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


  1. He Youtubes, he plays Minecraft, AND he blogs?
    You are one seriously talented person. :)

    It's interesting to read your opinion on Metal. I have never been a big fan of it- not because of the sound, but because, as a writer, I hate not being able to hear the lyrics. I love really beautiful lyrics, ones that you can read as well as listen to, and they read like a poem.

    My kids are a big influence on what I listen to. I've been a Country fan since I was 3 years old, wearing my Dad's big ol' DJ headphones and listening to an 8Track of Kenny Roger's Greatest Hits (lol), but these days I have everything from Meatloaf to Beethoven on my list.
    I tend to fall in love with individual songs more often than artists.

    1. Music has always spoken to me more than words, so screams are vibrations, sounds, textures, emotions that i don't always need to hear for there words. You'll also develop an ear for it if you expose yourself, even some of the meanest guttural screams are decipherable when your used to them :-)

    2. That's really interesting. I've always been interested in how the artists use various sounds to express and support the music, but I haven't developed that relationship with sound. I think that having played instruments yourself, you probably have a deeper understanding. I've only learned "Susy put the kettle on" kind of tunes on guitar and piano lol

      But my friend who was an actual pianist, she felt music in ways I can only imagine and envy. Certain songs, she'd just be lost in them when listening. (And, she was a huge fan of Queen, Metalica, and Alanis Morset- No idea if I'm spelling that correctly.) I wonder if it's a certain affinity for music that goes along with that love of metal and other "heavy" music that's not everyone's cup of tea.

      There are certain songs that do move me with just the sounds, but it's almost always because they're connected to a particular memory or experience.

    3. Having an affinity for music can certainly be for a specific type. For me that was Metal & Hip Hop when i was young, but Ive since learned to love all forms of music and home in on the artistic intent. Playing instruments most likely strengthens that connection, if you ever wonder about playing, id encourage you to try learning. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain :-)