St. Anger is Metallica’s eighth studio album, released in 2003 after one of many hiatuses in the thrash-metal band’s career. The album is highly controversial for a number of reasons; while many consider it to be among Metallica’s worst, St. Anger is still widely discussed among the Metallica community in light of its criticisms. But is St. Anger really that bad to warrant such a flaming from critics and fans alike?
St. Anger is one of Metallica’s longer albums, standing at seventy-five minutes. And for some, that might be a curse as much as it is a blessing.
That’s because – and for good reason – St. Anger does a lot of things wrong as much as it does right.
Let’s start with the biggest offense: the drums. While previous Metallica albums made good use of heavy-hitting drum sounds, on St. Anger the snare has a distinctly tinny sound that overrides all of the other instrumentals on the album. While a difference in sound may be welcomed by some, for others it turns St. Anger’s eleven tracks into mush, with one track indistinct from the next.
That’s perhaps one of my biggest criticisms of the album; while the front half is absolutely loaded with headbangers not typical from your golden Metallica albums, the back half just feels like one long slosh of drop-tunings and messy drum beats. While tracks like Frantic, St. Anger, and Dirty Window feel worthy of the Metallica name, anything after track 5, Invisible Kid, is nearly devoid of replay value. It’s this issue – not the lack of guitar solos, not the cheesy lyrics (One lyric in particular, “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle,” nearly made me turn off the music and review another album entirely), not the nu-metal sound that’s antithetical to Metallica as a whole – that made listening to this album an overall frustrating experience.
And yet at the end of the day, St. Anger isn’t a total flop. As I mentioned before, the redeeming tracks in the first half of the album are great on their own. But, as an eleven-track collection, it feels creatively misguided in so many aspects that it can’t even come close to Metallica’s best work.
St. Anger is, to this day, seen perhaps as Metallica’s most controversial album.
Releasing on the heels of a near break-up following the departure of longtime bassist Jason Newsted in 2001, the album became a subject of a documentary, Some Kind Of Monster (named after the third track on the album), in which the band’s tribulations before and during the album’s recording were caught on film.
St. Anger, of course, remains a polarizing album for many fans as a result of its nu-metal sound, lack of solos, and a snare drum sound often compared to the sound of drumming on a metal garbage can. As frontman James Hetfield has put it, “It’s one of those albums where you love it or you hate it.”
Despite the mixed opinions, St. Anger still debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has since sold over six million copies worldwide.
Metallica’s newest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, releases today. It is the band’s tenth album overall, and their first since 2008’s Death Magnetic. Three tracks from the album – Hardwired, Moth Into Flame, and Atlas, Rise! were released in the lead-up to the album's release.
Drummer Lars Ulrich has confirmed that the band will shoot a video for all twelve songs on Hardwired. “The practicality of shooting 12 music videos is kind of crazy, especially when you’re trying to promote your record,” Ulrich said in an interview with The Straits Times, “And you’re all over the place and trying to make sure it doesn’t leak. It’s crazy but, at the same time, fun.”
Next week’s review: The Offspring’s “Smash”