of Monster reveals a rather heavy, slow beast of a riff that unfortunately only pops up for about a minute or so. Five or so tracks later, Sweet Amber is probably the only song here that manages to stay good throughout it’s duration; it’s relatively short and catchy and has a sort of carefree vibe; certainly not a word that I would use to describe most of Metallica’s studio recordings. It‘s an enjoyable, galloping, vaguely thrashy and quite rocky song that given better production would probably be up there with Metallica‘s better 90‘s moments.
At the same time, these little moments don‘t mean much; for every moment that I can safely say “Metallica did it right here” there’s a huge amount of other moments where you’d be perfectly in your rights to go “This part blows”. All of the title track, for one; it's poor semi heavy riffing mixed in with extremely awkward, ill fitting cleaner/melodic parts. Shoot Me Again has many cringe inducing nu-metallish parts and annoyingly cliched, simplistic riffing (although ‘All the Shots I take/I spit back at you’ is a cool lyric). Dirty Window, for one, is a perfect argument that this album has some serious, serious flaws. The horrible song name, the horrible DUNDUNDUNDUNDUN DUN DUN DUN POOOONG intro riff/main riff, the lyrics, the unimaginative I-III-IV chord progression (this progression dominates almost every song, but here it’s particularly annoying) - basically all elements of it are truly awful. It is the only Metallica song that I can genuinely say I hate; one has to wonder why no one near the band (or in the band) mentioned something along the lines of “Hey guys, this song is no good”.
The trouble is compounded when you realise that these moments of crappiness just keep on stacking up, they’re in (almost) every single song and they occur with a lot of regularity. The lyrics are always dire and while I’m normally a huge fan of Hetfield’s voice I really can’t say his barking old man persona in this album is good- and let’s not go near his off key bit in Invisible Kid, either. The guitar riffs are mind numbing death by pentatonic stuff; slow and childish, in a sense, they take no effort to play and even less to write, and they repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat. I have no trouble with repetition whatsoever, but only if the riffs are worth repeating, and most of the riffs here aren’t even worth recording. Everywhere you look there's just a heap of aimless, sloppy sort of groovy riffing that brings to mind, well, old men trying to write a thrash record, and it leaves an extremely sour taste in one’s mouth.
The sour taste lasts for a long time after the album has stopped playing. This album certainly raises some troubling questions. I appreciate that Metallica were having a rough time when they were recording this- but does that mean that they had to throw all aspects of quality control out the window? Had they surrounded themselves with sycophants and yes-men to such an extent that no one was willing to suggest an alternative approach? Why didn’t they at least make the songs quicker- shorter and sharper if you will, which would enable them to make things heavier/faster, more cathartic (and perhaps most importantly) more listenable? What was Bob Rock, who has for much of his career spent his time capturing amazing rock guitar/drum tones, thinking when he recorded this? Is Lars really so lazy that he won’t spend five minutes a day tuning his snare drum up? Why didn’t Hetfield tell his bandmates “Y’know, I think I’ll write all the lyrics for these songs, as you guys suck at them”? Why didn’t Kirk at least write some other guitar bits? And perhaps most importantly, will Metallica ever recover the magic of the mid 80’s, or even their solid mid-90’s form? Do Metallica still have the motivation, the fire, to write good music?
We can only hope that said questions get positive answers on the next Metallica album. It’s funny, originally I was going to just go “meh”; give this a 50% and count that as good enough, but fact is that this record just isn’t worthy of a mark anywhere near that high. There’s maybe 10, 15 minutes of good stuff in this album, a few riffs scattered around that entertain you for a bit, maybe a moment where the raw emotion that admittedly pervades most of this record finally meets up with some genuine song writing skill, but said moments are far too rare. Sure, there’s an integrity to this- this record is commercial suicide of the highest order- but the fact is that there’s hardly any good music in this, so said integrity counts for nothing. Nope, this is pretty terrible all round, really, though I hate to say it. The fanboy in me tells me to like this, but the plain truth is that this just isn’t worth listening too.
This album is like an unprivileged autistic child. Truly brilliant, yet so different from its fellow children, to the extent where very few understand its brilliance, or even sense any speck of wit beneath the difficult-to-penetrate surface of unlikeness. Everyone notices the child sticks out like a sore thumb among its peers and cannot but compare it. Because this child was unprivileged growing up it never had the chance to develop expressing its true cleverness in ways easily perceptible. The child never had a piano or computer they could dazzle skeptics with their aptitude of using it, or a guitar on which it could learn classic 80s Metallica solos for that matter. So it had to learn to express itself on its own terms. It expressed itself in a language few could read, and so only a handful of people understood that the child was truly a saint.
Most of you are likely familiar with the fact that Metallica has changed a great deal since it first rose to fame in the early 80s. The band evolved a great deal in that decade, but this evolution was largely accepted by their fans, partly because standards of what metal should be were not as set in stone at that point. With an even greater change in their sound, 1991’s more rock-oriented Black Album was their first album to draw a great deal of backlash, and each album since has drawn more backlash, and multiplied the uncountable amount of times they have been accused of “selling out”.
St. Anger is often negatively pointed out by old-school fans as the epitome of what can result if a band “sells out”. But in the metal world, “selling out” usually refers simply to a band changing their style from what they defined themselves as when they became popular. In reality, they were probably largely in it for the money from the time they made “Kill ‘Em All”, and certainly were by the time they signed to Elektra in 1984 - not that this negatively impacts the quality of the music at all. Furthermore, I would argue that St. Anger is actually a much less accessible album than their 1980’s efforts. What Metallica accomplished in the 1980’s was taking thrash metal and smoothing it out, writing/playing it in the pristine calculated way of mainstream rock music – they were the first (and arguably only) band to make serious thrash metal truly accessible to the masses. Their later 80s albums utilized even more accessible pop-like song writing, but managed to do this within the rules of serious thrash metal, which is the other reason why these albums were still accepted by much of Metallica’s old-school fan base. In the 90s, Metallica decided to make albums which actually were rock - instead of metal that was written and played like rock - and this was deemed unacceptable.
The backlash behind St. Anger is for different reasons though. This time Metallica attempted to reincorporate elements of the thrash metal which made them famous, but because they had already evolved their sound so far from that, the end result was completely different. But what was particularly unusual is that this album ended up sounding different from not only their 80s material, but from any other metal recording.
In “Some Kind Of Monster”, the documentary about the making of this album, it is made clear that the members went through an insane amount of emotional turmoil during the making of this album. They had so much difficulty working together that they even had to a have a psychologist with them in the studio. The breed of anger which they were experiencing during this process was so intense and extreme, it transcended the emotional spectrum of traditional thrash metal and could only be expressed in an entirely new kind of metal. The reason this album is so unique is because no other band has ever made an album under such circumstances. Any other band would have simply given up, broken up, and not made an album. But, for reasons financial or otherwise, Metallica knew they simply HAD to make this album and went to the greatest lengths (such as having the shrink in the studio) to ensure that it happened.
Most of the album is in drop-C tuning, creating a much lower guitar sound than Metallica’s earlier works. This tuning and the fact that it is more groove-oriented have caused some comparison to the alternative and nu- metal genres, bands like Mudvayne and Hatebreed also heavily utilizing drop-C tuning and groovy syncopation. This comparison has generally been negative because many people who are intensely into traditional thrash metal cannot understand metal which has evolved to a direction so drastically different from theirs. While there is some similarity to these sort of bands in the guitar sound and in the general feel of certain songs like “Shoot Me Again”, this album does include a few riffs which are quite thrash-based, often played at faster tempos than they would be in groove metal. Riffs from “My World” and “Frantic” come to mind. However, there are also many songs such as “Dirty Window” and “Sweet Amber” which are based around bluesy rock riffs, the sort one might find on their rock albums Load and Reload. But playing these in the downtuned style and mixing them with thrash and groove metal elements make the whole thing sound like a whole new subgenre... anger metal? Alright, not the best name...
The drum production is also something many people have reacted to negatively. The drumming itself is solid, not very technical, but composed with a primal brutality effective in keeping the angry guitars in time, and it does contain several interesting patterns, such as the opening to “Frantic”. But the sound of the drums is extremely innovative. The snare sounds like a very tonal tin can which many fans of traditional metal production find obnoxious and weird, but if you listen with an open mind you may find it creates a unique atmosphere and even works as an unconventional countermelody at times when the snare is prominent. The other drums are also triggered unconventionally to make the whole thing sound more primal and raw. While most metal bands would simply underproduce the album if they were going for a rawer feel, Metallica, as previously mentioned, have always made metal from the perspective of rock musicians. They don’t think like the average metal musicians. So instead they heavily produced the album to give it a completely unique aesthetic which evokes those feelings in an unconventional way.
Like I said before, St Anger is actually much less accessible than any other album band has ever made. The strange production contributes to this greatly, as do other elements which differ from the pristine quality of their 80’s pop thrash work. The vocals are often crudely performed and out-of-key, which adds to the aesthetic of the album but is deemed unacceptable by their fanbase because it is imperfect according to convention. The songs are structured to have an extended length and a repetitiveness which is not broken up by any solos. Solos were another pristine characteristic of their earlier work that would have simply detracted from their expression of “The Unnamed Feeling” they were experiencing, this extreme strain of anger few have ever known.
The relentless repetition reinforces this expression, and like all the other unconventional elements, work perfectly to one who knows how to take in – how to enjoy this album to its fullest. However, I believe that this album sounds to the average metalhead similarly to what metal sounds like to someone to doesn’t listen to metal, and this is precisely where the brilliance of the whole thing lies. Every aspect of the album reflects this, with vocals that are considered grating (just as people who don’t listen to metal often cite to the vocals as being too listener unfriendly), repetition that is considered unnecessary, a drum sound that is considered obnoxious, and a guitar sound which is considered too heavy (frankly this is what the detractors really think). Basically, this album is too much of a BEAST for most people to handle, even for those that listen to heavy music. While most music listeners don`t even understand metal, most metal listeners don`t understand this album. So this is like metal squared, because in addition to the regular level of tolerance required to enjoy any metal at all, this album requires an additional dimension of tolerance.
Based on what I’ve heard about the members and their interactions in “Some Kind Of Monster”, as well as listening to the techniques they used in all their earlier work, I think it is safe to say that spitting in the face of convention this stingily was not quite the band’s intention. Birthing an autistic child is not the average parent’s intention, and Metallica do not seem like they would be interested in making their music avant-garde. If somebody with a Mike Patton sort of reputation made this album, it would be interpreted quite differently – though I’m definitely not saying that this fits in the niche of something the average Patton fan would enjoy. It`s a very different kind of avant-garde. I think these guys simply wanted to express an anger which consumed them to the extent that it became holy to them, hence the album title. And the result was an extremely unorthodox album which yields many rewards for those who happen to know how to listen to it.
