By Daniel Drage (@DanDrage)
The Drum Sound
To some it may resemble the sound of someone bouncing a peddle bin on a trampoline, but I really love the snare sound on St. Anger – the most tribal, guttural, ballsy noise that ever was crafted within Lars Ulrich’s jazzy little palms.
Like clocking on for an eternal nightshift at the factory of ROCK, the tight snares represent the sound of industrial Metallica – a production line of sinuous meta-beats, atonal enough to push you to the outer limits of your own consciousness, blended enough to avoid Metallica’s usual trap of mixing the drums louder than even James Hetfield’s gruntiest of grunts.
The kick drums on Frantic could be ripped straight from The Chronic, while the rim-shot breakdown on Dirty Window is pure Slint – this is still Metallica’s most diverse experiment to date and it should be suitably celebrated.
It Comes with a Movie
If you’ve never seen Some Kind of Monster, watch it tonight.
It isn’t so much a comment on dysfunctional relationships, the trappings of fame or an industry in crisis – it’s a microcosm of life itself.
From Hetfield going ape-shit at having to write with a pencil, to Lars (a proper, old-fashioned foot-stomper of a man) losing his lunch because nobody told him it was Hawaiian shirt day, it shows just how fallible the human condition can be – even to mega-millionaire metal warlords.
Though I could spend an entire day listing my personal highlights (Hetfield’s ‘self-customised’ Jeep, Lars Ulrich’s Dad saying the St. Anger demos are utter shit, Jason Newsted’s comically unconvincing joy at being sacked and Sean Penn appearing entirely out of nowhere), there’s something courageous about a band staking capital to fund, produce and distribute a movie that knowingly paints them as both idealistic heroes and absolute dicks in equal measure.
Because of this dose of realism, you find yourself falling in love with Metallica all over again by the movie’s tear-jerking conclusion.
“Not only do I not know the answer…..I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE QUESTION IS”
Okay, it could use some sub-editing, but Hetfield comes clean on this record, opening the door to 40 years of anxiety, control, addiction, obsession, paranoia, guilt, denial, insecurity, self-doubt, confusion, love, hate – all fair game.
That Hetfield dried up creatively in the initial St. Anger sessions and lyric writing was democratised as part of the ‘therapeutic’ process brought about by Ulrich and Q-Prime is to the finished record’s credit, not its detriment – critics couldn’t have been more wrong about this.
Shaky, vulnerable, post-rehab Hetfield will always be a one-off occurrence, frozen in time on St. Anger.
Unsure of his skills as a wordsmith, questioning his personal identity and what Metallica represents, the story of self-reclamation Hetfield tells on St. Anger and the way it competes with Lars and Kirk feeds the record with a tension that Death Magnetic simply doesn’t possess.
Comparing this with the toe-curling sight of Hetfield onstage at Glastonbury 10 years later doing his ‘THIS IS HEALTHY ANGER….HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY’ Polka routine, you can see why walking the psychological tightrope between this life and the next tends to drive more artistic collateral than the resolution you hope said artist will ultimately find, one day.
Perhaps one should suffer for one’s art after all?
Math Rock Rocks
Yes, it’s a studio record.
Yes, it’s created by committee.
Yes, it’s produced piecemeal.
Lulu was formed out of live jams – look how that turned out.
Punk, not Prog
Finally, St. Anger scorched all the gaudy garnishes of classic rock that haunted each previous Metallica album, leaving a flatbed of all the simplicities I most enjoy about the band: Pushead visuals, hot-rods, skateboards, gymnastic riffing, ‘fuck you’ attitude, no compromise, no let up.
For those who lean more towards Anti-Nowhere League than Blue Oyster Cult, St. Anger reflects the moment where Metallica reached the peak of its punk and skate sensibilities – cack-handed cover versions from Garage Inc. included.
Seriously, go listen to it now – you will not be disappointed.