Aah St Anger, an album that divided Metal fans like no other. An album that sparked debate and provoked very strong opinions. It’s an album that has spawned hundreds of articles debating it’s merits and its foibles. Here though is my personal experience of this most polarising of metal albums.
Released way back in 2003 (is it really nearly thirteen years old already?) St Anger was Metallica’s return after a well publicised near melt down with James Hetfield heading to rehab to sort his demons out, Jason Newstead’s messy departure after 15 years of loyal service and the well documented return of James in the film Some Kind of Monster.
I’ll admit the first time I heard St Anger sat in my bedroom after having built my self up into a frenzy of excitement, I found myself disappointed. To me it didn’t sound like Metallica, no solos, rough production and as everyone knows a rather interesting snare sound. Of course I’d seen all the news and read the interviews with the band talking about why St Anger sounds like it does but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my Metallica, the Metallica that created the metal masterpiece Master of Puppets and the sonically awesome Black Album and St Anger was in my opinion not only neither of these but also a bit of a mess.
Over the years then St Anger had been a some what neglected record in my collection, getting nowhere near the airtime of other Metallica albums. Of all the tracks on the album my favourite was Invisible Kid, this song did seem to strike a chord with me. The chord it struck was musical rather than lyrical as I had a happy childhood and fortunately never felt like the invisible kid. No, it was that wicked opening riff that got me, full of hammer ons an pull offs going into a typical Metallica groove (“typical” should in no way be seen as an insult by the way) and then we head into the verse and the song just grows and you have the brilliant chorus with that striking melody and lyrics, “I’m OK just go away”.
Side Stage with Metallica at Sonisphere Knebworth 2014
On repeat listens (over the course of years) of this track my initial dislikes started to melt away, the snare started to blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb, the low tuned guitars made the riffs heavier and more brutal which fit the lyrical content and the fact that there was no solo mean’t there was no break in the story and this song to me was a story.
The years passed but as Invisible Kid started to pop up in my playlists more and more, I decided to re-visit the St Anger album. So I did something I sadly don’t have much time for these days, I sat down and listened to the whole album, no interruptions, no messing on the computer or phone, it had my complete and undivided attention.
As I listened, I started to realise that actually St Anger is probably the most Metallica record they’ve ever done. Now before I get crucified here by the die hards I’m not saying that it’s better than Master Of Puppets or Ride The Lightning (the latter being my favourite Metallica album). No, I mean it’s the most Metallica album in that it is by far the most personal, not surprising due to all the issues that came before it. Now this isn’t big news, I’m not revealing a huge surprise here but it was a bit of a revelation to me. For years I had ignored this album, turned my nose up at it and gone along with the general opinion that it was a blip in the epic career of my favourite band.
After my full listen through I listened to it again straight away and felt the same feeling of revelation and it was pretty awesome. All of a sudden St Anger clicked for me, everything fell into place and my old feelings of disappointment and I’m sad to say resentment dissapeared.
It was strange, here was an album that I steadfastly refused to listen to because of an opinion formed 10 or more years ago when I was still a stroppy teenager and now I was listening to it twice in a row (this for me at least was a big deal).
That’s why I love music, even after years of an album being in my bad books, once I became a bit older and slightly wiser, I was able to understand the themes of the album with more clarity and have a strong appreciation for the openness of the words; having been through some pretty tough times myself since my early twenties. The rough production fits the lyrics and on this Metallica album in particular, they are its heart and soul. I’m now happy and proud to say St Anger has a special place in my heart and appears on a regular rotation on my iPod.
It is of course by no means a perfect record but then again there’s no such thing as perfect. It still divides opinion 13 years after it’s release and it will do for another 13 years and in all honesty probably till the end of time.
Metallica Website: https://metallica.com
All songs written and composed by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Bob Rock.
Great article,interesting read.
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I am a little older than you but I love that you see “Anger” in a different light and I love that you are willing to re-visit something that didn’t resonate with you at a different time of your life.
I got “Anger” in the mail in late July 2003 when I was deployed to Iraq. Cut off from the world because of the lack of internet and without distractions, I laid in my bunk in a tent with the 1995 headphones listening to the CD over and over for literally hours on end.
Isolated and alone, all I had was the music to focus on and it took on a different personal meaning to me. Months later, when I returned home, I was talking to a friend and for the first time I heard someone say that it sucked. It took me a long time to figure out why people would say that and in retrospect, I get it but don’t agree with it.
That CD hit my feeling so perfectly, that I identify with it more than any other record. I cut my teeth on “Justice,” and “Lightening.” Some of the songs are burned into personality like “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Toils” but top to bottom “St Anger” was written for me at that time.
I love “Invisable Kid,” freat choice but “Frantic” is a kick-ass song. “Some Kind of Monster” is amazing, “Unnamed Feeling” and “Dirty Window” have some amazing lyrics.
Thank you for your review and for being open to changing your mind. Good for you. With your permission, I would like to become a follower.
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Thank you for the comment and sharing your story. I think that what you say highlights the power of music and how it helps us get through the toughest periods of our lives. I’m glad you appreciated my retrospective look back on the album. You’re right about all those tracks, I remember seeing them at the O2 arena in London when Death Magnetic was released and they played Frantic. James prefaced the song with the comment “say what you will about the album, this song kicks ass” 🙂
Also you make an interesting point about the power of outside influences and how in this connected world we live where everyone can voice their opinions to a large audience can heavily influence our judgement.
Also thank you for the follow, have a great day.