I once had a friend who I used to debate music with a lot. I'm older and (I like to think) wiser now, and I rarely do this now as I think music is a subjective thing - you either like it or you don't. But he said something which, to this day, I still can't get my head around: he actually criticised bands like Metallica for being "too precise". Not "too shreddy", which I would have understood completely, but "too precise". Apparently it was a bad thing to play a song with too much skill as doing so automatically detracted from the quality of the songwriting. It seems to me that he must have had something to do with St Anger as it was his flawed philosophy that ruined the whole album.
The Black Album was, for me, Metallica's last great album. Although my favourite album is Master of Puppets, the Black Album was in my opinion better on the whole than ...And Justice For All. I say this as a guy who loves thrash metal but doesn't listen to it exclusively, therefore to me the Black Album was still good despite the change in direction. However, it was certainly ominous, and Load and Reload were pretty boring affairs from a band that had cut their hair and grown out of heavy metal, but even these albums had a few excellent tracks - they were just inconsistent. I really love The Memory Remains, Fuel and The Unforgiven II. Still, Metallifans still longed to see Metallica grow their hair, drink a bit more, pump some iron down the gym and get back in shape for a spectacular return to form as true titans of heavy metal.
Oh how wrong we were. It all sounded so promising, didn't it; "Metallica are going back to their roots" and "the new album is raw and heavy" dominated the news articles we read about the album in magazines. Then it came out and we were sorely disappointed.
I don't particularly care about the poor production, the apparent the use of Pro Tools or the fact that Lars' snare drum sounded ridiculous; Kill 'Em All had awful tinny production but I love it all the same because the sheer quality of the songs shines through. I'm also not especially bothered about the absence of guitar solos - I like Kirk Hammett's lead work but I had already heard that there were no solos and I made a conscious effort to listen to this album with an open mind; besides, I listen to plenty of bands that incorporate little or no soloing and still manage to sound great. No, the problem with this album was the lack of any really decent songwriting or musicianship to speak of.
You see, this is what happens when you take the doctrine of simplicity, as espoused by punk and some grunge bands, too far. I rarely listen to punk because I find its strict prohibition on anything remotely complex or technically demanding counterproductive; rather than making the songs sound more raw and exciting - or raising the quality of the songwriting as my friend asserts - the musicians in the band are so restricted in what they can do in songs that they become boring to listen to for more than one or two songs. This is what seems to have happened here. Metallica falsely assumed that they could reinject aggression and passion into their music simply by swearing and forgetting how to play their instruments. Many bands manage to make their songs sound interesting without solos but Metallica didn't manage this on St Anger, and as a result the album is an extremely monotonous affair that you just get bored of very quickly. There are a couple of decent riffs here and there but that's about it. I really wanted to like this album and I listened to it again and again but it really is unadulterated cack. Bands like Slayer, Pantera, and even Metallica on their older material have consistently dispelled the myth that skillful musicianship and raw, heavy songs are not mutually exclusive.
I love Metallica for their awesome live show and the strength of their older material; if we judged them purely on the classics then I'd consider them one of the best - if not the very best - metal bands ever. As it stands though we have to accept that, in a career spanning over 20 years, Metallica were bound to run out of steam sooner or later, and to be fair this happened long before St Anger. I just don't think they're into what we would call "proper heavy metal" anymore and as such they're not going to put their hearts and souls into that kind of album. For this reason I'm not overly hopeful about the new album because it sounds to me like they're just trying to reclaim credibility after the negative response to St Anger, but on the other hand, Lars did say that they were getting back into thrash after having played a mostly old-skool set of late, so we'll see. Maybe the knackered old heavyweight can make a comeback after all.
I'm not one to tell you Metallica has 'sold out' and become a bad band. I can appreciate all of their stuff, and mostly, I can joyfully listen to it. That said, I understand what St. Anger is about. Having watched Metallica's 2004 documentary "Some Kind of Monster" several times, I can totally understand and appreciate the album for all it is. The problem is, as much as I respect the album and everything the band has gone through to put it out, that doesn't redeem the album. St. Anger is an uninspired, annoying and ultimately disappointing record from a group of successful, artistic musicians.
Speaking of what led to this album is useless since you can write books about that long, painful process, but you can sum it up in a nutshell. The band, on the verge of splitting up, decides to take the couch and hire a psychotherapist to help them confront their problems, within themselves and with each other. Part of the process was to let everyone contribute whatever they wanted and ending up using every suggestion that came up. Needless to say, that's a pretty bad idea. Take the best musicians in the world, and they'll come up with some bad ideas that won't make the final cut. And that's the problem. Every riff, every drumbeat, every lyric was used, and the result sounds like a miscalculated mess.
St. Anger is more metal-oriented and way faster than Load and Reload, and indeed, the album is intense. It might be a good stress reliever, but even if that's what you're looking for, there's a ton of other stuff you could try. From the very first noted of opener "Frantic", it's apparent that St. Anger is nasty-sounding. The guitar tone is low and the bass is barely audible, but one thing that is completely unforgivable is the abysmal drum sound. Lars Ulrich has never the most impressive drummer on the earth, but his uninspired, terrible-sounding drumming on St. Anger is beyond nauseating.
The titular St. Anger does seem to display some good ideas. "I feel the world shake, like an earthquake, it's hard to see clear, is it me, is it fear?" sings Hetfield in one of the album's only good moments. Unfortunately, the riffs are mediocre and the lyrics and melodies passable at best.
Unfortunately St. Anger's one bright spot is a rare case throughout the album. The album continues beyond this song to bland, overlong songs that incorporate mostly forgettable riffs and weird, sometimes downright-illogical lyrics. On top of that, there are no guitar solos whatsoever, and the entire album just reeks of copy-paste patterns. Some would blame the use of ProTools. I'd say it's complete lack of inspiration.
Other than the chorus from St. Anger, other parts of the album also tend to pull their head up and save the album from being a total coaster. There's the occasional nice riff or cool melody. The main riff on Some Kind of Monster is pretty damn heavy, and there are some cool moments in that song. Sadly, the song carries on for over eight minutes, overstaying its welcome by quite a bit.
There are two songs on the album that I'd consider decent, even good songs. First in line is Dirty Window. The song isn't too long, and it's pretty fun to listen to. The clean chorus is quite enjoyable and the whole song has a kind of groove to it. Second up is the downbeat The Unnamed Feeling. This is the best song on the album, though it does have Hetfield's most embarrassing vocal moment, with him switching between his dirty, aggressive sound and a squeak that would put Steven Wilson to shame. Speaking of vocals, Hetfield's performance on St. Anger is really uneven. At times he sounds good, other times he's very disappointing.
That said, these two songs don't save the album from songs like "Invisible Kid" or "Purify". Totally-weird lyrics, bad riffs and complete lack of interest are the name of the game on St. Anger, and these two songs are the best example of it.
So yes, St. Anger does indeed contain a few good ideas. In fact, had the band kept all the lyric-writing up to James and put a better screening process on all the ideas offered by different band members, then maybe those moments could have been made into truly great songs. As they are, almost all of the songs on St. Anger are repetitive, overly long and boring to listen to. St. Anger is most definitely Metallica's weakest effort, and one of the most disappointing albums of all time.
St. Anger, Metallica's worst misstep to the date, has been a controversial album ever since its release, and perhaps even before. The awful drum sound, the overall intentionally bad production, lousy songwriting, and the ridiculous Some Kind of Monster "documentary" surrounding it have all influenced the opinion of metalheads, and even die-hard Metallica fans have been perplexed by the strange transformation of the band. The future will show what happens next, but so far, Metallica's career has been as cross-genre spanning as a used car salesman's lot next to a highway.
Kill 'Em All, with its juvenile drive and ambition resembled an old battered Mustang, painstakingly tuned by a zit-faced but amazingly skilled amateur mechanic, with a clumsy flame paint and a set of black furry dice. Ride the Lightning was a newer version of the same, but with professional polished paint job and semi-expensive low profile tires. Master of Puppets witnessed the conversion to a black '68 Corvette, and Justice for All became a brand new ZR-1, but unfortunately driven by a sales manager in his 40's, with money to buy one but lacking the balls to really burn rubber while doing donuts and incapable of testing any outer limits of the vehicle.
After Justice, the long slide down began. The Black Album turned out to be a hypothetical sports car manufactured by Oldsmobile for oxymoronic rebellious lawyers, and Load was a brand new Chrysler Voyager. Voyagers are so convenient for family guys with severely limited testosterone levels and a family to feed and transport, but to be fair, they even might have a handy CD changer and air conditioning. Reload was the same, but seven years old, and with the lousy 2.4 liter inline engine intended solely for the European market; why pay for a new car, when an old one will take you places just the same? And the story meets its end with St Anger, the rusty old '88 Jeep Wrangler, bought in the throes of a serious midlife crisis, just for the memory of the old spirit of rebellion that essentially amounts to a few deliberate rust spots, a Confederate flag sticker and a permanently empty gun rack.
Yes, the often-repeated opinion that St Anger is a product of a band suffering from a crisis is indeed a fact. But the crisis itself had nothing to do with the band's internal chemistry or the difficulty of creation; at least those are not the main issues, but more like symptoms of the real problem. It was all about a midlife crisis, both on the personal level of the band members, and on the whole band's level. The well had run dry, there was more than enough money for everybody, and the Loads had already labelled the band as almost-AOR. Everything had been done, there was nothing more to give. And yet, a strange yearning for the old days made the band enter the studio once more. In other words, it was time to go shopping for a car, and the longing for the old days made them choose a clunker. Had Metallica been a traditional rock dinosaur, they would have looked for an ancient Volkswagen Kleinbus to paint flowers on. But they were Metallica, the thrash band of all thrash bands, and they needed some roughness. Thus, an old Wrangler from the 80's.
There is no Wrangler engine block churning under the hood of the rusty clunker, however. Metallica's days of thrash are over, and while they tried, sweating, crying and cursing, the result is not a return to the roots. There's no furious, beer-fueled off-roading here, none of the kind a rusty Jeep suggests. While the vehicle may be mercilessly ugly and intended as a display of rude rage to a casual observer, it is still driven with the methodology of a family man behind the wheel of the trusty old Voyager. That is the great misunderstanding Metallica is guilty of: distorition, fast bonkbonkbonketybonking on a set of trash cans, and unpolished production do not equal the quality or thrashiness of Ride the Lightning.
To elaborate the point, think about the better - or rather, the less sucky - tracks on this sorry excuse for a thrash album. Take Sweet Amber as an example. Now, spend some time on the following mental excercise: try your damnest to imagine the song with the kind of performance and production it would have had on Load or Reload. Clean it of the clutter and intentional curbs in your mind, polish it with the soundboard in you brain, and you'll have a track off Reload in no time. That is the fundamental problem on the album: while trying to manufacture a metal album, Metallica forgot to throw away the jigs they had left scattered around in the workshop, and, from the songwriting angle, they accidentally welded together a crude Re-reload instead, simply bypassing the sandblasting and skipping the final layers of paint. With a few exceptions, the songs could be re-recorded with less artificial anger and polished, and they would be impossible to tell apart from those on the Loads.
