METALLICA — St. Anger (review)

METALLICA — St. Anger album cover Album · 2003 · Alternative Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
1/5 ·
Vim Fuego
If this had been `Re-Re-Load' it would have been easy to write off the album and the band, but it's not. Neither though is it a return to the days of old. The nearest thing Metallica have done to this album is the `Garage Days Re-Revisited' covers EP. It sounds like Metallica playing covers back in the garage again, except Metallica wrote the songs Metallica are covering.

There have been a lot of strange rumours surrounding this album. There were wild eyed, panicked suggestions it would be a nu-metal album, and it sounded just like System Of A Down. After all, there are no solos. It was supposed to contain blast beats and death metal elements, just like Cryptopsy. Hey, Lars has rediscovered double kick drums after more than a decade, and that's what death metal bands use a lot of, right?

Wrong on both counts. True, the trademark Hammett solos are conspicuous by their absence, but nu-metal? Not by even the loosest of definitions. For a start, James Hetfield can actually sing, and Metallica don't have to disguise a lack of musical skill with excessive downtuning. "Invisible Kid" however, is the exception to this generalisation. The song is so shitty it sounds like something Soulfly left in the studio. It is the only real fly in the bowl of cornflakes here though.

Yes, Lars is using both feet again, and the songs are faster than anything the band has written since "...And Justice For All", but putting the odd fast bit into a song doesn't make it death metal by any stretch. Perhaps if Jason Newsted had stayed with the band and lain a death grunt over some of the tracks...? No, it still wouldn't have been halfway brutal enough to be considered death metal. So that's what the album isn't.

What it is though is still a bit confused. The production is strange, with an odd "ping" in the drum sound. The guitars are mostly fat and meaty, as you'd expect, but occasionally drop off to a thin, reedy sound, like some poorly executed mid-80s thrash demo.

Most tracks hit some sort of comfortable groove which get the old headbanging and air guitar reflexes twitching, but then inexplicably, a new riff or a change of pace is thrown in, upsetting the flow somewhat. A couple of tracks, like "Sweet Amber" and "Frantic", hold their groove despite the interruptions.

A lot of the early criticism of the album has been levelled at the lyrical content. Sure, lines like "frantic tick tick tick tick tick tick tock" and "I'm madly in anger with you" are not exactly in the same league as anything off `Master Of Puppets' or `...And Justice For All'. James Hetfield can write songs about the fungi he finds between his toes for all I care. So the lyrics are cheesy. So what? Few bands which have been around as long as Metallica haven't written a few real dogs.

Like the previous two studio efforts though, tracks from `St Anger' make more sense in the live arena than they do on disc. Not Metallica's best, but far from their worst effort (the fucking awful S&M holds that title). Overall, an album full of oddities.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
33 days ago
You know, this makes a really bad brutal death metal album too! I made it through the first song, but the second is just too awful...
adg211288 wrote:
34 days ago
You go on about death metal a fair bit in this review Patrick. Makes me wonder what you'd make of this (personally I couldn't get through the first track):

http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/album/doxophobia/saints-of-great-aggression
https://doxophobe.bandcamp.com/album/saints-of-great-aggression

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