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St. Anger - Metallica
Member Name: Jarisleif
St. Anger - Metallica
Advantages: I'm sure I can think of some... nope, sorry!
Disadvantages: Practically everything
"St. Anger" is the 8th studio album by American heavy metal band, Metallica. It was released in 2003 on Elektra Records and produced by Bob Rock. The line-up for the album was James Hetfield (vocals/guitar), Kirk Hammett (guitar), Bob Rock (bass) and Lars Ulrich (drums).
This was the first Metallica album to be released since the departure of Jason Newsted in January of 2001, with producer Bob Rock filling in on bass. The road to recording was a long and often unstable one, and one which was detailed in the documentary film which was made about the band, "Some Kind of Monster". There were inner struggles within the band, especially between Hetfield and Ulrich, with the former entering rehab for alcoholism, and that may or may not have led to recording a poor album. Is it any good? Let's find out!
"Frantic" kicks off the album and what's instantly noticeable is the drum sound. It's just plain awful and sounds like Lars is hitting the skins in the bath tub or something. Don't get me wrong, I like Lars' drumming style but here the sound is ridiculously bad, and it gets worse when the intro is over and James' vocals begin the first verse. There's no harmony at all to his singing and it's done so angrily that you can't help but wonder if he's under the influence of alcohol or if Bob Rock couldn't be bothered and said "Yup, that'll do it" after one take and canned the song as tracked. Now the unfortunate thing is that this is probably one of the best songs on the album, so maybe I should stop the review right here and say "Job done. It's abysmal and that's all you need to know", right? Maybe, but we'll carry on regardless. It's a song about the struggles within the band at the time of recording, especially Hetfield's much-publicised alcohol problems. It's really not a good start at all.
The title track is up next, and "St. Anger" is about as good as the album's going to get. There is a really fast and thrashy intro with some energetic double bass from Lars, but I just can't look beyond the sound once more. It once again sounds like he's purpose-built a gigantic toilet and drummed in that and as far as I'm concerned, that's where it should have stayed. James' singing is warbly on the verses and the chorus isn't much better either. But hooray, there's a good part! No, it's not the end of the song, but I sometimes think that. There is some good melody when James is shouting "I'm madly in anger with you" near the end and I like the guitar playing which accompanies it. It's a song which again shows the dark side of thoughts going around their heads. It's saying that no matter how much you love someone, you still hate them all the same.
"Some Kind of Monster" is a song written by the band about the band. It deals with the encumbrance of being famous and going through life in one of the world's biggest bands which has become some kind of monster. The song is lengthy at over 8 minutes long and contains a 2-minute intro which isn't very good. It's generic heard-it-all-before stuff and you'd expect more from a band of this stature. Musically, it is some kind of monster indeed. It's a rough and ready, two-headed beast which is on a rampage to destroy anything which was once good. And by that I mean the band itself. It's another example of Metallica trying to be what Metallica once was and failing miserably. There's nothing new here, I'm afraid, and I know I keep coming back to the same old story with Metallica, but it's just not very good at all.
"Dirty Window" is the fourth song on the album and it gets off to a good start. I instantly like the Motörhead tones in the rhythm but as soon as Hetfield starts singing all that is forgotten, and what we get is more of those tedious drums and strained, warbling vocals. I really don't understand Metallica at this point. It seems that it's all about the Lars and the James effect, and it's destroying what might be a good song. There's a part where it slows down and James sings "I'm judge and I'm jury and I'm executioner too", and to my ears which listen to a lot of metal, I instantly recognise some System of a Down in the guitar harmony. This isn't the first time Metallica has stolen riffs and passages, as their former guitar player and now Megadeth's Dave Mustaine will testify. This is a song which I liken to a puppy that's done its business on the kitchen floor. I'd like to rub the nose of "Dirty Window" into its own puddle and say "Don't do that again" in the hope that it will learn.
"Invisible Kid" is next up and it's another track which is over 8 minutes in length, and after I listened to it I felt it was probably 8 minutes too long. The lyrics are just plain confusing and the guitar riff is completely monotone, monotonous and very dull. I so badly want to skip to the summary of the review, but I will persevere. Or I'm masochistic. Or both. I've obviously heard the album before - I have owned it since it was released - but I had forgotten just how bad some of the tracks were, this included. The problem is, Lars' drums are so in-your-face that you can barely hear the down tuned guitars and that has to be down to the production yet again. It's another poor song on what is becoming a very poor album.