The result is truly as sorry as the average opinions around seem to suggest. Honestly. The songs, not thrash in their essence, do not work as thrash songs, and the mellow beer-gutted rebellion is sadly confined to the bad production and pseudo-furious playing, glued articifially on top of the rock songs underneath. The credibility is on par with that of Blues Brothers 2000.
The unavoidable conclusion here is pretty simple and bleak: Metallica lost the control, attempted too much, with the wrong methods, after too long a break, and tried to return to the work they had spent a decade actively forgetting. Using a sledgehammer and several abrasive tools to force rock songs into a thrash mould, they created a Some Kind of Monster, but unfortunately, a monster of the oldest Hammer Films kind; ugly, but more content to hide in the shadows, weeping and grieving its sorry fate, rather than anything really scary.
If you have seen the "documentary", Some Kind of Monster, you have perhaps had the same thoughts as so many others: if making an album is so difficult, there's no real ambition to do that, and the band needs a shrink to get their asses into the studio in the first place, and so forth, why not forget the whole thing? Why not let the band die with some shreds of its dignity left, or settle for playing their old music as a stadion dinosaur? St. Anger amounts to a oddity rarely seen before, premature auto-necrophilia. Unless they can come up with something brilliant on their possible future album, this will be an embarrassing tombstone of a once great outfit. But there's no returning to Ride the Lightning; just buying an old Wrangler doesn't turn a middle-aged man into a young, eager and credible metal maniac. No, it just makes the listener blush, just like seeing an old, balding saggy geezer in a brand new biker leather jacket stopping to refuel a factory-fresh Harley Davidson. It would be better to do something else instead, and let the old days remain in the fond memories.
This album garners a lot of hate, much of it undeserved. It's not amazing, it's not Metallica's best, and there are ways to have a go at it. But it's a solid offering, and I can well believe a lot of criticism thrown at it is simply "going with the flow". While it could be a lot better, it could be a lot worse too, and ultimately what we have here is an interesting experiment, even if not always the best sounding one.
First and foremost, it has balls. Metallica have always been, and always will be, one of the greatest bands of all time because they have no fear of taking risks and doing what they want. They don't make music to cater for any particular group, they make music because they want to, and a great big middle finger to anyone who doesn't like that. St. Anger is most definitely not commercial, no one can say they're trying to make money with it (if Metallica release something that sells well it seems they did it for money, if not this argument is conveniently forgotten). Nor are they trying and failing to re-kindle their old sound, which could also be open to criticism. Instead, they are doing what they have always done, which is to play what they want, and challenging themselves with new styles and directions.
It's also worth nothing that this album can claim to be something only a very few other metal albums can: original. It is something new, something that hasn't been tried before. Yes, it is metal, that much in undeniable, and it's something I have never heard from any other band before. If I had to catagorise it as any one genre, there are elements of sludge, heavy metal, thrash, groove, hard rock, and other eclectic lesser influences. To try something new out in itself deserves some praise for the guts required and the lack of precedents to draw upon, and here it works well too. Of course, originality alone doesn't always make something good, but it does take some time to digest.
Now, on to the music itself: it's angry, it's raw, it's mad at you and the world, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. And not in an "I'm so oppressed, help me!" kind of way, but in a real "Fuck you" way. The music is pure aggression, without relying on typical cliched methods of expressing it. It has an honesty to it's anger, something raw and pure from the heart.
James' vocals are as powerful and roaring as ever, working both in angry growls and more groove-based parts, coming across as having gained experience from both the early thrash work and the later Load era, and the lyrics bear a kind of impressionistic, detached feel, not being direct or open but instead taking a more symbolic or figurative slant. The drums and guitars are, despite what many might insist, on good form too. No aspect overpowers any other, and the riffs are powerful in both the slow and fast-paced moments. At times it actually reminds me quite distinctly of Kill 'em All. Not in it's general sound, but in the feeling of letting go and going back to basics rather than trying for something epic.
Frantic and St. Anger itself had me thrashing along with the best of them, Some Kind of Monster chugs along like a modern day Eye of the Beholder. My World has some very nice lyrics to it, especially towards the end. Shoot Me Again and Sweet Amber each have a catchiness to them that has me singing along a lot, and the former also carries a certain dangerous feel to it, albeit a simple track at the core. The Unnamed Feeling is a powerful one, possibly the best on the album, with good thoughtful lyrics and such a sense of constrained power, fighting to get out. This sort of thing coming from a teenage voice trying to sound angsty wouldn't work. But from a seasoned veteran like Hetfield it really works and sounds true. Purify is perhaps the thrashiest of the lot, and it shows nicely the raw, wild power of this band just letting rip after such a long period of slower, more bluesy or rocky work. All throughout the drums are indeed particularly emphasised, but I find their style only adds to it. It might not work in other styles, but with this kind of music it works beautifully, really lending them an angry kind of power.
It's not perfect by any means though: some of the songs -are- overly long, such as Invisible Kid. There isn't a lot of variation, a point that is often missed while people hurry to yell out all the common criticisms without any thought. The sound and attitude is maintained pretty much throughout, and perhaps the biggest flaw with the album is this lack of variety. It's always been one of the band's strengths that their songs trigger different emotions and work on differing levels, keeping each album interesting throughout. St. Anger is potentially Metallica's most samey offering.
Also, while a lot of the lyrics are thoughtful and honest, they're not the best the band has come up with by a long way, and it's very apparent that the song-writing took on a more open, organic style with this album, with all the band members throwing something in. As with the whole album, an interesting experiment, but not always a successful one. Another problem is the lack of solos: I wouldn't say, as some do, that it ruins the album or anything, but we know Kirk is so good at them that it's disappointing not to see that, and they would help pad out some of the songs greatly.
Metallica are not about something so simple as thrash metal, they never have been. They are about pushing boundaries and doing something new and special, and thus St. Anger fits perfectly into their catalogue in it's core meaning, just look beyond the basic aesthetics. All in all it's an good piece of work, and I don't see what all the hate is about. It's not as complex, and it is a very raw piece of work certainly, and nor is it a patch on their 80s work overall. But that by no means makes it worthless. Metallica take a big risk with this, and while the experiment still stumbles and doesn't work so well as the Load/Reload albums, it's still a worthwhile addition to their catalogue. St. Anger isn't what I expected from the band, and in a number of ways wasn't what I wanted from them, but it continues their legacy with the passion and openness I have come to expect and appreciate so much.
“St. Anger” is a return to the aggressiveness of old for Metallica, the band that was long ago heralded as the kings of thrash metal. It is however, a drop in quality. Not to say it’s a bad release, it just isn’t up to par with material usually heard from the Bay Area thrashers. The album is completely raw, a rawness not felt since “Kill ‘em All.” The record is very rough around the edges, exactly what it was intended to be.
First off, the vocals, James Hetfield’s vocals on this album are very grimy and sound almost unpracticed. The main point however, was to convey the anger, pain, and inner turmoil he, and the band had felt in the years leading up to the album. The agony filled wailing of the line “St. Anger round my neck, he never gets respect,” sums up much of this album full of introspection and examination. Hetfield does turn in one of the best vocal performances of his career with the poignant and self-deprecating track ‘The Unnamed Feeling.’ At times his voice gives a very raw but powerful aura and then others it makes one cringe at how badly off key he goes. The vocals on “St. Anger” do succeed in getting across the emotions and ideas they were meant.
Lyrically, this is one of Metallica’s most interesting albums to date. Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich contributed to the writing on St. Anger, giving us insight into not only Hetfield’s mind but also the calm, almost philosophical guitarist and the arrogant, sometimes pompous drummer. Kirk Hammett’s Zen inspired writing can be seen on tracks such as ‘Frantic’ with lines “My lifestyle, determines my deathstyle.” However, it is Hetfield’s riveting lyrics that still drive Metallica and he has a lot more than Biblical themed stories and Lovecraftian lore on his mind these days. “St. Anger” is full of Hetfield’s agonized, furious rants on his days in rehab, Jason Newsted’s departure, and the state of the band overall prior to the “St. Anger” recording. Intense introspection and rage are the themes here. Hetfield came up with brilliant yet widely misunderstood themes such as anger in place of love in the line “madly in anger with you,” for the album. The lyrics are, like everything else on this album, simplistic yet effective.
Kirk Hammett sees his role as lead guitarist, unfortunately, diminished on this album. While there are riffs galore on “St. Anger,” one extremely noticeable aspect is missing, guitar solos. In the past, Hammett’s epic solos have been an integral part of the Metallica sound. They are nowhere to be found on this record. Hammett seems very expendable as a guitarist on the album. Hetfield’s aggressive riffing never relents, but the songs have nothing to glue them together without Hammett’s usual lead playing. This area of the album is a huge disappointment.
While the absence of Hammett’s solos sticks out like a sore thumb, the riffing on “St. Anger” is as unyielding and dogged as ever on a Metallica album. This is easily the heaviest the band has been since the “…and Justice” era and definitely since “The Black Album.” The guitars are down tuned to drop C and the material isn’t overly complex like in the past but the rhythms are vigorous and dynamic. It’s Hetfield’s rhythm playing that pushes these songs. Songs like ‘Some Kind of Monster’ feature a driving main riff recurring throughout the song with many punchy riffs and ominous melodies littered throughout. There are areas reminiscent of the “Load” era such as ‘Dirty Window’ which features a very dirty main riff that wouldn’t sound out of place one of the mid 90s records. Then there are thrashers like ‘Invisible Kid’ and ‘Purify.’ The bustling rhythms of “St. Anger” make for an interesting listen if nothing else.
The song structures on the album are somewhat of a combination of “…and Justice for All” and “Load.” The songs are long and unconventional. Some cuts just lack cohesiveness and seem way too drawn out, probably due to the lack of solos. Examples of this are the title track and ‘Invisible Kid.’ They would be much stronger tracks if shortened.
Lars Ulrich’s drumming has never been one of the better parts of Metallica’s music, but here it is more intriguing than ever. The drum sounds are very unusual and at times are just downright nerve-wracking. Ulrich’s snare sound is at times, completely unbearable and at others it just seems perfect for the mood and overall sound of this album. His double bass playing is much better than it has been in recent years. This charm is again, in the simplicity.
The bass duties were handled by producer Bob Rock. The sound is very inaudible on the album and probably isn’t worth listening to anyway. It would have been much more of a factor had Rob Trujillo joined the band prior to the recording.
