St. Anger is maligned by fans because of the direction the band took it; ringing snare drums, no guitar solos and filthy, dirty guitar riffs all come together to make a Metallica album truly like no other.
The creation of St. Anger is one for the history books: James Hetfield enters rehab for alcoholism, former bassist Jason Newsted leaves the band and Lars Ulrich is still dealing with the bad public image for his vocal and public involvement in the Napster file-sharing case. Overcoming all of those obstacles was no easy task, but for a band like Metallica, it was necessary for the future of the band.
St. Anger marks a turning point in the band’s history as it opened the door for a new member to join and it also introduced a new writing process—one that had never been tried before with any other album.
Rather than lay on criticism of the 20-year-old album, we give you 10 reasons not to be mad at Metallica’s St. Anger any longer.
St. Anger Is Different
Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, but Metallica’s different approach to St. Anger was much needed. After a decade of releases that included the eponymous “Black Album,” as well as Load and Reload, ‘Tallica needed to open up in a new way. No band should be chastised for maturing and looking at things from a different angle and there wasn’t much more of a different angle the band could have taken than what they created with St. Anger. We can honestly say it’s like no other album we had ever heard before.
Album Sales Paint a More Positive Picture
It’s easy to be on the outside and assume St. Anger is awful; the critics are unfortunately much louder than the fans. All you have to do is take a look at the album sales, though, to get a different perspective. To date, St. Anger has sold over 2 million copies in the United States and 6 million worldwide. It debuted at No. 1 in 30 countries, selling over 400,000 albums in its first week. Yes, there was a negative reaction, but there was also a positive commercial reception of the album that is often overlooked.
The Cathartic Heaviness of “My World”
The sixth track on the album is reason enough to not be mad at St. Anger. After the explosive energy of Ulrich’s rhythm section, Hetfield tears into the opening lyrics by belting out, “The motherfuckers got in my head / Trying to make me someone else instead.” This tune is full of dynamics, from Hetfield hauntingly whispering into the microphone to the screaming bridge. There are few tracks on St. Anger that feel as therapeutic to the band as “My World.”
Bob Rock’s Legacy With Metallica Was Cemented With St. Anger
Love him or hate him, producer Bob Rock is a staple in Metallica’s history, helping create the best-selling album of the SoundScan era, the “Black Album.” As many hardcore fans have ripped apart the band for selling out with that album, Rock is no stranger to controversy. Following producing Load, Reload and Garage Inc., Rock was once again selected as the producer for St. Anger. After bassist Jason Newsted left the band, Rock even filled in on writing and performing the bass parts for the album. He had a heavy influence on the record and received writing credits for every track. His impact on the band was never more apparent than with this record.
Metallica Wrote Like Never Before
Until St. Anger, the writing process for Metallica albums essentially involved Hetfield and Ulrich handling the duties. A quick glance at writing credits for songs pre-St. Anger shows they controlled most of the creative process. With St. Anger, though, that all changed. Rock and Kirk Hammett were included with Hetfield and Ulrich as writers for every single song on the album. This was not merely symbolic; all four men sat in a room and brainstormed ideas. They didn’t work on the album outside of the studios; the only writing that was done was done when all members were present. This created a vulnerable environment that helped shape the rawness and intensity of the album.
Pushead’s Iconic Artwork
Has there ever been a better artist and band pairing than Pushead and Metallica? You’ve seen his work on Metallica T-shirts, web graphics and illustrations in the …And Justice for All liner notes as well as the cover of 2 of One, the VHS release that included two versions of the music video for “One.” Pushead’s iconic artwork was all over St. Anger as he designed the entire album art, including the front, back and interior. The album needed a cover that matched the energy of the album, and with Pushead’s “restrained fist,” he absolutely nailed it.
The “Frantic”-ness of St. Anger
The album is raw in its intensity and sound. It has a very chaotic feel to it, so there is no better track to open the record than the aptly titled “Frantic.” With speedy vocals and drums, “Frantic” lays the foundation for the overarching feel of St. Anger. In fact, it’s so in tune with the inner demons of St. Anger that Ulrich was very vocal about his desire to name the album after the track. Even though the group ended up going with St. Anger, “Frantic” could easily be considered the anthem for the band during the tumultuous creation of the album.
Callbacks and Raw Anger in the Title Track
Taking the place as the title track for St. Anger, this is just simply one badass tune. The song is, no surprise, fueled by anger, and gives some pretty cool shout-outs to classic Metallica tracks like “Damage Inc.” and “Hit the Lights” with the lyrics, “Fuck it all and fuckin’ no regrets, I hit the lights on these dark steps.” The music video for the song is even more intense, being filmed at San Quentin State Prison in California with actual incarcerated men as the audience. Metallica took home the award for Best Metal Performance for “St. Anger” at the 46th Grammy Awards.
Enter Robert Trujillo … Sort of
While he doesn’t actually appear on the album, the release of St. Anger marks the entry of bassist Robert Trujillo into Metallica. He knew the writing process for St. Anger was troubled by obstacles and he knew he had big shoes to fill, replacing Newsted on the bass. Those distractions didn’t stop him from performing the audition of a lifetime, so mind-blowing in fact that Hammett paid him the highest compliment ever: He compared him to late bassist Cliff Burton.
On the Some Kind of Monster EP, Trujillo was featured on six live tracks and he was also in the music video for “St. Anger.” Trujillo may not have physically touched St. Anger, but the album definitely had a lasting effect on his life as well as his contribution to Metallica’s ongoing legacy.
Some Kind of Monster Perfectly Captures What the Album Is
Nothing explains St. Anger better than the documentary, Some Kind of Monster. The film follows the band as it deals with the departure of Newsted, the addition of Rock on bass, the auditioning of new bassists, Hetfield going to rehab (and the other members dealing with this) and the overall, collaborative writing process in general. Basically, Some Kind of Monster explains why St. Anger is what St. Anger is. Fans cannot simply listen to the album and fully understand what Metallica created. To gain that perspective, listen to the album, watch the documentary … and then listen to the album again. It will open your eyes and ears to things you didn’t know existed on St. Anger.
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