Metallica
St. Anger


2.5
average

Review

by Jim USER (23 Reviews)
October 7th, 2006 | 783 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If ever evidence was needed to confirm Metallica's fall from grace, this over-priced drink coaster would certainly prove appropriate. Better luck next time, guys.

“I’ve worn out always being afraid
An endless stream of fear that I’ve made…”


Who or what are Metallica - who offer these words to us in the opener to this much maligned record - afraid of exactly? Well, after selling over 100 million records and imprinting their brand of metal/hard rock into the minds of an entire generation of middle-Americans, one would be forgiven for thinking fear is something these rock mainstayers couldn’t possibly have a grasp on. However, after listening to a record like St. Anger - one where all feelings of intimidation and anxiety by the band are laid bare – Metallica’s biggest fear is finally realised.

The fans.

After more than a decade of releasing watered down versions of what used to be, seemingly giving in to all forms of commerciality, and generally not living up to expectations, Metallica – using all of the fear of a fan backlash as a catalyst – decided to go back to basics and give the fans exactly what they were pining for all these years; a f*cking sh*t-fest of metal tomfoolery.

By now we all know how it turned out. Rather horribly if I recall. You see, in trying to recapture the excitement of their musical yesteryear, they actually overshot the target somewhat, and served up what is considered by many to be the ugliest, shoddiest, most unforgiving record ever produced. And I use the word “produced” as loosely as I can. But let’s not get tied up in production values (or lack thereof) just yet. Let’s go back to where it all began. When a disgruntled bassist was edged out forever…

Not satisfied with then-current bass guitarist Jason Newstead dividing work between Metallica and miniscule side-project Echobrain, lead singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield virtually squeezed Newstead out of the band’s line-up with a blunt ultimatum; us or them. Newstead, who had always felt a victim of inequality in the band, quit immediately in January 2001. Drummer Lars Ulrich’s legendary one man crusade to topple online music service Napster also hurt the band’s reputation, and after this flurry of negative activity, Metallica’s presence in the media remained dormant for some time.

It was during this period that the work on the eighth studio album, later entitled St. Anger, went under construction. With growing families, festering in-band relationships, and Hetfield’s endless problems with alcoholism, a task to return the band to form seemed daunting. Yet, the members actually seemed to thrive on these challenges, even going so far as to hire a film crew to shoot a warts-and-all documentary on the making of the album. Little did they know, this little documentary would turn out to be one of the most in depth and revealing rock portraits in recent memory, concerning the critically acclaimed film Some Kind of Monster.

But I digress. What’s important about this period is that an album was made, and that’s all we’ve been talking about for the last three years.

Metallica - St. Anger

Perhaps they should have taken heed of an old Chinese proverb; when you want to test the depths of a stream, don't use both feet. Perhaps the creative spark that once burnt brightly had all but extinguished? Or perhaps they were just trying too hard? Whatever the explanation, the album we were presented with on that much-anticipated day of June 5th 2003, is most certainly a curious listen, if anything else. From the opening seconds of sharpish opener Frantic, we are instantly warned that all preconceptions about what the band was going to deliver, would simply be a misunderstanding on our part. This wasn’t a thrash masterpiece, nor was it a diluted hard rock effort in the vein of Load or ReLoad. It was in fact a f*cking sh*t-fest of metal tomfoolery. What did you expect?

Leading single St. Anger takes this idea, and runs with it. With plodding riffery, and frantic drum work, it rightfully sounded out of place on mainstream radio. Perchance, the band was trying to cut all ties with their commercial audience and reconnect with the fans that made them stars in the first place? Whatever the case, it barely worked. While it was unanimously panned by the common music listener, the Metallica faithful - who had been waiting patiently for a return to form - found it hard to embrace also, leaving the band to ponder what on earth went wrong.

The answer is, of course, many things. While the album certainly contains potential, and at times is rather exciting, it is simply let down by careless, slapdash production work - the biggest example being the utterly confusing tone of the drums. While this original sound may first strike as refreshing, you will certainly grow tired of it by the third or fourth track. It’s not even kitsch – it just gets annoying. The decidedly tight, “pinging” character to Ulrich’s drums is what seems to rub fans the most when this album is inevitably dragged into the conversation. It seems almost implausible to believe this is the same band that created the same record that is regarded by many to be one of the most finely produced of all time, in the self-titled “Black Album”. One can only wonder what lead to the decision to leave a weak, sparse drum sound make it to the album, as it goes a long way to ruining what are potentially great songs.

Sometimes however, production has little to do with the album’s shortcomings. Occasionally, the very loud and repetitive nature of the track-list itself is it’s own failing. The strength in head banger Dirty Window for example, is in fact it’s intensity. Yet, it’s this same unforgiving force that keeps it from holding any sort of longevity, as anything more than two listens will simply give you a headache. Same goes for filler tracks My World and the hopelessly monotonous Purify. How can an audience grow close to an album when the album itself keeps pushing in the opposite direction?

This monotony brings attention to another of the record’s inadequacies. And that’s the simple lack of any trademark Kirk Hammet solos. The band (Ulrich in particular) felt it necessary to explore other possible songwriting arrangements where instead of Hammet providing lead guitar work in the many instrumental interludes, the band would instead entertain the idea of having no solos on the record, and persisting with a “rifforama” system, where the listener is taken on a journey through amazing guitar riffery and endless reverb. This idea was a shocker, and fell flat on its face. Album track Invisible Kid is a major victim, where for eight and a half minutes, the audience is met with an apparently endless series of reused riffs and recycled lyrics. Overly long mammoth track Some Kind of Monster suffers the same fate, where the devilishly entertaining key riff is laid to waste by more pretentious wanking around. Another potentially brilliant song ruined by poor composition.