All in all, this is a solid release for Metallica. It won’t be remembered as one of their greatest; actually it is probably their worst. This is an album where we realize that Hetfield and company are indeed human. The simplicity of the whole thing is a virtue at times, and at others a hindrance. The crowning moment is the song ‘The Unnamed Feeling,’ where Hetfield orates on the inner turmoil and anxiety felt prior to this album, possibly many years prior. It is a dynamic gut churner driven by Hetfield’s lament filled bellowing and the foreboding chant of “been here before” each time the main riff is played. The song relies on churning syncopated rhythms that ferment into a haunting clean riff while Hetfield wails on to leave the listener utterly exhausted by the end. For Metallica, this was a necessary album. They needed this, the rawness, the aggressiveness, the anger, everything. It seems this sound will be a one time stop on the band’s transition from the “Load” era to its next stylistic approach to creativity.
Finally, after years of making news with everything except their music, Metallica released “St. Anger”. The chaos of this album nearly perfectly sums up the chaos of the band. From the departure of longtime bassist Jason Newsted, to the stint in rehab for James Hetfield, there was quite a bit of this chaos, and surely enough to go around for everyone.
The most evident feature is its lack of complication and how the message of the album is made to hit you immediately and not let you soak it in. “St. Anger” has one of the most self torturous moods ever put to record, as it seems most is written as a view of a band as a broken unit. “St. Anger” has very little of the usually themes that one might find in a Metallica album, there is very little social commentary, none of the issues of religion, and none of the impending doom. “St. Anger” provides its lyrics as though the doom is here, the personal demons have caught up and now are destroying it as they speak. This album from beginning to end is one harsh slab of self-loathing.
As for the band itself, there seems to be no band, just three men who aren’t sure what to do. This is very much James Hetfield’s album, most lyrics seem to deal with his problems. His vocals are raw, sneering and jagged. His rhythm guitar is the focus for most of the album, and as that there are no solos, he takes much of limelight. As for Kirk Hammett, his contributions are slim to none, though it seems not through his own doing. Gone are Kirk’s solos in favor of a rhythmic sonic assault. Also, instead of a unison guitar attack, Kirk and James rely on a tag team of sorts, each handing certain guitar parts over to the other. Provided the percussive backbone Lars Ulrich sits back and takes over with the some of the most powerful drumming of his career, to bad it seems his drum set has be taken and replaced with some old pots and pans, along with an old metal garbage can.
And what for the songs on “St. Anger”? They’re a sonic assault which represents the jagged edges of the band and their mindset. The album for the most part is driven by a thrashy groove, but has mellow part juxtaposed again those jagged thrash part which give more power to both. “Frantic”, the opener, is one of their thrashiest songs made in many years, however, do not confuse the fact that it is thrashy with it being thrash itself. The title track, “St. Anger” is a respectable piece of music, and while it is nowhere near classic, it rightfully deserves its Metallica namesake. Same goes for the brilliant “Some Kind of Monster”, while it will never live in the same area code of, say, “Master of Puppets”, it’s a raw slab of heavy fucking metal. “Invisible Kid” may be the one of the most moving pieces, lyrically, of the album, speaking of both alienation and depression of a young mind.
“St. Anger” is in noway a throwback, and it is not a comeback, it is however an expression of how Metallica was at that point and time. So for fans who have been jaded already, pick this back up and think of it as that, not as a return to form, and not as a comeback, you might just find a harsh, interesting insight into the band at that point and time.
Well here it is ladies and gentlemen, Metallica’s first album in 6 years, and they ended up exactly the way I thought they would. There is an old cliché where someone states that a situation quote “would be funny if it weren’t so sad”. You know what, Metallica has actually broken new ground for once in the past 10 years, as they have succeeded in reversing this cliché and created something so pathetic, so sad, and so horrible, that it is a full blown laugh fest. After spawning a whole generation of bastard thrash bands who all made their careers ripping off Master of Puppets, we are introduced to the new generation of Metallica’s illegitimate progeny, mallcore. And in usual form, after helping bring these atrocious bands into existence, the former thrashers are seemingly falling over each other trying to join ranks with them. But ironically there is a silver lining to this album that I will get to later.
Before I proceed to pick apart the garbled mess of riffs and random thoughts from this cesspool of amateur produced noise, I have to take a moment to mention the unbelievably misleading and pretentious hype that was injected into this album by the critical field. Apparently it was review day for the hearing impaired and legally blind when the various news outlets compared this release to the thrash/doom classic “And Justice for All”. All you have to do is read the lyrics, or listen to the words if you don’t have one, to understand how much of a far-cry this is from anything Metallica has ever released. And when you listen to the music, it sounds so contorted and ridiculous that you think your listening to a garage demo of Dillinger Escape Plan. Suffice to say, if I meet the idiot that thought to compare this with Justice, I’ll be checking for the hearing aid and/or the seeing eye dog.
And so we kick off this album with “Frantic”, and right away we know what is wrong, the guitars are a muddy mess and the drums are way too loud. There are actually some mildly interesting riffs in here, though they lie buried under a messy production. However, Hetfield’s vocals are god awful, and the lyrics are ridiculous, to the point that the mallcore accusations become inevitable. Also note that at several instances on this track the guitar tracks are not in tune with each other. The title track “St. Anger” follows and suffers from the same dilemma as the opener, although Hetfield’s vocal performance is slightly better, despite being way to loud in the mix and having equally absurd lyrics. “Some Kind of Monster” is a complete throwaway track, way too long (this album’s “The Outlaw Torn”) and extremely sloppy. This would have been a good song to keep Kirk’s solos in, because it would have softened the blow a bit.
“Dirty Window” has one riff in it, and although it’s half decent it’s barely developed, making the song seem longer than it is, and also plagued by terrible sounding drums and a lousy vocal performance. “Invisible Kid” takes my pick for the worst song; the lyrics are absolutely awful, making the likes of Fred Durst and Stinkin’ Park sound like poets. This song is also suffering from the Outlaw Torn Syndrome, only now Lars is banging on garbage can lids rather than a drum kit. The guitars and bass are an absolute muddy mess, but at least here they are a bit easier to hear, making this the second worst track on this lousy album. “My World” is another song with one decent riff, although here there is a bit more changes, over some more idiotic mallcore sounding lyrics. The vocal tracks, at moments, get so over-loaded with reverb that they completely drown everything else out, not what I call a great idea. Oh yeah, did I mention that Lars’ drums still sound horrible, to the point that he should’ve probably use his higher toms as a snare, as it sounds much better when he’s on them.
“Shoot Me Again” deserves special attention because it’s obviously aimed at Metallica’s growing number of detractors since the “Black Album”. I would just like to state that no one needs to shoot these guys, nor has anyone, they’ve shot themselves so many times that they’ve become as holy as a 120 year old Tibetan monk. James literally sounds even more like a rapping mallcore poser than Robb Flynn on “Supercharger”. One positive of this song is that the drums have actually been turned down a bit; of course this makes little difference as the song is about the most non-dramatic, non-powerful, and non-metal one they’ve ever released.
On a somewhat positive note, “Sweet Amber” has a very bluesy sounding riff to it, and despite having an extremely muddy tone to it, actually isn’t too bad. The fact that the drums have been seemingly toned down for the second half of this album helps this song greatly, in addition to being one of the shorter tracks on here. James’ vocal performance has less ridiculous moments, an additional plus that unfortunately is extremely rare on this album. “The Unnamed Feeling” is another over-long mishmash of random riffs, but thankfully the drums are still turned down. This song is highly forgettable, nothing overly horrible but nothing good, it’s just simply there, taking up 7 minutes of space. “Purify” is the shortest song on here, and for good reason, it’s slow as hell and drags any feeling of hope that this album has gotten any better since “Sweet Amber” down completely. The over-loud, annoying trash can sounding drums are back again, as are James’ stupid mallcore vocals. At this point they are literally killing this album until it dies from it.
The closing track on here “All Within my Hands” is one of the better tracks on here, but also probably the most inconsistent. The drum level varies from being the usual loud mess, to actually dying down a bit to let the better moments of this song shine. It’s way too long, James’ vocal performance is hit or miss, but it escapes “The Outlaw Torn Syndrome” by having some interesting moments during the middle of the song. Bear in mind the basis of comparison, of course, as this album is completely terrible.
For everyone wondering what the heck happened to Metallica here, I will state that given the circumstances surrounding the band and the lead up to this point in their career, this album is the best that it could’ve been. I can not recommend it to anyone unless you are so sick that you’re willing to listen to a band that is all but completely musically bankrupt try to sound heavy. If an album is bad, I tend not to bother with it, unless it’s done by a band I love. But don’t cry for these guys, express your outrage and pray that they get something in their heads rather than on them. People are not meant to be pitied, they are meant to be commended for getting off their asses and not letting the bad in life get them down. When they don’t do this, and refuse to even try, it is best to either ridicule them or ignore them. I have done the former, and until I see something much better out of these guys, I will now proceed to do the latter.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 10, 2009.
So it’s January of 2004, and a 14-year-old kid steps into his local MVC outlet and casts his eye upon the bargain bin. Sitting in there is an album he’s heard much about, by a group who have hung in the periphery of his naïve conscience for quite some time. So of course, he’s drawn to it, and, seeing it’s only £5 with a free DVD, he buys it right up. Yes, that’s right. My first ‘heavy’ album was ‘St. Anger’ by Metallica. The shame will hang over my head forever.
Since that time, I’ve listened to this album TWICE – the first time was straight after I’d bought it, the second being for the purpose of this review. Likely as not I’ll do what I should have done long ago and sell it once this is complete. Even at that innocent and unassuming age, I could tell something was very wrong with this record within seconds.
I’ve never had many problems with any other Metallica album I own – after the quality of ‘Kill ‘Em All’ through to the ‘Black Album’ (don’t piss and moan, it’s actually quite good), so re-visiting ‘St. Anger’ is particularly painful, largely due to the fact that you can quite clearly hear the sound of a band trying to recapture the glory of their thrash days – the problem is that they seem to have completely forgotten how to write a song even resembling their old sound, and have gone about executing it in every wrong way possible. The front cover artwork serves as a perfect metaphor for the content within – clearly trying to recreate some kind of gritty feeling but ultimately coming across as polished and false (a damn shame considering some of Pushead’s prior work)
Now, if I’m totally honest, the album is not totally 100% shite (Barely). There are certainly a few interesting riffs floating around here and there, particularly in the likes of ‘Invisible Kid’ and ‘My World’, and the turn into angrier lyrical territory is perhaps more welcome compared to some of the sheer trash he’s come out with on ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’, but these are all meagre compensations when you consider the bigger picture – something that I’d really rather not do too often, so heinous are some of the flaws this record carries in abundance
Although it’s becoming a cliché to mention it, THAT snare drum sound was, is, and will remain the most irritating thing you will ever hear, with the possible exception of whatever spews out when Fred Durst decides to open his mouth again. There is one small way in which you can garner enjoyment from that awful 'BUNG BUNG BUNG' noise – simply lay back and imagine Lars ‘tubby tub-thumper’ Ulrich is beating himself around the face with a copper pipe. Go on, try it. Not getting much satisfaction from that thought? Well that might be because the crapiness of the rest of the album is distracting you.
