Metallica – ‘St. Anger’

An album so bad it almost ended the career of the biggest band in metal history

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If you’ve ever wanted to hear the sound of a band on the brink of breaking up, living in constant fear of becoming irrelevant or messing with what made them great in the first place, look no further.

Metallica is without a doubt the most successful thrash metal band in history. With hits like “Enter Sandman,” “One” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the band cemented a permanent place atop album and singles charts across the globe. In 2002 however, all of that began to change.

Jason Newsted, the bass player of Metallica for 14 years, left the band due to personal reasons before the recording process for “St. Anger” began. This disrupted the Metallica machine so abruptly that every aspect of the band began to come unhinged.

Band members began to resent each other. A new bass player was not hired for over a year. The band began to make a record because they were obligated to, not because they wanted to. It all shows on this record.

“St. Anger” was released on June 5, 2003 to initial commercial success, but the record echoes everything that was occurring during the record process.

An interesting bit of trivia about the record is that the band wrote a large majority of the record together. Everything from the song structure to the lyrics were discussed and voted on democratically. This sounds like a good idea on paper, but it ended up becoming the musical equivalent of multiple students all answering the same question in the same way to earn some increasingly trivial participation points on some godforsaken college campus.

With phrases like, “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle” and “If I could get my wasted days back, would I use them to get back on track,” it becomes apparent some of the lyrics on this record were inserted to make sure everyone contributed to the lyrics which totally sacrificed the quality of the tracks in the process.

What is something Metallica is synonymous with? That’s right, shredding guitar solos by Mr. Kirk Hammett. Want more of them? Sorry, but no luck on this one. “St. Anger” opts to ditch the so-called “dated” practice of guitar solos for a more industrial and hardcore style (one that has become more dated in 2017 than guitar solos could ever be).

So, if the guitar solos were put down then the songs must be cohesive and strong, right? Well, survey says nope.

Tracks like, “Frantic,” “St. Anger” and “Some Kind of Monster” sound like a loose collection of B-side riffs assembled about as well as a three-year-old assembling a 2,200 piece jigsaw puzzle.

If the songs aren’t good, sound quality of the recording must, at the very least, be solid, right? They have millions of dollars in recording equipment at their disposal, but the answer to this question is once again, unfortunately not.

Grab a drumstick, go outside to the nearest trash can you can find and repeatedly hit it for 70 minutes. That probably sounds just as good, if not better than Ulrich’s drum sound on this record. How any sound engineer or breathing human being with ears allowed this album’s drums to leave the studio is beyond me.

The quality control on this album is comparable to Samsung when they released the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. However, I guess that is one positive for the album. At least it doesn’t blow up your ears when you listen to it (even though when I re-listened to “St. Anger” it was quite close).

The album almost broke up Metallica and the songs aren’t cohesive or near as memorable as anything else they’d put out to that point. Plus, the sonic properties of the record sound like a first-year sound engineering student.

I normally recommend people check out the records I review, but not this time. Stay as far away from this record as humanly possible. Get a restraining order against it if you can. And if you already own it, throw it in the trash where Ulrich most likely found the drums he used on the record.

Metallica is one of the best bands of all time. If you want to hear a great album, listen to “Ride the Lightning” or “Master of Puppets.” But leave “St. Anger” behind like history hopefully will.