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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.