From the moment I started listening to heavy metal there were several aspects about it that made it stand out. It was loud, dirty, heavy, unclean. It was supposed to be mindless and gross. That's what metal thrives on. Hard and fast. So what happens when one of metals greatest acts makes an album with all these attributes and is roundly criticised for it? That band can only be Metallica. With 'St Anger' Metallica have made perhaps the heaviest album of their twenty two year long career. Pummeling from start to finish, it is a return to the speed driven Metallica lost somewhere back in 1988. It is exactly what the fans who bemoaned their 'sellout' with 'Load' were asking for. Still it isn't enough for those bottom feeders.
Metallica in one swift motion have placed themselves back alongside other remaining 80's thrash pioneers like Slayer, that's how heavy 'St Anger' is. Rarely have I heard such an untamed and raw sound dedicated to disc. But all you hear is how bad the production is, that Lars Ulrichs drum sound is akin to someone banging a trash can lid, that there are no solos from Kirk Hammett, that its nu-metal....... If you don't accept this as metal then no wonder it died.
Opener 'Frantic' recalls the glory days of 'Battery' or 'Blackened', starting out with hints of thrash and then delivering in grand fashion. The riffs are merely open warfare from James Hetfield and Hammett, never relenting once for the duration of the disc. No track is wasted. Words can barely describe my reaction when first exposed to onslaughts such as 'Shoot Me Again', 'Purify', 'My World', 'Dirty Window', the title track and above all the closer 'All Within My Hands', an eight minute journey with sleights of hand that defy logic. The thrash intensity reaches critical levels here, harkening back to an era when bands actually meant it.
The notion that Metallica are too wealthy and comfortable to make angry music is another misguided observation from confused onlookers. Since when do successful musicians lose their anger simply because they attain a high state of wealth? James Hetfield has endured alcoholism and various states of mental damage and this is reflected in his lyrics, where he confronts his demons head on. Where Hetfield grunts 'kill' repeatedly at the conclusion of 'All within My Hands' has become a source of derision from many, but it fits within the context of the crushing delivery of the music. For heavens sake there are drumming passages from Ulrich that resemble grindcore blast beats on many occasions. Anyone who has heard the title track will realise that.
The closest anyone has come to equaling this in 2003 is Iron Maiden, who's 'Dance Of Death' is a breath of fresh air, especially after the medicore last decade. Both bands have a renewed sense of purpose. And age isn't a factor, I've never subscribed to the throry that getting old means you have to play it safe. Furthermore these two warhorses are still providing key moments in metal when so many pretenders cant. I've lost count of the amount of cd's that have passed through my mailbox this year that have been played once and left to rot. Helloween, Tad Morose, Hammerfall, Dragonforce, Kamelot, Thunderstone, Vanderhoof, Symphorce....it never ends, the majority stale and predictable European power metal acts who all sound similar. There's no heart behind it. Yes it's fast and heavy, but the identity is missing. It's a drone. I sit listening, motionless, no desire to react in any way. One listen to 'St Anger' and I felt the urge to headbang, a long lost art.
Metallica have risen above all ' yet again. That they could conjure up a thrash album so long after abandoning it is almost amazing. For me 'St Anger' is one of the best metal albums I've heard. The five months that have passed since release has done nothing to alter my opinion. They have captured the essence of what metal should be. Something everyone hates. Something you can listen to over and over instantly. I'm not too interested in what any other prick has to say about 'St Anger' either. If I think it's a classic then it is. You can take all your Goatwhore's, Nile's, Cradle Of Filth's and Shadows Fall's, put them in room, throw in a can of tear gas, send in a hit squad armed with uzi's and waste them for all I care. They'll never be this good.