Over the stuttering riff that opens up ‘Frantic’, James Hetfield’s vocals sound just…awful. While it might be a delight to some to hear his old gruff bark renewed in full, it says an awful lot about the rest of the record when his vocals don’t even seem to fit in with the timing and full body of the song – and barring a few exceptions, this is how it goes for the ENTIRE album. The bass, meanwhile, isn’t even worth wasting words on. Handled by “producer” Bob Rock after Jason Newsted quit, the bass sound is largely inaudible throughout, as though Rock is attempting to hide his ineptitude by pushing the clanging drums and turgid rhythm guitar to the fore (if this sounds like the mix of ‘…And Justice For All’, please remind yourself that Newsted wasn’t crap). If only the sorry bastard would piss off back to Bon Jovi and stop fucking with Metallica!!!
But the worst and most terrible sin of all is without doubt what they’ve done to Kirk Hammett. Whether or not you like Metallica or not is a moot point when it comes to Hammett – it’s hard to deny that the man is a hugely talented player, and one of the best guitarists to emerge from the thrash scene in the 1980s. So with that in mind, the treatment given to him on this record is even more unforgivable. In the long and torturous time it takes for ‘St. Anger’ to finish, NOT A SINGLE SOLO IS PLAYED. EVER. And fuck only knows why Metallica have simply forced Kirk to stifle the creative flair and skill he’s displayed on almost every album so far and have him simply play behind the crappy riffs thrown out by Hetfield – quite frankly it’s hard to see why they didn’t just double what Hetfield was playing in the first place, they certainly had the damn Pro Tools for it…
Overall… oh fuck it; frankly I’m sick of writing about this pile of cow shit, I’d have thought you would have all got the message from the rest of this review. Now I’m off to find an axe, ‘St. Anger’ is about to get what’s coming to it…
I hope that before this review gets trashed because of its score and title, a little time will be taken to read why I feel this way about the album in question. I say this because St. Anger is incredibly progressive, not in the 'prog-metal' subgenre (a genre that generally rewards technical ability over creativity) but in music in general. St. Anger marks what has to be the fifth paradigm shift in Metallica's catalogue, leaving behind the alterna-blues metal of Load/Reload for a biting, nihilistic new sound, one that owes more to the abrasive ...And Justice For All than it does modern mainstream metal.
This album isn't commercial in any way. All of the singles from this album have been stillborn because they don't conform to rock radio, because of the incredibly harsh production job, because of the real aggression on this disc. This is no manufactured rage or desperate attempt to stay current, it is no more and no less than Metallica hardened and burned in the crucible of the ill-fated (and poorly thought out) battle with Napster and the alcoholic self-destruction of one James Hetfield. As illustrated on the powerful Some Kind of Monster documentary, Metallica has been ambushed from all directions; personal problems, record company politics, and the creeping (death) onset of old age that is the most brutal nemesis of any band that can stay together through the years. Thing is, rather than cower behind their legacy and stagnate like many other acts (Priest for example, although I have high hopes for the new album), Metallica has fired back with an album that is really like nothing they, or anyone else, have ever released.
In many ways St. Anger could be a look at the future of rock, or at least one of the myriad permutations it could travel down. This is an emphasis on stripped-down production (to a highly exaggerated degree), to a music world where picture perfect performances that often lack character are replaced by ragged, scarred-up sessions where raw emotion becomes the key characteristic. It is just as possible that people will find St. Anger extremely distasteful, clanging drums and strangled vocals clawing at long, (perhaps overlong) repetitive, and ugly metal, a new metal that isn’t nu, or if it is at least stripped to that sound’s core and scraped of it’s commercial, cheap, and insincere window dressing, revolutionary healing through bloody abrasions and blackened contusion.
However, regardless of how new and frankly exciting (and to be honest, vaguely distasteful) the possibilities, St. Anger is still an album and at that a Metallica album and I didn’t purchase it to hear progression at the expense of music; for that I’d grab Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. In my opinion, St. Anger is the worst Metallica studio album (I like it slightly less than Reload), but it remains touched by their unique magic, an album of imposing depth and an enduring feeling of size (like Load) but for the first time in years with a sense of fire in the belly, of a less than slothful drive to stay relevant.
When St. Anger is good, it’s very good. “Sweet Amber”, in my opinion the best song on the record, gives us a Metallica comfortable with all aspects of their career. It opens with a slow, bluesy version of its main riff which gradually speeds up into some of their 90’s-style speed metal featuring some extremely catchy melodies, lyrics based on the band’s insistence of keeping integrity in the face of pressure from radio conglomerates. Strangely here the albums notoriously wonky production manages to actually approach the warmth of normal music, each instrument pretty much crystal clear, drums sounding more like drums than trash cans, vocals forceful and clear. Even better, the band breaks into what has to be their first true thrash riff in years towards the end of the song, the only thing shackling it to earth and preventing it from soaring into the clouds (with the power of metal, yeah!) being Lars’s resolutely un-speedy drum beat, turning it into a stomping mosh instead.
“Some Kind of Monster” is reminiscent of Justice in that it has quite a few tempo changes and to put it kindly, rocks like a motherfucker. While the lyrics make very little sense (we seem to be describing how to put together a Frankenstein, put what the hell does the ‘we the people’ bit have to do with anything?) it doesn’t seem to matter because they fit the song, crunchy groove, and chanting alike. I can see this one (like “Sweet Amber”) just exploding on stage, because it does possess simple lyrics that just scream for a ‘scream-along’.
While this album isn’t going to give Darkane or Nile (or even Train of Thought) a run for their money in heaviness, there are a couple of seriously brutal numbers in this thing. “Purify”, “Dirty Window”, and “All Within My Hands” are heavy, reasonably fast, and bonecrushing, really evoking a sense of unease through non-obvious, loose playing and a slightly skewed view of metal on the whole. It’s almost as if the drums are the lead instrument, rattling like shaken bones on “Purify” or desperately trying to keep “All Within My Hands” from collapsing under its own weight (wait?) and ideas.
For sure, not everything works here. “All Within My Hands” is simply too underwritten and rambles on for too long, a four minute song excruciatingly stretched to nine, the parts barely fitting together and production somehow worse than usual to complement James being even more unhinged than usual. “Shoot Me Again” reeks of nu-melodies, a certain over-dependence of some quite frankly annoying vocal melodies with too many spaces filled by some really weak drum fills. Furthermore, the rehearsal DVD proves quite conclusively that the song just doesn’t work live.
A lot of these songs are simply too long, too many parts repeated too many times, with too little variation. I’m convinced that there is a good song hidden in “St. Anger” for instance, but that song just has a bunch of catchy, high-quality stuff (like the melodic pre-chorus) that is put together poorly and mixed with some frankly bad ideas (those ‘flush it outs’ make me wanna just go ahead and die), although the hopeless fanboy in me applauds the reference to early Metallica classics wholeheartedly.
Really, this album has a lot of flaws both intended and accidental. The production of course is awful, but it’s intentional. The lyrics are spotty at best, which is accidental. James is raw, but it’s intentional (and very welcome). The songs meander and have a lot of sections that aren’t really worthy of repetition repeated far too often, which is accidental. Well, not accidental, but bad in a way they seemed to think was good if you follow.
In any case, I really don’t want another St. Anger (Reverend Irate? Padre Enraged?), but I remain fascinated with what has emerged from the wreckage of this experiment. I look forward to the continuing evolution of metal’s (hell, rock’s) most dynamic and ever changing group, and I’m sure Metallica will not change their ways for me, you, or anything except for the passionate muse that drives them.
Stand-Outs: "Sweet Amber", "Some Kind of Monster", "Dirty Window"
I know what I hate. I don’t hate this. I hate stuff like Guns N’ Roses, who put out shitty, overplayed, overrated pop metal. I hate Axl Rose, who is the epitome of a worthless rock star asshole. I hate fruity flower metal bands like Rhapsody who feel the need to deny the power of the Almighty Riff with their faux-epic disease-ridden keyboards.
This, on the other hand, is just merely pitiful…not worthy of hate. My, how the mighty have fallen. Metallica were once the undisputed kings of the metal heap, dashing and full of creative energy; now the angst-ridden kings of fraternity-house blues rock. I first heard this about a year ago, hoping it wouldn’t suck. But it did…long and hard. To say I was extremely disappointed is an understatement of epic proportions. I couldn’t form a coherent opinion on it for a long time. But I think I finally have, and the opinion is that this is MEANT to be a pitiful, worthless album…an exorcism of sorts, as Pyrus commented. This is meant to wallow in the depths of misery, self-pity and angst. And as an experiment in that, it has no equal…it is in a class by itself. And thus, it is not metal. Metal is meant to be full of mad creative brilliance, to be crazy and full of energy, to play on 11 and not give a fuck. It is everything that is righteous, good, true, and “oh hell yes!” about the world.
St. Anger, on the other hand, makes me think of what might happen if an emo band had even an ounce of attitude and tried to be emotional without being COMPLETELY poppy and wishy-washy. It might have been interesting, but it comes off as disjointed, a mess, a complete musical train wreck. And since that is the point of the album, then I’d say it’s pretty damn good at what it does.
So what’s bad about this album? Most everything, really. And it’s all been said before, so I’ll try to be brief. The production, for starters. This has been termed as “raw” by some. Bullshit, I say. “Raw” is Motorhead – Sacrifice. “Raw” is Dark Angel – Darkness Descends. “Raw” is Venom – Black Metal. “Raw” is Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Fucking Raids. St. Anger is merely “greasy.” Amateurish, too.
What else? The performances. Debasing, awful, worthless. James’ vocals are anguished and pitiful. Kirk’s guitar skills are nonexistent. And is that Lars behind the drums, or a monkey rapping on a tin can?
What else? The songs. Some have their redeeming moments. For instance, when I first heard “Frantic,” I remember thinking “Oh goody, they’re back to metal!” Nope…I was disappointed within the next ten seconds. But the riff was there. And here, and there, scattered throughout the album. The songs are a complete roller coaster ride through the not-so-lofty heights of solid blues-thrash riffage through the abysmal depths of mallcore-riff and masturbatory guitar-noodling hell. As far as this train wreck goes, the best songs include Sweet Amber, for the afore-mentioned blues-thrash riffage; the Unnamed Feeling, for it’s grinding angst and basically out-emoing every emo band on the face of Satan’s green Earth; and All Within My Hands, for its kind-of-epicness, and maybe one of the “better” vocal performances on this goofy album. But on the whole, they are all pretty awful and worthless.
