Review Summary: An album filled with low points, but with no commercial intent.
Metallica. That single word has so much significance. People of any music fan base, rap, pop, country; they all know who Metallica is. I am a die hard Metallica fan, my favorite band and my first metal band, but even I can admit, they sold out. I am sick of butt hurt fans defending the now commercial giants, claiming ‘They are brave for changing styles and finding their sound’. Come on guys. They sold out, they went where the money was, and attacked people who tried to stop that. The once thrash giants have now turned into money-whores, it’s impossible to refute. But to me, this isn't such a bad thing. Anyone who starts a band, does it to get paid. Sure, band members are all passionate, but they do it for the money, as much as anything else. Metallica have realized the amount of money they could be making, and have gone that direction. I do not respect that, but I do accept that. Perhaps that’s the difference between someone who still likes Metallica’s early albums, and someone who doesn't. Perhaps that’s the reason why St. Anger wasn't a massive disappointment for me.
Ask any person, ‘What emotions are articulated in metal’, and by far the most frequent response will be anger. Being a very angry person myself, I love music that makes you want to smash things, music that makes you head bang ‘till you forget where you are. No, St Anger is not that album, by any means, but it is so angry, and even after the first few seconds of listening to any song on this album, you feel the tension, you can hear the frustration, you can tell that this anger is not added, it did not need to be formed, it was already there, pure and raw.
Metallica wrote St Anger in a time of great angst. Each member of the band had their own problems, James was in rehab, Kirk was just getting of the drugs, the bassist was nowhere to be found, and Lars was persistent in being hard-headed as ever. You can imagine these massive egos coming together to try and form an album.
The sound of St Anger itself has its ups and downs, the distortion sounds brutal, and is probably the high point of the production. The low point, you guessed it, is Lars banging on his moms pots and pans. One can only assume that the snare Ulrich used was his choice, and the producers, unwilling to face a tantrum, let it slip.
The drumming on St Anger however is a lot better than previous records. People seem to have the general consensus that Lars is a bad drummer. Sure, he’s no Lombardo but he’s not bad. No worse than the rest of bands around these days, and live, he is brilliant. He puts a lot of effort into it, and while he may not have the talent other drummers do, he keeps up well, and plays a lot more technically in this album. Load and Reload seemed to have the same drum line all the way through, it was good to hear some change, even though the album was essentially ruined due to the poor snare sound Ulrich brings to the table.
The guitar that Kirk and James offer is much rawer than Load and Reload, much more distorted, and overall, better. The riffs are much stronger, making you feel much more emotive than a lot of stuff they have written. But sadly, like just about everything else on this album, there is a massive low point. No solos. Solos were about the only good thing on Load and Reload, and for them to not be an addition to St Anger is a massive letdown. But let’s remember, this was Lars’s idea, not Kirk’s. Really, they should have told Lars he had no more say in anything after he picked out his drum set, just another example of Kirk avoiding conflict and Lars provoking it.
Overall, the bass on St Anger is OK, it has a really meaty sound if you listen really closely, but is generally not audible. Bob Rock was the bassist I believe, due to the fact Metallica had not picked out Trujillo yet. He did a pretty good job, this being said, he could have tied the drums and guitars together a bit better. Or he could have turned the drums right down during album production.
Lastly we look at James vocals. They are angry, frustrated and confronting, albeit, a bit over the top. He rarely bothers keeping in check or even trying to sing, he just yells and occasionally goes hoarse. He is just angry, so frustrated at everything going on, he gave up on trying writing an album for Metallica’s fans, and did it more as an anger release. Sure, it does not sound good. It sounds almost unbearable in fact, but he clearly did not care.
We need to remember why we like music. We like it for the emotion; the outlet is so often is for all of us. St Anger was juxtaposing most of what Metallica did in the years previous to its release, it wasn't made this way for money, or attention; it was made this way because of the emotion they were feeling at the time. That’s how an album should be made.
Despite this, it’s hard to like this album because of its major flaws, and it never really feels to be anything special. Metallica were on the right track producing something with more in mind then mainstream success, however the musicianship was poor, and the album never really hit home.