Metallica - St. Anger (2003) - It's Metallica's world, suckers! - 96% (21/05/14)
Metallica’s “St. Anger“ has been reviewed so many times, so what’s the matter to do this all over again? My reasoning is simple. Usually, this controversial record is hated by many and adored by a few. There seems to be nothing in between and this release still divides the masses as only few metal albums will ever do. My point is that I initially hated this album but I adore it a lot today.
Let me explain. When I got into metal music back in 2005, I stumbled over many great current records of the most famous bands. When a friend introduced me to “St. Anger” I thought it was stupidly aggressive, annoyingly noisy and endlessly repetitive. This album didn’t include anything I was looking for back then. I was looking for a catchier single, some emotional guitar solos, an epic or progressive surprise here and there, a touching ballad or maybe a song with sophisticated lyrics. This album includes none of these things. I decided to listen to other stuff from Metallica and I found many records quite mellow as well. For me, Metallica was the most overrated metal band in the world. When I gave the band another chance after the release of the solid “Death Magnetic” in 2008, I started to dig some of the band’s earlier records but I didn’t listen to that “St. Anger” abomination again because I only had bad memories of it. It’s only back in 2011 when I coincidentally listened to that album again when I introduced a friend of mine to the metal world. At that point, I knew much more about the tensions in the band prior to the release of “St. Anger”, my English had become better and I spent some time to analyze the lyrics of this record and my personal tastes had expanded and become much more open-minded towards extreme (sounding) metal. Suddenly, something had changed and I started to appreciate “St. Anger” to my own surprise.
This album transports so many extreme emotions that go straight in your face: it’s full of anger, black humor, cynicism, fear, frustration, pain, pressure, social criticism and spite. It’s an unvarnished drain valve, an authentic still life, the handle after the last straw. It was an uncompromising make it or break it release created with tons of burden and pressure six years after the band’s last release. It was an album that would see Metallica die or survive. It was the kind of album that the band simply had to do no matter what while the previous records had always aimed for a mainstream audience. The band didn’t give a damn about the question if this album was going to please the critics and fans or not at all. All these negative emotions the band gathered over the years culminated on this release which makes this record absolutely authentic, gripping and unique to me. This album absolutely has to sound raw and dirty. Guitar solos are too beautiful for the negative lyrical topics on here. The repetitive, down-tuned, chugging riffs perfectly represent the never-ending hell the band was going through. The tinny, dirty, annoying drum sound is perfectly in context because it’s as annoying as ripping headaches and negative thoughts that won’t ever leave you. The aggressive and sometimes out-of-tone vocals and the respective lyrics feel like the desperate rant of an insane mind. Yes, this album has a very special atmosphere and it sounds completely unique. It’s an album for special moments when you simply feel mad about something and want to reduce your aggression or when you are in need for some uncompromising and straight music. People tend to compare “St. Anger” to other stuff and cite nu-metal bands (pejoratively called mallcore by the closed-minded elitists) like System Of A Down or Limp Bizkit. Those who say so just didn’t understand “St. Anger” or they simply don’t want to. Both bands never wrote eight-minute long repetitive and desperate rants with down-tuned instruments and extremely raw productions anyway. It took me more than half a decade to realize this and respect this raw diamond.
It’s really hard to pick out any song on here because “St. Anger” really works as a whole. Let me just say that I started to love the songs I really hated in the beginning. “Some Kind Of Monster” had always sounded way too long, repetitive and unnecessarily brutal to my ears when I was young but today I literally feel the menacing main riff and dig the angry lyrics. Another good example is “My World” which sounded aimless to me in the beginning but today I definitely understand this track that perfectly represents the spirit of Metallica back then. It’s their world and it’s a mad world and if you don’t like it and want to dig in the past, than get along, suckers! The extremely aggressive “Purify” felt like pointless brutality to my ears when I was young but today I consider it as maybe the most concise song writing on this record where Metallica literally try to purify itself.
Note that the songs that I initially liked have become even greater as time went by. I might cite the pitiless opener “Frantic” where the vocals sound like a ticking time bomb and where the tinny drum sound and simplistic riffs perfectly introduce us to what this record is all about. The desperate “The Unnamed Feeling” that mixes hysterical passages with menacingly calm and almost mantra-like parts is my favourite song on the album. It feels like the individual that tells the story desperately tries to keep control but in the end completely looses it in the middle part of the song.
Everything about this album suddenly works. The riffs are chugging and simplistic but that’s why they work so well. The raw drums that were mixed in the foreground represent that hammering in your head that is suffering from a severe migraine. The drum play is straight but incredibly effective. Metallica’s drummer gets regularly criticized but I think he did the best job of his career on this album because and not despite he lacks diversity, elegance and technique. It simply fits on this particular record while his drum play might slightly spoil other Metallica records. The vocalist simply sings his heart out with slightly hysterical and imperfectly perfect vocals. Yes, there is a lot of “uh!” and “yeah!” on this album and these elements sounded out of place and mildly amusing on other albums but on here, these initial flaws have become strengths as they sound unpolished, natural and honest. The singer doesn’t think about how he should perform, it feels as if he just lets himself go and that’s what was needed for this release. Oh yes, there is also a bass player on this record but he wasn’t really needed on here and that’s why the unimpressive bass play simply doesn’t matter to me even though I usually adore this instrument. This is James Hetfield’s, Lars Ulrich’s and Kirk Hammett’s most personal record. Jason Newsted is a nice guy but never really fitted into this band anyway and session bassist Bob Rock was just there to fill in for the least important spot in the band.
If I had written a review for this album back in 2005 or the years after, I would have given this album an utterly bad grade. Today, it’s close to perfection for me. I only cut off a few points because the record doesn’t work in all situations as you have to be in a very particular mood to get into this and because “Sweet Amber” is the only song I never got into on this release. It sounds like the rest but in a less convincing manner as it’s neither outthought enough to grab our attention nor straight enough to conquer us by all means.
In the end, I would like to suggest you to give this album a fair chance from time to time. Maybe you will be going through the same experience as I did and deeply appreciate what you profoundly hated one day. Just listen to this record once or twice every two or three years. If it doesn’t work, put it away and try again two or three years later. Maybe you need a special event in your own life to dig this vulgar negativity of an album like the loss of a job, the death of a beloved friend or a complicated divorce. Or maybe you are just like me and you will look beyond this album and empathise with the band and its particular situation back in the days so that this record suddenly makes sense. Anyway, such a timelessly controversial album should be known by any metal fan. If it’syou’re your case, discover the madness right now! Even if you hate it, your listening experience might be more interesting than the discovery of many so-called classics that didn’t age so well.« Коррозия Металла / Corrosion Of Metal - Компьютер-Гитлер / Computer-Hitler - „Ey, racists, this album is shit!“ - 38% (16/05/14)In Extremo - Kunstraub (2013) - New anthems with an improved rhythm section - 80% (23/05/14) »
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