Worst Metallica Album Ever?
In a word, yes.
However, you need to put this in perspective. When we are talking about the greatest
speed metal band of all time (and you could argue greatest heavy metal, or even hard rock),
a bad record from them is still better than most anyone else.
My initial feeling on listening to the album is that they made an attempt to bridge the
gap between their old sound and their new sound of the last couple studio albums. Many of the
songs on the album illustrate this by bouncing back and forth between the more melodic sounds
of the past few albums and then diving into hard speed metal licks.
A prime example is the title track, St. Anger. You may have heard it on the radio by now. It starts slow
and melodic, jumps into high gear, back to slow and melodic, etc. Many believe Frantic should have been the
first single released instead of St. Anger. This is the heaviest sounding first song
they've had in 15 years (since Blackened). They could not have gone wrong with either song though; both capture
the sound of the album. Both have catchy lyrics and bounce between melodic and thrash.
To be completely honest, the rest of the songs on the album don't do much of anything for me
with the possible exception of Sweet Amber. All of them have rough vocals...ok, Hetfield doesn't
have the greatest voice, but they usually work some studio magic on him, but not this time. The
music has a very rough sound as well, as if it was intentionally not mixed very well. There
are no Hammett solos which many fans will be quite angry about. Also, many have noted that it sounds
like Lars is playing trash cans, not drums.
An interesting thing about St. Anger is that their new bass player Rob Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies)
doesn't play one note on the album. Producer Bob Rock played bass for the album but Rob is their bassist
moving forward. While many fans will miss Jason Newstead's backup vocals (I personally thought he sucked),
his roll as bass player has been more than filled by Rob (and Bob Rock).
The best features of this album are the price ($9.99 at Target) and the DVD that is included. The DVD
features the band playing all of the songs from the album in their rehearsal studio. It's a great look at
the band in a very informal setting. Metallica has always been at their best live, and the DVD clearly
illustrates that. At time they sound sloppy (although that seems to be the theme of the album) but there are
moments when they completely blow you away.
Another add-on they've thrown in is a CD key that allows you to log into www.metallicavault.com
which gives you access to a "vault" of downloadable MP3s of most of their songs. Also advertised on this site
is a Metallica game. ... and I quote:
"The Metallica Game will be a landmark, high-action vehicle combat game. Players will find themselves in the
treacherous, brutal wastelands of a post-catastrophic USA, in a high-speed battle for their very survival.
Imagine an epic story, packed with fully customized vehicles and weaponry, endless terrain, desperate and
murderous opponents and TONS of action--all backed by kick-ass music, inspiration, video and other exclusive
content from the band!"
I downloaded the preview...while there were no shots of game play, which isn't surprising since it won't be
out until 2005, it looked like a game based on Mad Max.
Anyway, while St. Anger isn't their greatest album ever, it is far from the disaster that many expected and are
declaring it to be. Members of Metallica have been quoted saying that they don't expect much (in sales) from this
album. Rumor has it that the band has 20+ more songs already written and this is just a prelude for future albums
that will continue their march towards sounding like the Metallica of old. Regardless, if you are a fan, I
highly suggest picking the album up (at Target for $9.99). With all the extras added, it is well worth the
price. As long as Metallica keeps putting albums out, I'll keep listening.