But on that note, I should say that that is what this album was meant to be…an exploration of feelings of worthlessness, angst, self-hatred, rage; things that are far too prevalent in the world today. It is a sort of timely commentary, is it not?
So yes, St. Anger is everything negative that people say about it. It is probably the worst “metal” album ever created. And yes, Metallica are more than likely lost to the metal world forever. But in a strange, perverted way, St. Anger is actually quite good at what it is supposed to do. That is just about the mildest form of a complement that I can give this. I can’t like it. But it’s not beyond me to give St. Anger a little respect.
Metallica had not released any new material for 6 years. To make things worse, The band had undertaken a massive PR failure in the Napster case, had lost their bass player of 14 years Jason Newsted, and frontman James Hetfield had entered rehab to treat his legendary alcohol abuse. Later, rumours surfaced about the new Metallica CD. A press release from a Swedish journalist reported that the album was going to be heavier, and more progressive than anything attempted previously. It also stated that Hetfield would sound like Phil Anselmo in some places, Kirk's solo's sounding more like Kerry King and Tom Morello, and Lar$ playing blastbeats. Lar$ himself even said that St Anger (as it was now called) would sound like Entombed. The world waited with baited breath to obtain the new Metallica recording that had been six years in the making...
I sure as hell don't remember any Entombed sounding like this! "The return to the Justice sound" we were promised is also absent. Justice was geniunely complex, this is just a bunch of meandering riffs played ad nauseum. We have one clusterfuck of an album that tries hard to be progressive and heavy, but succeeds only in being a complete cacophony (No, not the good kind with Jason Becker and Marty Friedman). Only noteworthy for featuring perhaps the worst production on a major label release ever.
James Hetfield (guitar, vocals) - James' guitar playing is effectively neutered by the poor production on the CD. His trademark style of picking seems to make a weak comeback on this album. The biggest change is his vocals. It has become apparent that they have suffered immeasurably over the last 6 years, sounding totally off key and strained in areas, and worryingly like Jonathan Davis in other areas (see The Unnamed Feeling).
Kirk Hammett (lead guitars) - Easily the best known thrash lead guitarist the scene has produced, Metallica have seemingly committed the ultimate sin in NOT LETTING HIM PLAY ANY LEADS AT ALL! Why they would relegate him to just doubling Hetfield I still can't understand, and that bullshit about it being "a group effort" doesn't wash with me either.
Bob Rock (bass) - That's right, fanboys who blame Rob Trujillo, Bob Rock handles bass duties and basically follows the guitars the entire time.
Lar$ Ulrich - (drums) - For once, Ulrich is not the weakest member of the lineup (that honour goes to Bob Rock this time). That said, his performance is still bad, not only just sitting back and keeping the beat, but doing a lazy job of it too. The "blastbeats" that were promised by that Swedish journalist are non-existant. I hate being lied to.
Easily the single biggest problem behind the album. Bob Rock, more known for his excellent production skills, as evidenced on prior Metallica recordings (most notably the Black Album) has disgraced himself immeasurably with this 9th-rate attempt at production. Where do I begin? First off, the bass is relatively buried, the guitars are reduced to sludge, and perhaps THE
most annoyng snare sound ever recorded on a major label release. There's plenty more, but I won't waste your time going into details.
Not on this release, mate. However, the closest thing to one is;
All Within My Hands - All Within My Hands opens with that fucking snare, then into fast-paced riffing, then morphs into an atmospheric verse, where Lar$'s drums are actually down in the mix! There are more aggressive songs and double-kick abuse on this track. It also comes off as more progressive and coherent and sounds most like the older Metallica material on this album. It fades out almost completely at about 5 minutes, then degenerates into chaos quite unlike traditional Metallica. Finally finishing on a frenzied note with a deranged Hetfield ranting "KILL KILL KILL KILL!" Top way to end the album, and head and shoulders above the rest.
St Anger - Perhaps the only other song to be semi-worthy of the Metallica name, it actually keeps the pace for the entire song (almost) and has more double-bass use than on Load and ReLoad combined.
Sweet Amber - This one is just borderline decent, and rather unremarkable. One of the more aggressive tracks on the disc, but neutered by lazy drumming and sludge-like guitars. What's wrong with having a good sound on an album?
Purify - More aggressive, despite the silly groove sections. A nice odd-time verse helps lends a small amount of complexity to an album that is completely devoid of it.
Practically everything else on the disc. Most of it is a mess of detuned riffs resembling Machine Head at their worst and strained off-key vocals by Hetfield. Some of the more annoying moments include the annoying country-style chorus of Frantic, the riffless wonder of Dirty Window, The Jonathan Davis-esque vocals present in the middle of The Unnamed Feeling, and the poor lyrics of, well, pick a song at random really. But even these are not even a tenth as bad as...
Raw Sewage Contaminated With Lead, Arsenic and Cyanide
Invisible Kid - Hands down the worst song on the album. It starts off promising, then degenerates into complete shit. THERE IS NO NEED TO TUNE THE GUITARS THAT FUCKING LOW!! It's half a step lower than Korn, for Christ's sake! Because of this, the guitars sound like sludge. Lar$'s drums sound a little better here. The riff in the verse I've heard been played better by The Offspring (see Original Prankster), and the part under the "I'm OK" verse is total Korn worship. They practically play the song three times before they do something different, which unforunately any semblance of goodness is
obliterated by Lar$'s shitty drums. Then it returns and plays the same song about once through. This would have been borderline mallcore/punk if they'd cut off about 6 minutes. The lyrics here are 4th-rate Korn lyrics and are total bollocks because of it.
Some Kind Of Monster - This cut comes dangerously close to being as bad as Invisible Kid. It starts out with a decent riff, which is milked for most of the song over different beats, being interspersed with another riff and an annoying-as-shit guitar line over the top. What an awful sound. Lar$'s drums are annoying to the point of attempted suicide here. When they finally do
something different, we are treated to a boring riff that's reminiscent of The Burning Red-era Machine Head (fellow ex-metallers and sellouts). The lyrics here are total bollocks as well. "These are (insert ending here)". This is awful really. But by far the most annoying part is when the instruments are cut out ... except for Lar$'s drums! This part also has some of James's worst vocals too. Off key and strained vocals that are very hard on the ears. There's
only one really different riff that FINALLY shows up at around 6 and a half minutes in. A return to Justice my arse! The only thing this song has in common with Justice is the length!
- Heavier than the last two studio albums...
-...but what good is that when the songs genuinely suck?
- Complex just like Justice? Bullshit!
- Sludgy guitar sound
- THAT FUCKING SNARE!
- Hetfield's WORST vocal performance
- Boring bass work
- Lar$ is still one of the laziest drummers in metal
- Does Kirk even play on the bloody album?
I had reviewed this on the second listen, and gave it a 61, feeling cheated, but not overtly. This is now the third listen roughly 6 months later and by Christ, it hasn't aged well. Do not waste your time with this shit.
So, this is it. The most hyped heavy metal album since 'Hysteria' - six years of conflict, doubts, delays, and fans rapidly growing impatient. A massive publicity schpiel, rave previews, and a strongly divided metal world. And finally, like a freakishly mutated but disturbingly intelligent baby from the womb of a mother exposed to near-fatal levels of radiation, out pops St. Anger.
Of course, this is definitely not the ripping, groundbreaking speed metal of 'Kill 'Em All,' nor the more progressive and technical thrash of 'Lightning'-->'Justice', nor the solid, thumping metal of the Black Album, nor even the "What-the-flying-fuck?!" Blues-Metal Lite of the Load twins. This is just...well...
It's fucking WEIRD, is what it is.
If I was forced to make a comparision to their early work, I'd say 'ReLoad' meets 'Justice' would be the closest, but that's not very close at all. This is Metallica at their rawest and most uninhibited; with 85 million albums under their belt, they've been given free reign to explore just about everything - from their most pretentious, arrogant fits of machismo to their most vulnerable, self-pitying bouts of angst. This album has been described as a sort of exorcism, mostly for James but for the other members as well, and the unfinished, unpolished turmoil of a sort of second adolesence is easily detected.
What all this psychobabble means is that Metallica's inner rage has yielded a brilliant, CLASSIC 45-minute metal album. Unfortunately, 'St. Anger' happens to be 75 minutes long, not 45. Oh, and the production sucks miles and miles of greasy, veiny, wart-infested, smeg-covered donkey cock. If the patron saint of anger needs a ritual sacrifice to be appeased, I nominate Bob Rock.
Anyway, the music. I'm going to go track-by-track, cause frankly, I don't think I can describe this album in any shorter format and I'm too lazy to edit myself. Ironic, considering what I just said about the album, huh? Well, I'm not getting paid for this.
"Frantic" kicks the album off in pretty solid fashion, with a somewhat thrashy riff and high-speed drumming the likes of which has not been seen since 1988. It's a shame it sounds like Lars is playing steel-rimmed congos. Oh well, at least the hi-hat sounds good. This is one of the better songs on the album, with about eight tempo changes packed into the first two miutes of music. And they actually flow together, unlike certain bands (looking at you, Opeth). The oft-maligned "Frantic-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tock" vocal line (it's a time bomb, people, don't you get it?!) features the first of what will be many voice breaks for James Hetfield, but at least it makes sense in this song. Overall, an enjoyable tune.
The title track. Yes, that is a CkouRrhnne (or however the fuck you spell it) riff in the intro. Yes, it does suck. Oh well. This song is WILDLY inconsistent...the shitty intro riff gets heavier and spotlights some high speed "Did I actually hear that"? double-bass, leading into the pretty good melodic "St. Anger round my neck..." bit, which is promptly ruined by the mallcore-ish backing vocals. Then come the decent "Damage Inc." homage, the very well done "Feel my world shake..." vocal lines, and then we descend into mediocrity with "I'm madly in anger with you" repeated x4.
Oh, and then we do the whole fucking thing over again. Wheee. Then there's an okay bridge-ish part over the main pre-vox riff, leading back into "Fuck it all..." and repeating the cycle once again. So basically, this song bounces between really good and really bad, and ends up on the bad side because of the re-fucking-petitiveness of it all. Chop everything from 2:40-4:30 and eliminate the horrid backing vox, and you've got a solid tune. But as for now, it's one of the worst songs on the album, which makes it the perfect choice for an opening single. Really, I'm not being sarcastic.
