Review Summary: Perspective.St. Anger
is a bad album. St. Anger
has no solos. St. Anger
has irritating and off-key vocals from James Hetfield. St. Anger
has an horrible-sounding snare drum. But none of these points are a revelation, clearly. We’ve all heard these criticisms uttered countless times, and Metallica fans often point to it first (well, either this or Lulu
) when they talk about the band losing their touch. It’s gotten to the point that other bands’ failures - such as Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus
and now Machine Head’s new album Catharsis
are being considered their respective artists’ versions of St. Anger
. Indeed, it has that reputation. So why am I even bringing any of this stuff up"
Because I want to focus on intent. One quote from James Hetfield really struck me: “St. Anger is just the best we can do right now.”
If you’ve never checked out the background behind the album (see: Some Kind of Monster), the history behind its conception is one giant shit-show. Jason Newsted left the band, James Hetfield was going into rehab as his alcoholism reached its breaking point, the band received backlash due to a lawsuit with Napster, and the group even hired a therapist to help them with their emotional struggles. But what’s even more important is that St. Anger
was intended as a return to Metallica’s garage band roots, which explains the lack of solos. In Kirk Hammett’s words: "We wanted to preserve the sound of all four of us in a room just jamming.”
As butchered and broken as the final product sounds, I can’t stress how much of a passionate piece of music the whole thing is. It’s such a deliberate attempt to avoid the mainstream hard rock trappings of Load
to capture something from their distant past, and that’s where my admiration for it truly comes from. Many of us were in a shitty garage band back in our youths, sounding like ass but thinking we were true badasses as we played covers of our favorite bands. Hell, I was in one of those shitty bands myself! I briefly sang in a short-lived rock band in my junior year of high school, belting out such classics as “Seven Nation Army” and “Beast and the Harlot.” I don’t really talk to my old bandmates anymore, but those memories are always going to be part of me no matter where I go. For better or for worse (well, certainly for worse, but still…), St. Anger
gives me the same feelings.
The album has a distinct fury and aggression that seem genuine, stemming from the band’s actual struggles and frustrations in their personal lives. Metallica was a very broken band at the time, and sometimes the best way to reboot your career is to start from ground zero and rebuild your sound from there. St. Anger
is ground zero, much like the band’s pre-Kill ‘Em All
days were their original ground zero. This is Metallica in their purest, most unhinged form. It may be ugly, badly written, and just fucking horrible in its overall presentation, but it also holds a place in my heart because of the exact same reasons. This is an awful, messed up, glorious, phenomenal disaster.