Metallica - _St Anger_
(Vertigo, 2003)
by: Jackie Smit (7 out of 10)
Before even attempting to listen to Metallica's much-hyped and talked about "return to form", one needs to clarify for oneself the extent to which you're willing to overlook their past indiscretions. It's probably a fair assumption to say that for most people reading this review, Metallica more or less lost the plot after _...And Justice for All_. Their infamous self-titled follow-up, while an adequate record by most fair standards, already failed to come within sniffing distance of its predecessors, and by the time _Load_ and _Reload_ came into being, Metallica had become everyone's favourite band to hate. Of course, musical reasons were not the only motivation behind particularly older fans' growing disdain of the fallen thrash heroes. The widely publicised legal spat with file-sharing pioneers Napster was not only regarded as an attack on their fans, but as a clearly money-hungry behemoth grubbing for yet more of the almighty dollar.

So, enter _St Anger_ -- touted by the mainstream press as a return to the band's roots, the rediscovery of the _Ride the Lightning_ sound and a million other promising PR slogans. In the meantime, Lars Ulrich has stated somewhat suspiciously that he "no longer wants to be a control freak" and James Hetfield is fresh out of rehab and clearly more together than ever before. So, are we to believe that _St Anger_ is indeed any good? Well, the proof is in the listening and the answer is both yes and no. The reason for my earlier reference to the listener's capacity for forgiveness is because however much _St Anger_ kicks dirt in the face of Metallica's preceding three records, the cynical ex-fan could quite easily find fault with the album, despite its heavier and faster approach. For one, the lyrics on the album at times appear to be almost absurdly immature -- more like a bunch of has-beens attempting to recapture former glories than a veteran act with a new lease on life. Likewise, the music, while certainly the heaviest the band has produced since _...And Justice for All_, at times fails to sound natural and spontaneous -- a particular symptom of opening track "Frantic".

Despite these complaints however, _St Anger_ is a good, if not great record. Truly this should have been the sequel to _...And Justice for All_. As promised, the band have succeeded in taking much of what made them great in the eighties, given it a contemporary edge and distilled these elements into a proper heavy metal album. While this is sure to confound and probably upset a great chunk of their mainstream-weaned audience, those among us who have longed for them to show the Linkin Parks and Papa Roaches of this world how it's done may well have a reason to rejoice.

[David Rocher: "In this listener's mind, _Load_ and _Reload_ respectively induced boredoom and sincere pity at the mere mention of the name "Metallica". _Reload_, in particular, possessed the distinctive echoes of the ultimate low point, the final swansong of a once glorious legend of the thrash metal genre. How naive of me. _St Anger_ witnesses Metallica reaching and effortlessly traversing the musical threshold usually associated with a band's final demise, as it pointlessly meanders between terrible rap- and nu-metal antics, pitiful "stoner metal" riffage and embarassingly sissified bouts of nostalgia for the thrash metal days of yore. _St Anger_ is worse than just awful -- it is the grim, unbearable headstone of a band that just won't quit with dignity."]

[Paul Schwarz: "Kill 'em all... before they can make another record."]

(article published 30/6/2003)


ALBUMS
9/18/2008 J Ulrey 7 Metallica - Death Magnetic
9/18/2008 J Smit 8 Metallica - Death Magnetic
7/17/1996 A Bromley 3 Metallica - Load
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