Review Summary: This may or may not have happened.
They thrust me into a chair-like object and tied my arms and legs to it with rolls of duct tape; I could hear the familiar HHHWWWKKK of the silver tape ripped from a roll. I had no idea who had abducted me, or why, but I should have known something was amiss when that blonde at the bar started talking to me. I should have expected them, but they had the upper hand. I had downed quite a few shots of 151 earlier that night. Fortunately, being kidnapped has a way of being a buzzkill.
They removed the black ski mask from my head, and I gasped fresh air (well, air that hadn’t been filtered by wool cloth, anyway). Seated in front of me was a young woman in a similar predicament as I. Wait, wait a minute. I recognized those jeans; the black and white tennis shoes; the pale complexion on her bound arms. The two heavily armed men in ski masks didn’t have to remove her mask. I knew her identity. How did they get to her?
I felt it necessary to say something, anything. “What the *** is this ***? This is ***ing goddamn ***ing bull***. What the ***, you ***ing assholes?!”
One of the two men strode toward me and punched me across my face, ending my tirade. My head lolled, but righted itself by the time the two men stood in my view, on either side of Valerie. I could only focus on the large caliber pistols in their hands.
“You know who we are?” asked the man on the right. I shook my head. “Good, the less you know about us, the greater chance you have of getting out of this alive.” The man on the right looked to the man on the left, who dug into his pants pockets. He removed a thin CD case and tossed it into my lap.
I knew as soon as the thing flew in the air what these men wanted from me, but I couldn’t believe they had gone to these lengths to get it. That red-orange fist burned a hole in my eyes, as well as my soul. I shook my head, breathing rapidly. “No,” I whispered. I looked up at the two men with the pistols. “No!” I shouted. “You can’t make me do this! I won’t do it!”
“Oh, you’ll do it. You’ll write an honest review of Metallica’s St. Anger, or we’ll kill your girlfriend in front of your eyes, and then we’ll excrete diarrhea into your mouth while hammering nails into your feet. You’ll suffer punishment even soldiers at Guantanamo Bay wouldn’t dare enact on terrorism suspects. You’ll beg to die within the first three seconds, but we won’t kill you. We’ll keep you alive as long as possible. If you don’t want to know what it’s like to suck your own castrated cock, you’ll do what we say.”
For added effect, the man on the right raised his pistol and pressed the barrel against Valerie’s covered head, cocking the weapon’s hammer back into firing position. She sobbed loudly, and I knew I had no choice. They had me in a corner. Plus, I really didn’t want to know what it was like to suck my own castrated cock.
They tossed me into a room lit only by one 30 watt bulb and the soft glow of a computer monitor that looked like it was from 1991. The “St. Anger” CD lay at my side. They told me the computer had a CD-ROM drive, and I was to listen to it and then write a review. I only had fifteen minutes before they would start double teaming Valerie against her will, and I only earned another punch to the jaw when I explained I would need at least an hour, since the album clocks in at an hour and fifteen minutes. I had to hurry. Her life, anal virginity, and my own life hung in the balance.
The horrors of “St. Anger” welled in my mind as I moved the computer’s mouse around, canceling the screen saver. To my dismay, the computer they had given me was from 1994. The bland, grey Windows 3.1 screen haunted my memories just as bad, if not worse, than Metallica’s 2003 endeavor. I shook my fears aside. I had a job to do. I loaded the CD into the computer’s CD-ROM drive and started Microsoft Word 2.0.
I had never listened to “St. Anger”, and after hearing thousands of horror stories about the album, I was prepared never to listen to it. I made a promise to always remember Metallica for their influence in Thrash Metal from “Kill ‘Em All” to “…And Justice for All,” but now, I had no choice.
After listening to this album, I was surprised to find myself saying “That wasn’t half bad. I’d almost go so far as to say it was pretty good, or even decent.” Why would I say this? Everyone on this planet thought this album blew diarrhea chunks. Even the band went so far as to say “This ***ing piece of *** ***ing album ***ing blows donkey dick. What the *** were we thinking?” Okay, so I may be paraphrasing a bit, but it’s not actually as bad as some people think. For one, they’ve made a legitimate return to heavy metal from their hard rock / blues rock albums. Sure, there are no solos, but for the most part, the riffs are heavy, and the drums can be fast paced and thrashy at times, if only a bit repetitive.
The other thing about the drums is that they dominate the album, almost more than the vocals. Lars Ulrich’s snare is so loud that at some parts even the guitars are inaudible, and I imagine since everyone hated the metallic snare drum, that’s one of the major reasons why they hated the album. I’m used to trash can snare drums after listening to grind bands like Last Days of Humanity, Lykathea Aflame, and The Berzerker, so the noise is nothing new, and it’s actually a welcome presence on this album.
