"This album and what we're doing with it - that, to me, is what Metallica are all about
: exploring different things. The minute you stop exploring, then just sit down and ***ing die."
Lars Ulrich showed an inmense bad aim with this statement.
That was said at the time of the release of 1996's Load, but can be applied to this album too.
Because if he were right, this would be the band at its finest.
And if this were Metallica at its finest, JESUS CHRIST.
Because, honestly, this isn't Metallica, or at least it's far from being assimilable to the band.
Because Metallica, in its essence, is thrash metal with fast, thrashy and MEMORABLE riffs (ex. Blackened, Master of Puppets); throaty vocals; long and fast solos; complex musical arrangements; and lenghty tracks compensated with a good level of dynamics, which makes their music an interesting experience.
The fact of not following their essence doesn't mean a bad album. Actually, the Black Album isn't the "true Metallica", but it's still pretty good.
But not the same happens with this release. Maybe they went too far this time.
A long time has passed since James Hetfield abandoned the throaty vocals. But, at this point, Hetfield adopted a vocal style which doesn't fit properly in the thrash metal. They're not bad for hard rock, but Metallica isn't hard rock (at least, that's what their fans think, or want to think. Metallica has become everything less than thrash since the early 90s).
Another chapter of the history is the guitars. Riffs here aren't bad (for ex., St. Anger's riff is nice), but the complete lack of dynamics and, more than that, GUITAR SOLOS, give the feel of a 7-minute lenght song (the average lenght of the album) last like 30. And although the murky, muddled distortion is kind of interesting, it isn't for Metallica: definitely it doesn't fit in their music. I'd understand if it were Nu-Metal, but...is this Nu-Metal? Maybe, but METALLICA ISN'T, or SHOULDN'T BE NU-METAL!!
So, having all that in straight 75 minutes of music, makes the entire album plod along at a slug pace. And so, you have a repetitive and boring listen.
Reviewers's comments on St. Anger's drumming are near to become more generic and cliché than Nickelback
, because all of them achieved a consensus: that it SUCKS. It's difficult to find any praise from any reviewer on this part, and as so it is difficult to see a positive point in that tin-can sounding drumming. Because the cymbal crashing and double bass are decent, not bad at all. But then comes that irritating snare drum, that comes to your ears like a kick in the balls, and overpowers everything, consequently messing it all up. It is OK to have snare drumming in your playing and in your drum kit, but not an OVERDRIVE of it, like what we have here on this record.
Not much can be said about the bass guitar. It doesn't makes much presence on the music structure, and it doesn't shows itself much throughout the songs. No memorable basslines are heard here, and the bass work as a whole is seen clearly overpowered by the other instruments. Almost pointless.
Metallica fans, it's sad. But it's the reality: related to this band, they've got the habit to live in the past. Because although Metallica has a very rich latter past, it hasn't a very good present, and not a very promising future. And this album is a good proof of that. Because even if it was released 6 years ago, it is part of the present of the band, which consists basically in selling rights for Guitar Hero games and releasing albums that disappoint those fans who beg for a return to their roots. And they keep failing those requests, over and over.