Review Summary: how to piss on your legacy
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% ***e (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 ***ing 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 *** 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 *** it; frankly I’m sick of writing about this pile of cow ***, 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…