Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Metallica "St. Anger" (2003)

Having caught up with my musings on the records Ive digested recently I thought it would be fun to pick out this confusing record from my youth, listen to it once more and give my thoughts on what is generally considered a catastrophe from the worlds biggest Metal band, Metallica, a band that needs no introduction. Having grown up on the first four albums this was to be my generations Metallica record and the excitement was immense, six years since "Reload", the return of Bob Rock, a few years after the Napster controversy and at the end of the Nu Metal mainstream success this would be the groups last release in the MTV / RIAA controlled industry era which really went all out to give this record hype. On its release it was highly praised, reviews were great and airplay was high, me and my friends loved this record. I can't remember in what time frame it happened, but it seemed like everyone sobered up quickly, re reviews rolled in and the hysteria died down fast and the album received a lot of flak, especially online in a different era of internet communication. Its legacy is that of a flop, a joke, a record hated by fans and songs no longer played live.

Its been over a decade since I gave St. Anger a proper listen and in that time I've grown as a listener, expanded my horizons and have gained a lot of patience for finding the magic in the music so it wasn't much of a surprise to find this record rather enjoyable. What I was surprised by was my memory of the lyrics, not being one for lyrics I could recall a fair amount of Hetfield's words from over a decade ago. The same goes for the rest of the music which I quickly noticed how much of this comes from Hetfield alone, with no solos from Kirk and backing bass from Bob Ross, we are left with the duo that have been together from day one. Lars's drumming is relatively adequate, slightly sloppy, but has that charm to compliment the rhythm guitar well. Of course the "St. Clanger" snare is an earache, not the worst of choices to leave the snare wire loose, but why all the time? Theres moments where the clang brings a lot of energy, but its difficult to stomach it so consistently.

Its quite difficult to think "this is Metallica" with St. Anger. Its hard to separate the monumentally brilliant music they wrote in the 80s from this grizzly, noise aggressor, but if you listen without bias this record has some strong points going for it. The guitars are massive, taking obvious influences from Nu Metal, Hetfield finds a noisy, tonal assault that works well with simplistic grooves accentuated to great effect. Its a little hit and miss in places, much like his vocal input which has some brilliance at times on tracks like "Frantic", "My lifestyle, determines my deathstyle", which quickly sour with the "Fran-Tick-Tick-Tock". The same goes for "Shoot me again, I ain't dead yet" before incessantly shouting "Shoot me again" over and over.

Essentially, its a mixed bag of results. The production has a rough, slightly messy feel to it, but I can't help but feel thats an important part of the concept, if you consider the stripped back approach with simple song structures and lack of solos, "St. Anger" comes across like a band writing songs for the first time and is very much removed from anything the band did together before it. The snare sound is a big snag, especially on  "Dirty Window" which takes the clang to unbearable levels. The album also rocks out a few clean guitar moments in between the riff onslaught which has some serious substance in places. For me this record is all about Hetfield who put a new approach and craft into his guitar that hit the mark with tonal timing oriented grooves for the most part. I'm still undecided on if this was a enjoyable nostalgia trip or a genuine experience of the music, but one things for sure, if you separate the band from the music its not a record you'd get upset about. I remember a quote from the band saying they wanted to become a part of the Metal landscape, rather than its peak. No record will ever change there place at the throne of Metal music.

Favorite Tracks: Frantic, Invisible Kid, Shoot Me Again, Purify, All Within My Hands
Rating: 5/10