Review Summary: Good album that wasn't the 'return to form' Metallica preached, it was something new and unheard of from the Kings of Thrash.
Metallica is the definition of being 'washed up superstars'...despite making really good albums back in the 1980s, they've fizzled out, only a shell of their former selves. Desperation reeks from everything Metallica does nowadays. Ever since Black Album was released back in 1991, poor dear old Metallica would never be the same band. These formerly fearsome thrash metal kingpins were just as cuddly and accessible as a Goo Goo Dolls album. Black Album was a fast, aggressive, thrash metal album toned down to appeal to mainstream listeners, and Load in 1996 only furthered this issue with Metallica, up until 2003, when an album by the name of St. Anger was released to the public.
The months leading up to St. Anger's release were months of hope for Metallica fans, as Hetfield and Ulrich had proclaimed this was the 'return to form' album for Metallica. This may have had Metallica fans rebuilding shrines in their closets, but all this did was scare me because 'return to form' albums were usually gigantic disappointments. The first listen on St. Anger took me aside and punched me directly in the face. It's angry, and comes at you like a pissed-off train from hell. There's some pretty clean riffs and solid song structures, but herein lies the problem: the base of these songs aren't bad, the way they are presented is St. Anger's biggest issue. This album has the worst production I've ever laid ears upon...Lars Ulrich sounds like he's beating on an empty Chef Boyardee can for most of the album, and this automatically detracts 1 point from the score because it's enough to irritate even the most die-hard Metallica fan. Secondly, it's a very repetitive album. The songs usually feature one present aggressive beat that is about as overused as a riff that Ministry would use. The songs are pretty one-dimensional, and don't really change that much throughout the song...and while it's nice to get in-your-face metal, there's something missing in these songs that Metallica has always been able to pull off, but can't anymore. Hetfield's vocals are also a relative issue with St. Anger, especially when Hetfield tries to hit screaming notes that he's never reached, and often his voice sounds like a pre-pubescent teenager whose voice is cracking. Now that I've gotten these issues out of my system, let's take a better look at St. Anger.
Metallica has single-handedly laid down the fastest rhythms Ulrich has ever set down, mixed with some of the most furious riffs of all time, wild breakdowns, and some of Hetfield's most extreme vocal performances. St. Anger consists of pummeling you with heavy riffs and fast rhythms...it's a rusty, edgy album that doesn't let you go from the furiously aggressive time signatures of Frantic, the overbearing snare 'tin-can' of St. Anger's title track, the Master of Puppets-like thrash of Dirty Window, and the awesomeness of The Unnamed Feeling. There's still some rather pitiful tracks here, like Sweet Amber in which Metallica try their hardest to be classic thrash. After many listens to St. Anger, you get the overwhelming feeling that Metallica didn't even know what they were unleashing when they released St. Anger.
Despite Metallica's claims of St. Anger being the 'return to form' of Metallica, the bad thing is that it actually wasn't. The album was something we've never heard before from Metallica...not even with Kill 'Em All were Metallica this raw and brutal. They've never been this focused on the rhythms, and they've never blown you away with something so radically heavy that you're left wondering if you just witnessed a Nuclear Bomb explosion happen before your very eyes. If I were to point fingers at what the issue was with St. Anger, it'd have to be that most fans just weren't ready for this radical and heavy of an album yet-and quite simply, Metallica is just so desperate that they're in such a bad state that they've resorted to changing their their sound from the ground up. For example, there's no slow tracks like Nothing Else Matters, and there really isn't any slow-building tracks like One, it's just all crazy, heavy, thrash.
The biggest problem hurting St. Anger is that thrash is a dying genre, and honestly, if thrash was ever to begin grow again, this is how thrash metal would be-pure unadultering metal. Less rhythmic and more...metal. There's some pure, fast-speeding riffs, but I mean, if you put ...And Justice for All and St. Anger side-by-side, there's not many similiarties between the two outside of the fast and aggressive rhythms. The riffs aren't the traditional thrash riffs, and the drumming doesn't continually drive the song. The solos are relatively suspect, and you just get a feel of the impression nu-metal has left on all metal, with all of the inspirations St. Anger seems to have taken from the Metal sub-genres of modern times. You have to consider that Metallica didn't want to completely re-hash their thrash of old, and end up making a release like Trivium's The Crusade, thus sounding ultimately VERY old and outdated. This is thrash for a new age-something that is desperately needed in metal. Better production and less 'tin-can' snare on St. Anger sure would have made this album a much better listen, though, and perhaps make Metallica a legitimately great thrash metal band once again.
Metallica is still a very desperate band, and there's nothing they can really do to change this, because they turned so many fans away with Black Album, Load & Re-Load, and this album, that they're hanging on by a string. The original change in sound ultimately destroyed Metallica from within, and they are dying band, because if you've noticed, their thrash metal peers like Megadeth and Pantera, are well, still around, sounding exactly like they did in the day, even if a bit outdated. So, yes, there's something lacking from Metallica, their desperation is apparent, and they just continue to chug on, releasing nothing better than what you would expect out of any other metal album. St. Anger just seems to get a lot of the blame, unfairly, and ultimately gets a bit too much of the blame on the current state of Metallica; because St. Anger isn't bad, it's just not really much better than good.
THIS is the most aggressive, brutal, and rough listen you've had? Godd review though, its flowing properly this time, but i DID cringe when you said 'they're an empty shell' or something along those lines because thats quite the cliche. This Message Edited On 10.05.07
[quote="review"] St. Anger is the most harsh, aggressive, raw, and brutal metal release perhaps since Slayer's Reign in Blood.[/quote]
Is quite possibly the stupidest claim ever made on this site.
The review's well written, but:
It's angry, and comes at you like a pissed-off train from hell.
Look, I like Alternative Rock, and I've expanded it to suit bands that I've missed from being exposed to radio for so long only, and when I came on here, I found so many bands that I completely never heard of that I would have loved before (The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, etc.)