"Some Kind of Monster" is the first of three eight-minute plus tunes on the album, and has a crushingly heavy, almost Sabbath-y stoner metal kind of groove going. Very good. The verse vocal lines are delivered in a stacatto tone that is NOT rapping, no more than Megadeth's "Sweating Bullets" is rapping. That doesn't make it good however, but the ten-ton-hammer brutality of the following riffage makes up for it. Chorus 1 ("We the people..." is meh, chorus 2 ("Some kind of monster...") rocks. Then it repeats...but hey, at least the fucking LYRICS are different this time. The lyrics are actually pretty good, although more or less incomprehensible. Oh yes, more badass double-kick. If this album accomplishes nothing else, it proves that Lars can be a competent drummer once he gets his lazy ass around to it. A heavy breakdown/third verse, featuring some very cool backing vox chanting "Ominous/I'm in us," leads to a final chorus and a really fucked-up lead guitar-diddling to close the song. Pretty good.
Oh yeah, the solo issue...on one hand, I really like solos. On the other, the majority of these songs would sound very fucked-up with the standard long Metallica solo injected - this is not a style that lends itself well to lead guitar. It would be interesting to see a bunch of Priest-ish lead licks thrown in, however - you know, a two- or four-measure bit of shred after a couple vocal lines. Ah well.
On to "Dirty Window," featuring a grooving main riff and a number of stacatto guitar-and-bongo...er, guitar-and-snare interludes. Oh yes, and the melodic "I'm judge and I'm jury..." line features !~*THE ALMIGHTY COWBELL*~! Can't lose there. James throws in a very strange high-pitched cackle near the end, but this song overall is one of his better vocal performances on the album. A very solid, albeit unspectacular, tune - exactly what this album needs.
Next is another very long track, "Invisible Kid." First things first - that "OOOoooh, what a good boy you are..." bit around the five-minute mark is SO fucked up. I mean...dude. What. The. Fuck? This song is probably the worst of the Big Three, but is still passable. There's a painful moment around the one-minute mark where Lars is keeping the tempo on the tom-toms, and the snare sounds like another tom-tom. Argh. A good point of this album is the counterpoint riffage; rarely are the guitars playing the same exact riff, which somewhat makes up for the lack of leads and keeps things interesting. There's not that much interesting about this track, but the rhythm guitar work is pretty cool. The "OOOOooh..." bit is...uh...different. Not exactly bad, but really strange. Apart from that, about seven minutes of non-objectionable filler.
"My World" has some pretty banal lyrics; it's more angst, but not well-written angst like some of the previous tracks. Reminds me of some of the better parts of ReLoad, except with pretty lame vox during much of it. The riffage really kicks in with chaotic drumming at about three minutes, leading to the whisper-->shout "Not only do I not know the answer, I don't know what the question is!" Oh, and then there's the hideous mallcore whining of "God it feels like it only rains on me." Despite some good chugging riffs, it's better to take a pass on this song. It'll probably be the next single.
The next song, "Shoot Me Again," frankly sucks. I'm not going to describe it. It's lame. Skip.
Thankfully, "Sweet Amber" more than makes up for the past two tracks. A bit of blues guitar diddling, and then right into a BADASS thrash-blues riff. The song roars along for a few bars before settling into a fairly fast-paced groove that chugs along quite well for a while with a few short clean interludes. The chorus lurches through "How sweet are you? How sweet does it get?" and then we're back to the mighty grooving. Same structure, and then at 3:45...open your ears...THRASHIFICATION, MOTHERFUCKER!! Great goddamn riff there, and the song bounces along to a good, solid ending...fucking awesome, but also a bit annoying when you wish the whole CD was like this. The best track on the album.
"The Unnamed Feeling" gives it some decent competition, however. Kirk and James play off of each other to start the song, bringing in a moody, grim feeling that remains throughout the song. Some weird guitar effects prelude James's best vocal performance on the album, sung with pain and passion over a chopping guitar riff that gives way to a repition of the clean half of the opening riff and a moody chorus. Repeat (with different lyrics), then extend the chorus until it roars into a very heavy riff indeed. At about five minutes, James slowly begins giving way to a paroxysm of sheer loathing, as the other instruments drift out until it's just Hetfield, a guitar, and angst - not nearly as painful as it sounds. Something about the admittedly mediocre vocal performance, maybe the obvious emotion, reaches out and grabs the listener (or at least me). And then back to the heaviness - this is where a solo SHOULD go to promote this song to badassness, but oh well. A roided-up chorus and a melodic surrender end the tune. Something VERY different from Metallica; hell, from most other things I've heard. But a very good kind of different...Corey Taylor and his ilk have spent and will spend their whole careers trying to reach these levels of emotion.
The next track, "Purify," has an okay riff...well, not bad. A very forgettable, inoffensive, unnoticeable track, with a very weird vocal delivery that seems to be sung in countertime to the riffs. Lars is doing something strange. This song misses Jason's backing vocals badly. Around 2:45, the song hits a riff similar to "Sweet Amber," which would make this song good if it lasted more than ten second. More good double-bass later, and a nice heavy outro, but really nothing special. White noise.
Closer "All Within My Hands" is the third of the epics, and has some heavy guitar work before an atmospheric verse bit with jazz-ish drumming, and then a choral passage with keyboard-ish lead guitar. A stomping riff after that isn't bad, and leads to the big, bruising chorus. One of the best choruses - chorii? - on the album. The lyrics appear to be about James controlling his family out of love, or something like that. Basically, what it boils down to is anger and angst. After the second verse-chorus combo, it becomes clear that this song could really use a solo here. James shouts "I'll die if I let go..." pretty pointlessly, then we get another chorus. About seven minutes through, the song seems to have exhausted its normal structure, so they throw in a heavy extended-note riff and James yelling "Kill!" about forty times. Feh. Cut all of em except the last few. The ending sequence, with about thirty seconds left, is a very ominous doom sequence that's pretty cool. And then there's some weird notes. And then it's over.
So. 'St. Anger.' That's the best song-by-song description I can come up with, but it's difficult to really capture this album. Metallica took a huge risk and released something very different from anything they'd ever done, and DEFINITELY a different sound from what's dominating the so-called metal airwaves right now. Yes, there are some numetal parts, but those are small drops in a big lake of groove-thrash-blues-stoner-what-the-fuck-is-this. Something that does not guarantee them any sort of fanbase outside of the COMPLETELY brainwashed; even mallcore kids are fairly likely to reject this (and have, in some cases I know) because of the melodic passages, stoner grooves, and moments of vulnerability. And because it's basically very, very strange music.
Assigning a score is hard, because this album wavers between really, really good and really, really bad, but tends up end up more on the good side. In the end, not nearly as awful as the tr00 metalheads have been ranting about. Good to listen to, with a few stinkers, a couple forgettable tracks, two AWESOME songs, and then a handful of well-done, definitely listenable songs. I should mention the DVD, which sounds far better both due to better production and Robert Trujillo's basswork. An easy 70 if they had released that as the CD instead; definitely worth watching.
Worth buying, if - at the very least - to form your own opinion. Something probably very different than what you're accustomed to listening to. Eventually, you'll form a mental block against the congo clanging, and then it'll sound much better.
Final verdict: definitely more enjoyable than gangrene of the cock.
It's been six years since Metallica's last studio release of original material, the substandard Reload. Okay, so Reload wasn't that bad, but it was certainly the weakest Metallica album to date. Thankfully, it still is. While this will certainly be one of the most hotly debated releases of the year, it is my opinion that Metallica returns to us in awesome fashion. Intense, weird, and perhaps slightly demented, St. Anger will rock you unforgivingly as long as you realize that it will not sound like a traditional Metallica album.
The sound on the album is very raw and unpolished. The guitar tones are big and fuzzy, even grainy at times. The bass sound really rumbles the place (kudos to Bob Rock). The drums are very hollow, though still punchy. Many have complained about the hollow snare sound, though I've never really had much of a problem with it. It is different, but I think it fits. And though there are some very nice studio touches, the album mostly contains a very live feel. I'll go as far as to say that Metallica hasn't sounded this live since Kill 'Em All.
Now, on to the songs. Not a bad one on the record, really. There are weaker tracks, but they are all listenable, and more importantly, all rockin'. Take, for instance, "Some Kind of Monster", which contains a riffs that are so huge and groove so hard it's almost scary. "Dirty Window" is all over the place and features an absolutely brilliant percussive chorus. "My World" probably contains the most rockin' section on the entire record. Heads will certainly bang. "Shoot Me Again" is the closest thing to nu-metal on the album, but if it is nu, it's nu done right. "Sweet Amber" gives us a beautiful bluesy thrash riff. I mean, do I really need to go on any longer?
The performances are good all around. In addition to littering this album with all these awesome riffs, Hetfield also delivers a great vocal performance. He does it all here, singing at times, screaming at others, and the infamous growl finds it's way on here a few times as well. Lars delivers some pummeling drum work, including some pretty fuckin' fast double bass work at times. Bob Rock is a very adequate bass player, and while I don't think I'd want him to be a permanent replacement, he fills the void here very well. Then there's Hammett. There are no guitar solos on this album, which is slightly disappointing. He does to a good job of adding texture to the album, however. This is in no way a one guitar affair, for there are often two completely different rhythm parts going on at the same time. Repeated listens allow for peeling back of the layers, and you see that these songs really are well thought out and well crafted.
I'm not going to say much about the lyrics. There are a few misfires, but for the most part they're quality. Still, they aren't your traditional 'tallica themes. Everything seems a bit more witty, there's some wordplay going on in places as well. This probably has something to do with the fact that lyrics were written by the whole band instead of just Hetfield. And that's really what we're getting here with St. Anger, a group effort. This gives the album a feel that is different from previous efforts, keeping everything fresh.
I'm going to have to pick "Some Kind of Monster" as my highlight of the album. It just does so much for me with is balls out riffage and interesting arrangement. One especially cool thing that runs through the entire album is the bands use of odd time signatures. Great to see them treading those waters again. In the end though, it's all gold. I really want to rate this higher, but part of me wants to wait and see how often I'm still listening to it a few months from now. So, I'm going to grade down a bit, and we'll see what happens in the future.
I wanna start out this review by saying this album is DEFINITELY not for everyone, and whilst there are tiny nods to the past (mostly in the drumming and the fact James' voice sounds more like the Black Album than the country twang on Load) this is not And Justice For All part 2 or anything of the sorts. It's something very new, perhaps the heaviness and rough production are similar to Justice but the groove is more Loadish or Corrosion of Conformity-like.
The beginning track Frantic is somewhat misleading. The guitar tone is quite thin, its relatively fast all the way through and its a very energetic song. However, it seems the energy in the studio isn't as easy to capture as it is live, the version from the Fillmore show does definitely sound better. The song after it, St Anger, is quite a different song. It's definitely the ideal choice for a radio single despite Lars' speedy drumming in places, its probably another good song to hear live but in the studio it's nothing to get wet over. However...