We're at the halfway point with "My World" and while it begins with a pretty heavy riff, as soon as Lars starts playing the drums it's almost as if he's over-complicating things. There is a roll in there which has an extra kick or tom hit that doesn't make sense, musically, or it could be that he's missed what he was supposed to be hitting to complete the roll. Either way, it's another dull record that should have been cut and thrown onto the studio floor as bad rubbish. The lyrics are plain awful and when you have a chorus which goes like this:
"It's my world
You can't have it
It's my world
it's my world
It's my world
Then you know there's a problem. It's plain lazy on Metallica's part and I think they're only out to con the fans with this album the more and more I listen to each song on it. Anyway, let's move on. It's probably not going to get any better but we can always try to see the positives. I've yet to work out what they are, but my summary might shed some light!
"Shoot Me Again" is Metallica's attempt at being a mix of Godsmack and Korn and, yet again, it doesn't work and it really doesn't help the album's cause any. I've completely lost the will to carry on playing the album now but I can't quit and force myself to continue. Even where it sounds almost good (Lars' drums are quieter here), the lyrics force me to think otherwise and I find myself cringing at what was once the best thrash metal band in the world. The song is apparently aimed at people like me. People like me that loved the old Metallica and didn't like the new Metallica. James is telling us that no matter how many times we slate him for what he's become, he will keep coming back at us, churning out awful and almost nu-metal songs.
"Sweet Amber" is next. There are finally some pretty decent parts here in the guitar playing, but it's too much like the band has taken a back step and decided that it'll do just fine as it is. The boundaries haven't even been touched, let alone pushed. It's another song about alcoholism and James' battles with the demon drink over the years. It's slightly ironic, because Dave Mustaine was kicked out of the band because of his love of the bottle and I wonder if they look back on this album and then look to what Megadeth has consistently done and thought "Hmm, we might have more money, but did we make better records consistently?" The answer, in my view, is no.
The next song is "The Unnamed Feeling", and without boring you too much, it's 7 minutes and more of utter drivel. Next to "Frantic", this track has probably the worst production on the album and some of the most atrocious arrangement I've ever heard in a song. I'm actually convinced that James has brought in a huge bottle and passed it around before saying "Let's just play what we like and record it at the same time. It'll sound great!" Well great it doesn't sound but then I think everyone who has listened to the album that isn't a staunchly loyal fan will agree.
"Purify" is just an extension of the previous track, if I'm honest. Not that it sounds anything like it, just that it's another jumbled mess with no real idea of what to do. As with a lot of songs on this album, James' vocal harmony is shot to pieces. He's trying too hard but getting nowhere at the same time, which just makes it sound like one big mess. The only good thing going for it is that the bridge sounds almost bearable with some big and fat heavy notes, but again it's probably something any band could come up with just jamming along in band practice.
Ah, the last track of the album, "All Within My Hands". By now, I've poured myself a large glass of some quite expensive bourbon whiskey I got for Christmas and I'm already contemplating pouring another glass just to celebrate finishing listening to an album I've decided to either throw in the bin, give away, or put on eBay once I'm done. This is new Metallica trying ever so hard to be old Metallica - the Metallica that I grew up with and loved... and failing miserably. I know I keep coming back to the production sound, but this time it's good and it's bad - in different parts. The legendary Bob Rock has trashed the album to the point of no return and to say it took almost a year to record it all, I'm shocked.
In summary, this should have been an album that transitioned the band from one era to another, yet it seems it's a complete disaster. It's another song that sounds rushed with the production, and you have to wonder if Bob Rock took too much on his plate when he picked up the bass as well as twiddling the knobs. I'm sure that if they'd have taken more time and listened to the album properly with clean minds, they may have thought "Hang on a minute, this is bad. This isn't what's expected from one of the biggest metal bands in the world. Let's scrap it and get something new done with a new bass player." But in hindsight, it took them 5 years to put out its follow up, "Death Magnetic", and that wasn't much better, either. Imagine if this was an unknown band putting out a demo CD to major record labels. Imagine those people that listen to it and reject it one by one because it's lacklustre, unpolished and boring. Then imagine that just because it's Metallica, there's a given right to put it out for the masses, regardless of how it sounds. Yup, who's kidding who? I know there are people out there who like this album but those that do cannot possibly understand music.
The critics were of mixed opinion for the album, and I lean towards favouring with those that slated it.
NME: "The true masters have finally awakened from their slumber."
All Music Guide: "St. Anger looks inward with a hard eye, and while it finds some grinning demons in that pit, it also unearths some of the sickest grooves of Metallica's 20+ year lifespan."
Playlouder: "While there's no denying that Metallica have produced a huge - and welcome - blast from the past, it also represents a monolithic slab of noise that stretched over 11 songs and 75 minutes is just too dense and daunting to be truly enjoyable."
Pitchfork: "What an utter mess."
CultureDose.net: "The production [on the album] is abysmal"
2. St. Anger
3. Some Kind of Monster
4. Dirty Window
5. Invisible Kid
6. My World
7. Shoot Me Again
8. Sweet Amber
9. The Unnamed Thing
11. All Within My Hands
My rating: 1/10
Summary: Don't waste your money.