6/12/2003 - Review by: Frank HillMetallica - St. Anger - reviewed by: Nailer
You wanted Metallica to re-invent themselves--you got it!
You wanted a return to the Metallica of old--sorry!
On the new CD, St. Anger there's none of the ballads or the alt-metal sound from the Load/Reload era that put off the early fans. There are also no guitar leads and no multi-layered, harmonized wall of guitar sound like the Metallica from the Ride The Lightning/Master of Puppets days. It's really not even a return to the roots of Kill 'Em All. It's a different sounding Metallica and I'm almost expecting there will be more growling from the buyers than from James himself.
Right from the start, you hear the biggest difference in their sound. Lars' drums have a tin-metal tone, which produces a highly audible pinging at times, that's very raw and in addition to the unrefined production, it must be the reason why I saw the term "brutal" in all the advance hype for the CD. In this age of metal, it's not brutal, but brutal IS relative. James' vox and Lars drums are high in the mix and this time instead of loud, thrashing guitars, it has an under-layer of groove-based guitar riffs. If James played all the rhythm riffs again on this one then Kirk has worked himself down from 30 seconds worth of Hendrix solos to nothing. Hella way to make millions...I kid, I kid!
Musically, the songs are full of riffs that switch to other riffs without the bridge chords you have in classic metal, so the changes are jarring and disconcerting at times. Sometimes, I think the side riffs where they go off are better than the main riffs like the speed blast on the end of "Frantic". "St. Anger" is a killer title track whereas "Some Kind of Monster" needs its lumbering, fat ass shot. "Dirty Window" is a good ripper, but "Invisible Kid" should stay invisible or disappear altogether. "My World" is respectable, but I'd prefer a bullet to the head than listen to "Shoot Me Again". "Sweet Amber" is a whore who needed kicked out of bed before the hour was up. "The Unnamed Feeling" could loose a little length and the others I've forgotten already.
James steps away from trying to "sing" the songs and is back to his angry growl which pretty much works. At times, he hits off key notes from the strain and it's probably deliberate, but I think it sounds awful. At other times, his pacing is off, but that could be considered part of the garage mentality.
A lot of people, paradoxically, listen to really hard metal to relax. With St. Anger, you don't get the cathartic feel that comes from powerhouse songs that grab you, pummel you around then slowly let you fall back into a stress-free state. These songs keep a sense of tension without resolve and the whole cd has a vibe that to it I can best describe as irritating. It's as if they wanted all of the sounds to get under your skin to keep you from being too comfortable. St. Anger is like bees buzzing around a picnic. Sometimes the non-commercial sound works for bands (System Of A Down), but there is little of the commercial hooks that made their self-titled black CD sell monster millions and you'd have better luck finding God at an athiest convention than finding melody lines on this one. It may cost them this time.
Metallica has gone into a different direction musically with the new CD and instead of dwelling on whether the'll set new trends, I'll say that I think it will end up as a love it/hate it album with their current fan base. Time and sales will say if they have isolated the fans from both of their era's or if they will gain more respect with their latest sound. Since I prefer a more melodic, dynamic sound from them, the best I can give it is a 6 out of 10.
I'll give them extra props for the bonus DVD and if you put the CD in your computer, there is a trailer for the Metallica video game and links for the Metallica Vault which is an online collection of bootleg and extra music.
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