The third track, Some Kind Of Monster, is where this album REALLY kicks off. Huge chunky guitar riffs, mostly midpaced, a distinct COC and BLS styled groove and a massive "wall of sound" which just simply chugs along. This is probably the 3rd best song on the album, it's a brilliant song. The ending "industrial" sounding chant with processed vocals of "Ominous hide in us" just adds to the massive atmosphere. The weird ending to the song is somewhat unnecessary, but this song thumps along at a midpace and is definitely a fine track. Next is easily the weakest track on the album. Dirty Window. The main riff sounds something similar to Into the Void by Black Sabbath, but the drums are just way too bouncy and it's just generally too "upbeat". The clean "I'm judge and I'm jury" part sounds good, the main riff is good, but theres parts that just aren't like the "I drink from the cup of denial" part. It's heavy no doubt, but it's just not very good, the snare is mixed WAY too high. Personally I quite like the "pasta pot" snare, it dosn't bother me one bit, APART from in this song. After that another one of the weaker tracks, Invisible Kid kicks in. A low heavy riff that plods along, the baritone guitars get a work out in this one, where as usually it seems the guitars are tuned to a C. It's not a bad song, it's just got nothing that makes it jump out.
From here on though, it's plain sailing. My World roars through at a fast and groovy pace and is very much like the Black Albums faster moments. A brilliant song really, and the thrash out burst while Het literally yells "I don't even know what the question is!" is exploding with energy. Indeed Het does sound a fair bit more pissed off on this album than the Loads and it comes out pretty well for the most point. Shoot Me Again follows on. On the first listen I really didn't like this song, but the AIC meets Nickelback styled verse works surprisingly well and the chorus is incredibly catchy, not one of the highlights but it's still a solid track. Sweet Amber follows on with a very bluesy styled riff, it has a definitely Kyuss influence, as infact alot of the album seems to. Up next is my personal second favourite track on the album, The Unnamed Feeling. It basically just plods along, with some very good vocal effects on the "Been here before" line...which really does add an awesome touch to it. Basically this song has a plodding verse, a clean chorus that can be likened to No Leaf Clover and a faster part towards the end which sounds like an industrial band covering "One".
Up next is a total shocker, Purify. EASILY the best song on the album, it's just an absolute gem. It reminds me of Blind-era COC for the most part, it's just a (relatively) fast heavy metal song, incredibly catchy and very heavy. Great stuff. The ending song, All Within My Hands is somewhat similar to Outlaw Torn in the atmospheric sense in the length sense, and the thrash outburst during the "Love is control..." is brilliant.
Basically, the band are VERY capable of playing fast music, however on here they favour a more heavier "wall of sound" approach, which will NOT rest well with alot of metal heads. It does have a stoner influence in places too. The production is very rough, it does sound "garage rockish" in the production aspect. It dosn't bother me at all, but if you're a production-freak then it's gonna piss you off more than Justice did. Lars' snare is incredibly tight, and like I said it dosn't annoy me aside from in Dirty Window, but it's definitely gonna annoy some other people. There aren't any guitar solos, there are a couple of "guitar leads" of sorts but there not really worthy of being called a guitar lead giving that they're basically just riffs on the higher strings, but they do create a very stoner sound.
I love this album, and think it's the best this year. Others obviously will hate this. There's no denying it's a METAL album. Not a thrash album, it's just a plodding heavy metal album, and it is indeed a very heavy album. There are "nu" influences but they are relatively sparse, the verse in Shoot Me Again sounds quite nu, the intro riff to Invisible Kid does etc, but it's no way a "mallcore" album and it's never overbearing. But by that token it's NOT an "old" sound, it's definitely a contemporary sludgy metal album, so don't be expecting lots of flying melodies or solos cause you'll be sorely disappointed. But overall, I thouroughly enjoy this album, more so than the Black Album anyway.
Oh my fucking god, we've got a new Worst Album Ever. I thought that the single could just be an aberration, but ya know what, the whole thing is just as fucking bad. I mean Angel Rat is shit, and The Haunted is shit, but at least they have the decency to motherfucking STOP after a while. This thing just goes on and on... it's longer than Suckwater Park, and suckier. Oh the agony - my blood is bleeding, it's that bad after a while. I would rather amputate my own penis with a rusty tuna can lid and die of gangrene in my groin than endure this album ever again.
Bad parts? Everything! Awful songwriting and shitty production... very low guitar mix, and the drums are far too loud in the mix... and it's just clonk, clonk... Lars pretty much is beating garbage cans - that's what it sounds like. A very hollow, echoey sound, and it just doesn't sound fucking metal, especially not so damn loud in the mix. Sorry kids, but this is mallcore. Seriously, this drum sound WILL get on your nerves after 20 minutes.
The other really dumb thing is that the songs are fucking too long - somewhere in here there is a merely awful 30 minute album. Somewhere. But there is too much repetition - it's like they play the album twice. Also, most of this album is complete fucking mallcore - pretty much every song has some. And of course Hetfield's vocals lack all aggression...
Frantic - ya know what, the Frantick tick tick tick tock part is actually bearable. I thought so anyway. The parts that really suck are of course that dumb bass riff, and the stupid "keep searching, this search goes on" dumb part. But that is by far the highlight of the album, and the rest of it is just complete shit - especially that dumb bass riff, and the stupid guitar tone, and of course the whiney core interval.
St Anger - we've heard it all before, and we don't care. Almost the worst song on the album... but close.
Some Kind of Monster... okay intro riff except for those blasted full stops. Also the guitar tone is shit, did I mention? Also, those damn clangy drums. Dear fucking god, this whole album is just BONK BONK BONK BONK BONK BONK... also James has his least inspired vocal performance ever. He's ... talking. Also, Are we the people... that part is completely worthless, and the main chorus sounds like Machine Head gone even more wrong. The song is just too overlong for its own good. "This is the club that drains these eyes." Oh yes, the lyrics don't make much sense either. Also, the riffs really are not all that catchy... they sound very generic and done without any flair and distinction - it's as if you wrote a simple computer program to listen to Slipknot and come up with something that kinda sounded similar, and do that for about 8 minutes. That's this "song".
Dirty Window - Hey, it's fast, but it's still mediocre and shitty, and they pause every once in a while (I slam my gavel down) and then there's the shitcore interval to make us all turn into sexual perverts, if we survive the experience in the first place. You know those experiments in the 1950s where they strapped a guy into a centrifuge to see how many G's he can take? This is like that... how much complete fucking torture can you take? Damn it, just cut off my balls, burn me at the stake, and get it over with. Klonk klonk.
Invisible Kid - so I'm not quite sure how to describe what sucks about the intro riff, other than the fact that the tone is weak and the drums are klonky and then the whole thing sounds mistimed and stop-go-ish ... I'm not sure. All I know is, it would be good if it didn't suck so much. Oh and then the vocals come in, and the song is generally pretty mediocre... ya know, it wouldn't be that bad of a song if they turned the guitars on, oh and they didn't throw in the whiney stupid middle part and they didn't play the song pretty much twice, and this is EIGHT AND A HALF MINUTES LONG??? Make it the fuck stop. Dude. Enough. I mean it's not horrible, but it is pretty mediocre, and you really fucking wear it out when you play it for so long. "What a good boy you are" and we're still only 5 minutes in... dear shitting lord puking all over a minefield, make it motherfucking stop.
My World... ya know I didn't notice that this song had started and the previous had ended, until that badly coreish chorus... "it's my world it's my world", but then... what's this? Yes, at around 0:59, the FIRST LAST AND ONLY REAL HEAVY FUCKING METAL RIFF ON THIS ENTIRE ALBUM. For one second, then a lot more groove shit. And the guitars still sound weak and squishy and the drums are klonk klonk and make that fuckfucker just goddamn stop. Eliminate the vermin. And the aggression-nonaggression combo is terrible. "Look out motherfuckers here I come!!" la la happy riff. Damn it, make up your mind. Are you gonna raging thrash, or are you gonna play happy Mary had a Little Lamb riffs? "Only do I not know the answer" "I don't even know what the question is". Look, even Slipknot knows the fucking the answer. "God it feels like it only rains..." damn it, it only gets worse.
Shoot Me Again... fucking mallcore. "I won't go away, right here I stay"... hello, Linkin Park, we are your tour mates and we ripped you off. Fucking weak-ass pussy riffs and stupid vocals and this is the worst song on here. Come again, stop you fucking cock. This is agony. I hereby declare this song to be the worst creation that mankind has ever come up with.
Sweet Amber... mama she has taught me well, or at least the intro... oh and then the same old chorus, and the same old stupid riffs, and even when they're not playing the exact same song parts again, I still feel like I've fucking heard it all before. And it's slow and boring and plodding and shitty and the guitar tone still sounds gheyer than a really ghey thing. It kinda picks up in the middle, and actually becomes catchy, and it's fast and the highlight of the album, but then it's so fucking repetitive. Use it when you want to get what you want. Shut... the fuck... UP!!!!
The Unnamed Feeling - how about you make like an unacknowledged feeling and keep this goddamn fecesshit bottled up inside until you expire from your worthless fucking worthlessness. I mean there's that shitty opening riff, and then the Tire Iron Buttfucker Death March comes in... "I've been here before, I've been here before" - and you thought Harvester of Sorrow was bad? Fuck, this bows cosmic genitalia like the worst of The Haunted, except slower and gheyer like Voivod and ... then it just gets worse, and that middle section - you call that metal? I can't even call it rock, it's that fucking bad. It's complete worthless noise, that's what that is. A prosthetic butt, placed in front of a whoopee cushion, will make better music than this.
Purify - hey, an actual riff to start things off. Then we get the klonk and you can totally hear the echo off that drum - snare drums are not supposed to have cymbal-like echoes. Who the fuck programmed these drums? A gerbil? The rest of the song is nothing we've never heard before... all the same, only the names have changed. At least it's kinda catchy, except that Hetfield's vocals completely ruin all the vocal parts, and the between-vocal parts are ruined by the incredibly shitty drumming under that one riff that they pretty much ride into oblivion. Guys, can we make a deal? Please don't play that riff for five minutes straight... around 4.00 it sounds like it's gonna get really good, and it builds up, but then goes into a shitty mallcore interval. Dear lord, I DECLARE THAT EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS ALBUM COMPLETELY SUCKS!! The agony!!!!!
All Within My Hands - it starts off with a mediocre fast riff that's not quite thrash, and they completely milk the living cocksuckfuck out of that one over a minute before we get into a squealy, whiny, stupid interval that ... wow, it's Voivod. Well, maybe not, but at this point I'm ready to sell my entire collection of speed metal vinyls for a chance to never have to listen to this again and just when you think it can't get any wronger, they throw in some weird techno interval! oooooohhhh.... That was the sound of my brain putting up the white flag and dribbling gelatinously out of my nostrils. Putting in that kinda uptempo riff every once in a while doesn't make this song not completely fucking suck.
I never have to listen to this again. I am physically ill. 75 minutes of unending agony. Merciless torment. The Spanish Inquisition wishes they had this one.