"Reload" and their 8th studio effort, "St. Anger", starting with bassist Jason Newsted leaving the band, then singer James Hetfield was forced to enter rehab because of drug and alcohol issues, which eventually sparked a lot of internal struggles within the band (and let us not forget the whole Napster thing, which forced this album to be released 5 days before the intended release date). Out of these dark days emerged a rugged Metallica, a more passionate band that had a ton of anger to ventilate, and they used their new record to do so. But as Kratos from the "God of War" series would tell all of you, anger can cloud one's judgment.
Over the 15 years that "St. Anger" has been out for the world to see, it has gotten a very rotten reputation, one that I hoped would try to counter at the end of the day, but nope, I can only agree with most of the negative criticism that has been spewed all over it. Let us tackle the two most common complaints first, the drumming, and the lack of solos. Now, an album certainly does not need solos to be good, and with the more punk vibe that this album has, I kind of get why the band did not add any, but I think it is a waste of talent when neither Hammett or Hetfield get to show their chops. As for the drumming, I have been trying my hardest to stay away from it in previous reviews, because it is like beating a dead horse, but here, it just cannot be ignored. The ringing sound of Ulrich's drums sounds like those modified oil drums you find on Caribbean calypso bands, and they do stick out like a sore thumb. God damn it.
But there are more problems with this album, unfortunately. Just like with the last two albums, the length is a huge issue here, but unlike "Load" and "Reload", where the albums where filled with dull fillers, "St. Anger" do have a good amount of energy, but a lot of repetition that feels completely unnecessary. Several songs just repeats themselves way too much, making you feel like you are stuck in an endless loop. "Invisible Kid" is the perfect example of this, a pretty fun song actually, but it has a length of 8 and a half minute, every line in the verses start with the title, and it goes on and on and on and on, IT NEVER ENDS! A good idea completely wasted.
And that is probably the saddest part about "St. Anger", that there is some amount of good, or at least interesting, ideas in here, once again showing that Metallica is not afraid to experiment with their music. Even if most tracks in "St. Anger" feels really strange coming from Metallica, like they do not belong at all with this band, there are still songs like "Frantic", "The Unnamed Feeling", "All Within My Hands", and even the title track have some really neat tricks that certainly works, but I feel like the anger of the band kind of ruins the quality of the craft. Hetfield does not sound as crisp as usual (in fact, he sounds really, really bad in some places), Hammett does not get any room at all to shine, and Lars... is Lars. It is perfectly obvious that this is not a band in harmony, a group that still needs some healing before being 100% again.
With all said and done though, there is one thing that I do not agree with most naysayers about "St. Anger", that it is a candidate for the "Worst metal album of all time" award. Sure, "St. Anger" is a rotten album, it is a record only a mother could love, and it is without any shadow of a doubt the worst Metallica record out there ("Lulu" not included, because it is more of a Lou Reed album), but it does at the very least have some neat ideas that might not have been given the best opportunities to shine, but they are still there to behold. This is an angry record that tries to maul everything in its path, without any real sense of direction, which makes it difficult to get a grasp on. So let us all do what Hetfield say in the title track, flush it out.
Songs worthy of recognition: Frantic, The Unnamed Feeling
Rating: 2,5/10 Sweet Ambers
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