On a positive note, amidst all this wasted opportunity lies some diamonds in the rough. First track Frantic for example, is a force to be reckoned with. The opening moment, where Ulrich’s hi-hat meets Hetfield’s shredding guitar, creates one of the more humbly uneventful – yet iconic – album openers in a long while. From there it just gets more exciting, with a hefty weight of crazy instrumentation clashing with Zen-inspired lyrics in an opening blaze of insanity that can only be described as ballsy. Second track St. Anger continues the intensity set by it’s predecessor and as a whole, is probably the most original piece on the record.

The lack of ballads is an issue that may upset some, but one could argue that this decision (made by management) actually improves the album’s focus immensely. B-sides such as Temptation were stilted, unpolished and vague, and if included would have ruined the dynamic of the album entirely, which benefits from keeping the premise plain and simple. In any case, softer track The Unnamed Feeling is a highlight and goes a long way to filling the void any missing ballads would have made. The lyrics also take a shining, with Hetfield transferring his emotional outpourings straight from the therapist’s notepad to the microphone. A real honest moment.

These blazes of glory are few and far between however, and considering the album’s running time pushes close to the maximum 80 minute mark, this is simply unforgivable. Filler tracks have been a problem in the past, and that trend certainly continues here. An eleven track marathon could have made a remarkable eight or seven track album worthy of respectability. The sheer volume of musical padding found on St. Anger shows the band have little respect for the idea of quality control, and the album suffers the same fate as it’s two predecessors as a result.

Now that the dust has settled in the intervening years, and the people have had time to digest the album, I can only offer you one piece of advice - make up your own mind. This isn’t Master of Puppets, yet it isn’t commercial radio pap. It’s an entity of its own - a unique blend of brutal experimentation and garage production. But what insightful impressions could they leave us with? What utterly profound words could leave us hanging in want of the next product??

“Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill .
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
KILLLLL!”


Oh, well. See you in 2007.



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user ratings (4603)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jim
October 8th 2006


5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

And before we begin, can we please withhold the old "not another st anger review" comments. For an album of it's notoriety, the reviews were seriously lacking, so I thought something of a definitive review was needed. I hope I've provided that.
metallicaman8's courtroom was very good though.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
October 8th 2006


3780 Comments


Beautiful review man, extremely well written, gj!

Yea, not much to say on the album itself though, I was never really a fan of Metallica, and I never gave this a listen, given all the negative press it was getting.

AmericnZero02
October 8th 2006


3360 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good review. I gave this a 2.5 as well. This was my first metallica album. Back then i thought it was great. But when i came back to it years later i realized how repetative it was and how annoying the drums were. Still, i dont think its as bad as most people make it out to be.

Digging: Copeland - Ixora

Oddsen
October 8th 2006


1127 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review probably the best for this album. I can sometimes enjoy this.

AnyColour74
October 8th 2006


1054 Comments


hey bahamut, good review. i got metallica's first album. its better than i expected, so im probably gonna get into them more.

metallicaman8
October 8th 2006


4677 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This review makes mine look poopy

/votes

SCREAM!
October 8th 2006


10379 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yours was funny mm8. This one makes MINE look like crap. Good review.

Digging: Svartidau?i - Flesh Cathedral

south_of_heaven 11
October 8th 2006


5438 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Good review. I strongly dislike this album...possibly the worst I've ever bought.
Hey SCREAM! Welcome back yo :wave:

SCREAM!
October 8th 2006


10379 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Back????? i didnt go anywhere
Your the second person that says that. This Message Edited On 10.08.06

Two-Headed Boy
October 8th 2006


4527 Comments


“Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill.
Kill, kill, kill, kill .
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.
KILLLLL!”

:lol:

Nice review, mr. guy.

El_Goodo
October 8th 2006


1008 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You could have at least gave it a 1.5 so you could add something to the reviews...we dont have a 1.5 yet.

MrKite
October 8th 2006


5020 Comments


this cd has some shitty lyrics. great review man.

Bron-Yr-Aur
October 8th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

You could have at least gave it a 1.5 so you could add something to the reviews...we dont have a 1.5 yet.


Yeah jeez why would you actually rate it how you want to?


MrSigma
October 8th 2006


34 Comments


hetfield wrote some catchy riffs for this album

Bfhurricane
October 8th 2006


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review for an average album. I like "St. Anger" and "Sweet Amber," and even some of "Shoot Me Again" but thats it. Their glory days are over

Brain Dead
October 8th 2006


1150 Comments


This review is amazing. Great job.

Onewaytrip2hell
October 8th 2006


508 Comments


Awesome review:thumb:

/votesThis Message Edited On 10.08.06

Wizard
October 8th 2006


19641 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Im impressed, that was the best review so far on this album with the least amount of biast thought (actually, none whatsoever). My only comment on this album: ONE OF THE WORST METAL ALBUMS IVER EVER HEARD. How can a band go from making 4 of the most solid thrash albums of all time to this. I dont think anybody in this world has the capcity to even comprehend the idea, thats how low they have sunk with St. Anger. Worst Metal Album Ever!!!!!!!!!!

Digging: Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

Flynn
October 8th 2006


44 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

First off...Nice review.

I bought this CD when it was first released thinking to myself ''Maybe Metallica came out of their 'slump' and actually put some thought and power into this album....'' After I listened to the entire album, I slapped myself for thinking. I didn't get rid of the CD though, I still use it everyday! Makes a great coaster.

If I could of somehow rated this album with a negative number, I would have done so.This Message Edited On 10.08.06

ToWhatEnd
October 8th 2006


3172 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hot damn this was a mighty fine review. This is probably one of the best I have read in awhile great work!



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