The last entry here at HYH, in which I listed my favorite albums for each year of my life, prompted the following comment from Jamie:
You gotta be kidding about St. Anger... You know I'm down with Metallica but I hated that album with a fucking passion... Listened to it once and shelved it.
I know that a defense of Metallica's 2003 album, St. Anger, will probably be met with the kind of skepticism usually reserved for articles with titles like "Charles Manson, Misunderstood Sweetie" and "The Crucifixion: Why Not One More Nail Through The Forehead?" Given that, it's important to note that...despite what you may read on Metallica fanboy message boards...St. Anger was not universally reviled upon its release. Far from it, in fact. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album 4-out-of-5 stars. Entertainment Weekly called it Metallica's best record since 1991's "The Black Album." The UK's New Musical Express says it's "an immense statement of superiority." The problem, according to so many of the Metallica faithful, was that it wasn't the desperately-hoped-for return to Kill 'Em All/Ride The Lightning-style thrash. Instead, it was a document of a breakdown and a damn-near breakup. It was Metallica, warts and all.
And, to be perfectly honest, it's an album that...like Jamie...I wasn't nuts about at all upon first listen. Just like I wasn't nuts about the first Ramones album the first time I heard it. Or The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat. Or the first Clash album. Or any other number of classic albums that took time to "get." I didn't "get" St. Anger until I saw the acclaimed Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster. "Frantic," a song that reads like a postcard from rehab, didn't resonate with me until I learned first hand about James Hetfield's nine-month exile from Metallica, during which he finally confronted his alcoholism. Watching James go nose-to-nose with drummer Lars Ulrich brought home the line about being "madly in anger with you" from the title track. I don't want to say the movie and the album are indispensable from each other...but, much like The Beatles' Let It Be movie and album, they each fill in a lot of the other's blanks.
Granted, there are plenty of things to dislike about St. Anger. Jamie and I haven't talked about this...but I know that with Jamie being a drummer, he is rightly and very much correctly dismayed about the album's drum sound. Holy crap...it's like Lars is pounding on coffee cans. There's an audible "PING" with every snare shot that is downright headache-inducing. Then, there's the lack of guitar solos...on a METALLICA album. Come on, not even I was down with that. Producer Bob Rock filling in on bass? Fucking yikes! Here's what I would recommend to Jamie, and anyone else willing to give St. Anger another listen: Take the DVD of rehearsals that was included with the CD release and rip the sound from it. I swear the songs come to life like a sumbitch. You get for-real drums. You get new bassist Rob Trujillo thumping his fingers off. Kirk Hammett improvises a few solos. The soundtrack from the rehearsals DVD is the real St. Anger, as far as I'm concerned.
And, you know what? I didn't even buy that many albums in 2003. So there.