okay, i cheated a bit. I revised my original review below and posted it on epinions.com
Read whichever one you like, because they have the same message anyway. =P
My review of Metallica's St.Anger (released June 5, 2003)
well, it's been a little over one week since I purchased
St.Anger. 30+ times of listening to the album, I think I'm in the mood to do a
review of it.
After years and years of expecting a whole new studio album from Metallica, people can't help but have certain expectations as to what they want it to sound like. People exclaim that they want them to go back to their trash metal stylings from the '80s. Some people want that refined sound that they achieved in the '90s with their self-titled offering (The Black Album). But little did they know, Metallica was going to change their directions yet again with a "different" sound. This is not a return to the '80s Metallica, nor is it coming from the '90s Metallica either. St.Anger is a combination of both eras, putting them both in synchronicity. The result is a style that will once again have that love or hate attitude to it.
The production value of St.Anger isn't as prestine as that of "the Black album." It's somewhat dirty and raw but still gives off a heavy sound that is appropriate to the album's anger theme. The sound isn't entirely "raw" either as there are still some technical tricks that are present. In a way, the sound is like the limbo between a live performance and a recorded one. It's as if it is something from beyond that we shouldn't be listening to.
St.Anger's greatest strength is in it's energy and attitude. Metallica is back being angry and mad, it shows in the music, and the music is HEAVY. The first thing I noticed is that the songs "changes" a lot, which ranges from speed metal like fast to grunge like slow. There are parts where they display the skill found from Ride the Lightning's "Fight fire with fire," then in just a second throws in Load's "until it sleeps." This is a dynamic that a lot of people will have to get used to, or just throw their hands in the air with utter disgust.
From just one song in the album, it was able to give me the sensation of thrashing around, then it makes me want to headbang with a raised devils horns on my fist, then it makes me want to beat the crap out of something, then it makes me want to bust out a cigarette lighter, and then it even makes me want to boogie (that's right - boogie). When I got used to the flow changes in St.Anger, I start to realize that it does work in correlation to the lyrics and the theme of the songs. The title track best demonstrates this with it's sound changing from calm mellow, to rising frustration, to full out furious beats. Just like the act of anger.
The subject matter of the album appears to be their most personal theme to date. I really feel the emotion from the lyrics and the meanings behind them. “Frantic” is a song about how you would feel if you knew the date of when you are going to die. “St.Anger” is about how we should use anger in a positive way and not a negative one. “Some kind of Monster” is about the hidden powerful monster that lies within us. “Dirty Window” is about the perception of oneself, and denying the real truth. “Invisible Kid” is about an introverted person who wants love from the outside world, but refuses to accept it. “My World” is about fighting to be who you want to be, and not somebody else’s idea of who you are. “Shoot Me Again’ is about not giving in to insults and criticism. “Sweet Amber” seems to be about the hold of addiction (alcoholism?). “The unnamed feeling” seems to be about hopelessness and depression. “Purify” is about changing yourself and not dwelling in the past. “All within my hands” is about killing something out of love. You can always relate all these subjects with Metallica’s past, from the napster debacle, Jason Newsted’s departure, and to James’ rehab. Those were just my interpretations though.
James Hetfield once again attempts different skills in his vocal range (or some will say lack of it). He goes from ranting, to melodic singing, to whispering, and to good old shouting. James gives a lot of emotions in his singing and it shows through with him obviously struggling to reach certain notes at some sections. Keep in mind though that these imperfections were left there on purpose, to give it a more “natural” feel to the performance. In a song like “the unnamed feeling,” it really works to heighten the emotional punch that song gives.
Another thing to note is that this album more than any of their previous works features a lot of obvious back up vocals. For this recording, James does the primary overdubs, but you can hear Kirk (and maybe Lars) say several lines as well. This gives out that extra kick in the vocals, because it conveys a somewhat schizophrenic entity that works with the anger theme once again.
The lack of solos is another subject that has to be addressed. Sure there are portions that I can imagine them putting a solo in, but I honestly believe that it would have taken away from the vibe that comes from the music. The vibe being that of four guys jamming in unison, with no one in charge, no one left behind. Without the solos, I was forced to accept a song as one single whole coming from one single entity.
There's also the issue of how the lyrics for the songs are structured. They made the simple verse, bridge, chorus, refrain, then repeat process, into one that is more chaotic. I start to try and guess which is the chorus, or which is the refrain. The most noticeable change is how the verses seem to take either a back step from the predominance of how big the “main” chorus is. I put “main” in quotations because which IS the chorus? Several songs have what appears to be the chorus separated into three to four different parts, all sounding different from each other. I’ll just call them pre-chorus, pre-pre-chorus, chorus, post-chorus. That also lends to why some of the songs are quite long, with the longest being 8mins49secs and the shortest being 5mins13secs. This can be seen as a problem because I can definitely imagine some tracks trimmed down by 2mins if it wasn’t for the repetitions. The title track and Invisible Kid come to mind as songs that don’t have to be as long as they are.
And how about the drums and the low distorted guitar sounds? Lars drumming is quite good here, and can be comparable to his work from “…and justice for all.” The biggest debate will be his experimenting on the drums’ sound, with it sounding like he is bashing on garbage tin cans at times. You either will have to get used to it, or just try and ignore it exists. The guitar sounds on the other hand are quite low and distorted, and people will feel that this diminishes the guitars’ predominance. But at least it still doesn’t hide the riffs and how they just hook you in with the song. That is after all one of Metallica’s trademarks.
At first listen, I got the impression that Metallica may have gone “nu-metal.” But then I realize that is not true. Nu-metal is a sound that tries to sound heavy metal, but comes out more like harder rock with better drumming, “washed-out” guitar work, and more of an emphasis to the singer’s vocals. St.Anger is not that kind of sound, since it is a lot more heavy metal than hard rock. The guitar work by Metallica is still very much a huge presence in the songs, and shares that with the vocals and the drums. It still has that sound quality that I can still find myself humming the guitar riffs and drumming to, and that’s a quality I find missing in nu-metal. So, St.Anger? Still quite metal thank you.
St.Anger is definitely not an album for everybody though, primarily it's because Metallica wrote this personally for themselves. It will not entirely please the metal community, the Metallica fanbase, or mainstream music, and it will be judged by many for years to come. This is their own concept album on the nature of ANGER. About it's variety, it's power, and it's vulnerabilities. It shows it in how James sings, how the music changes, the sound of the songs, and in the lyrics.
This is an exciting new era for Metallica, and I believe they aren't done surprising us yet as to what they will do.
My suggested tracks to listen to are "frantic," "dirty window," "the unnamed feeling," and "all within my hands."
Patrick005 (June 12, 2003)