The first song, “Frantic” is actually quite good, though I can instantly tell why most people hated this album. The trash can snare drums, James Hetfield’s lackluster vocal performance, and the lack of solos take away from this album, but I actually appreciate the raw production. These days, most albums feel and sound so polished and artificial, that one doesn’t need to be able to play instruments to produce an album. Hell, look at DragonForce. The steel drums and heavy guitar riffs actually reminded me of the days when bands got together in garages to play music. I found “Frantic” a good song, and definitely a good start to the album, and after dealing with the hard rock garbage albums “Load” “ReLoad” and “Garage, Inc.” the sound is a welcome change.
The second track is where things start to slowly go downhill. The title track starts out equally heavy and fast, but the lack of solos and repetitive lyrics and riffs make this song drag on. I couldn’t imagine listening to a seven minute song with no solos to keep the listener entertained. I guess Metallica thought the same riffs and lyrics would have been enough. So much so, that they repeat this strategy somewhat throughout the longer songs on this album. “Some Kind of Monster” demonstrates this, being basically the same riffs and lyrics repeated for eight minutes. There’s a bridge toward the end where the riffs and drum patterns change, but for the most part, it’s the same three minutes repeated.
Now, if you’ve read my reviews, you know I am not a fan of lengthy songs, and the average song length on this album is around six minutes. In most cases, I find the shorter songs on an album better than the longer ones, but in this case, I found the longer songs more memorable, and the shorter ones seemed more like filler. “Dirty Window” has elements of both thrash metal and hard rock / blues rock riffs, which might be the band getting their last taste of hard rock before leaving the genre altogether.
Most people believe that James Hetfield’s vocals are downright putrid on this album, but they aren’t really that bad. I’ve definitely heard worse, but it becomes clear during the slow part / bridge of “Invisible Kid” when they become atrocious. In an attempt to do something different, or something bad, Hetfield attempts to hit high notes talking about some young boy, but it just comes off as bad vocal styling as well as boring, repeated riffs, and the song would have been better off without that bridge part. It’s just ridiculous. Not to mention its eight and a half damn minutes.
The rest of the songs seem identical to one another. We don’t get an actually interesting song until “The Unnamed Feeling,” which is both heavy, and eerie, and it manages to keep my interest throughout the whole seven minutes. After “The Unnamed Feeling”, we get another filler song, and a final eight minute track. It’s at this point I am exhausted. With Metallica, I’m used to one or two seven-to-eight minute epics, but not six. The lack of solos definitely doesn’t help this song, making most of the epics on this album not so epic and more boring. We also get a scream from James Hetfield at the end that doesn’t quite hit the note he was trying to hit, which earned a chuckle from me.
Despite the lack of solos, repetitive lyrics and riffs, and the off-taste snare drum, I found this album to be decent, definitely not their best work, but definitely not their worst, either. You have to take into account that Hetfield was coming off a crippling alcohol addiction, and at that point the band was ready to kill each other. So much so, that they had to hire a band therapist and have him present for most of the recording so they wouldn’t bash bass guitars over each other’s brains. Plus, they fired producer Bob Rock after this album was released, probably because they realized how much everyone thought it blew and blamed him for not slapping each of the band members across their faces and making them get the album’s sound right.
“St. Anger” definitely has some shortcomings, a lot of them, but it marked Metallica’s return to raw, heavy metal, even if they were a little rusty in producing their sound. I wouldn’t damn the whole album based off people’s thoughts and opinions, because there are some good songs here: “Frantic”, “Dirty Window”, “Invisible Kid” –yes it’s good, and “The Unnamed Feeling.” I’d say give the album a listen. Hell, it’ll keep you entertained if you’re on a road trip or mowing the lawn, at least.
I hit “save”, and printed the word document through the Dot-Matrix printer, grinding my teeth to the EEEH EEEHH EEEHH EEEHH sounds the machine emanated as it printed every single line on those sheets. The whole procedure took me thirty minutes, and I hoped they had been lying when they said they’d double team Valerie. There was a first time for everything, but I didn’t want her first dual sausage assault to be at the hands of two crusty criminals. I banged my hands against the heavy door.
“I’m done! I’ve done it! Let us go!” I screamed. The door opened a moment later.
The two men dragged me into the main corridor, where Valerie sat still taped to her chair, apparently unmolested. They had removed the mask from her face, and I gazed into her tear-drenched face, whispering into her mind that everything would be okay. The two thugs thrust me to the ground.
They growled as they read my review. I knew I had hit a nerve. “What the *** is this? ‘Even decent?’ ‘Pretty good?’ ‘Not as bad as people might think?’ This is bull***, kid. This album was ***ing terrible.”
“But…you told me...” I looked to Valerie. Her sapphire eyes fired icicles into my heart. She looked just as angry as the two thugs.
“You said ‘St. Anger’ was a good album? What is wrong with you?” Valerie screamed.
“THEY TOLD ME TO BE HONEST!” I shouted.
The reports of their pistols launching round after round of lead into my back were only slightly softer than Lars Ulrich’s trash can snare. As the pool of my own viscous tomato juice flowed onto the ground, I figured there was no pleasing anyone.