And yet that is exactly how _St. Anger_ has to be. This album is pure and heavy and the band is completely tight. The _St. Anger_ experience to me is in its urgent rawness. The gutter production makes the album a strangely intimate experience -- the blurry walls of heavy guitar and crude thunder of the drums *enhance* the album's credence. Hetfield's vocals are unrefined, bloody and cracked and all the while very convincing. Metallica's accomplishment here is seen in their marriage of the dirty sound with the *perfect* songs to go with them -- the end result of these two elements enhancing each other at the same time is why the album is good. And befitting to James Hetfield's reputation, there's some pretty huge riffs on this album (not LOTS, but if you make the mistake of listening to this album and saying, "Hey, where are all the legendary riffs like MOP????", you haven't been listening and missed the point).
The media hype about _St. Anger_ being a return to Metallica's thrash roots was often misleading and sometimes pretty asinine. This is heavy and fast, yes. However, it sounds nothing like anything Metallica did before the Black album. The songs are usually long (6-8 minutes) but not really "epic." There are no solos -- they would have just taken away from the sweeping immediacy of the album. Heck, it doesn't sound much like anything they've done ever. The purpose and feel seems different, not to mention the sound.
Some have said this is "nu-Metallica", likening the sound of _St. Anger_ to all the dreadful nu-metal bands. I disagree: nu-metal bands, with their musical recipe of incompetence and banality, are too clean and polished and phony -- inarticulate musical diarrhea no better than "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." The Metallica of _St. Anger_, on the other hand, is brutish and ugly with an authentic pathos, achieving the sound nu-metal may have been seeking originally before veering horribly off course. Plus, Metallica has pretty mean chops.
The DVD (where you can watch the band play every song on the album live in the studio) is awesome and I wish every band would include such things. And it's funny to see how out of shape Lars is and new bassist Rob Trujillo (please don't beat me up if I spelled the name incorrectly) has some funky moves. Hetfield's vocals, for the most part, take a pretty bad dive, but eh.
Honestly I think this is a pretty great album.
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