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Metallica - "St. Anger" (CD)

Metallica - "St. Anger" CD cover image

"St. Anger" track listing:

1. Frantic
2. St. Anger
3. Some Kind of Monster
4. Dirty Window
5. Invisible Kid
6. My World
7. Shoot Me Again
8. Sweet Amber
9. Unnamed Feeling
10. Purify
11. All Within My Hands

Reviewed by on November 12, 2009

" Even with repeated listens, it is difficult to find a memorable track that is a worthwhile addition to Metallica’s catalog of great songs. "

From 2001-2003, the members of Metallica went through hell trying to record their album, “St. Anger.” After recently watching their journey through their recording process in 2004’s "Some Kind of Monster," it gave me some insight about what struggles the members of Metallica was going through. James Hetfield was dealing with his recurring enemy: alcoholism.

At the same time, Metallica's bassist, Jason Newsted, left the band due to personal issues. The band members became frantic and were at odds trying to put the missing piece back together through unsuccessful auditions. To combat their personal demons, Metallica decided to hire a famous therapist to help them with their predicament. Bob Rock also decided to step into the band to record bass guitar and try to shape the band within his image. These complications are a recipe for disaster. Why did the band feel compelled to record an album with all of these problems going on?

The whole album feels like one big, unedited jam session. Granted, this garage sound is what Metallica was trying to sound like for this album, but how can the objective hold when it was overproduced at the same time? The use of pro-tools is definitely evident and even admitted by the band. I don't see the need for any of the songs to be beyond four minutes, but most are about 6-7 minutes long, trying to mirror the golden progressive thrash age of this band. One-dimensional riffs are played endlessly throughout each song with very little digression. The end result kept me looking at my watch the whole time. In the "Some Kind of Monster" documentary, Kirk Hammett was frustrated about the absence of any solos. Even if Hammett was able to provide guitar solos, they would not fit through the sludge sound of the rhythm guitar riffs.

In one of their statements about "St. Anger," the band irresponsibly said that this album would musically go back to the good old days when they were thrash metal defined. They said it would have the structure of 1988’s "...And Justice For All," with the ferocity of their debut album, "Kill ‘em All." After listening to this album, we know now in hindsight that this statement is completely false. Indeed it is heavy, but not in a good way.

In addition, this album sounds nothing like the masterpieces in their glory days. You can tell this right away because the guitar tuning was not in the standard "E", but rather in the unnaturally low "Drop C," which was a popular guitar tuning during the short-lived nu-metal craze. In addition, there is absolutely no guitar solos throughout any song on the eleven tracks of this album, which clocks in at over seventy minutes. The album length is not necessarily a bad thing, but these idiosyncrasies do not stop there.

Even with repeated listens, it is difficult to find a memorable track that is a worthwhile addition to Metallica’s catalog of great songs. The only song I will ever listen to on a semi-regular basis is album opener "Frantic," with its heart-pounding introduction reminiscent to a typical mid-80’s mosh riff. Although, the built-up tension established by the intro would quickly fade to a mid-tempo groove, followed by a chorus that lazily tries to be memorable (“Fran-tic-tic-tic Fran-tic-tic-tock!”), and then followed by inconsistent changes in musical tempo and odd lyrical placement.

Part of the issue many listeners will have with this album is Metallica’s musical backbone: the rhythm section. When any band downplays the drums and/or bass, the rest of the melody and lyrics are saturated as well. Most apparently, listeners will notice the uninspired drumming within minutes of listening to the album. With the drums being played too loud in the master, along with a brand new drum kit that makes the snares and toms sound like thin garbage cans, the sloppy rhythm gets pulled to the front of the musical clutter.

The bass guitar is virtually nonexistent in “St. Anger.” Some die-hard fans made a big deal when they found out long-time producer Bob Rock would take the helm at bass guitar, but the bass is just not apparent, even after multiple listens.

One of my personal favorite aspects of Metallica has always been vocalist James Hetfield. Through thick and thin in Metallica’s career, Hetfield’s signature vocals perfectly blended the genres of rock and heavy metal. To my dismay, I was disappointed at his vocal performance on “St. Anger.” His vocals are incredibly flat and lack the harmonies that helped made the band famous. His repetitive, spoken word verses on “Some Kind of Monster” are rather disturbing and uninteresting.

Even while in rehab, Hetfield would write some of his lyrics, but the band seems rushed on this album. “Invisible Kid” and “The Unnamed Feeling” are two of the most lyrically simplistic songs on “St. Anger.” I understand the negative themes that are apparent in the songs, but the band could have either used more work fine-tuning their lyrics, or the songs should have been scrapped from the album altogether.

This album was not all just dissonance and sludge – there are a few segments of songs that show that Metallica still had some heartbeats of life left. The verses on “Frantic” reinforce the heaviness of the song’s title, while the chorus on “St. Anger” provided a rare, memorable melody.

"St. Anger" is really a metallic mess. I can appreciate with what Metallica wanted to prove in this album, but it was executed poorly. If you have never listened to this album, note that this album is simply a hiccup in Metallica’s successful career. They would release “Death Magnetic” in 2008, which resuscitated Metallica back to their musical glory. It appears today as if “St. Anger” didn’t even exist in their ever-improving development as musicians.

Highs: Some parts of "Frantic" and "St. Anger" are decent, but not enough to save this album.

Lows: Everything else. This album is truly a big mess.

Bottom line: A very big dissapointment. I would avoid this album and move on to Metallica's 2008 album "Death Magnetic."

Rated 1.5 out of 5 skulls
1.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)