by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Metallica - St. Anger

OK, I've had a chance to sit with this baffling, brave album for a while and my first impressed impressions remain steadfast, main change being I both love St. Anger more and hate it more. There are enough flaws on the album to justify a lower grade than what I've given (and caught howling hell for), but the abstracts prop it back up, not to mention that songs like Invisible Kid, Purify, Frantic, Dirty Window, My World and Sweet Amber... well, I like these more than initially. Flaws: James says some really stupid things, spouting bad poetry all over the place, his personal insights often sounding like the words of a non-Anglo. To boot: the album contains his best singing countered by his worst - new avenues that should have been picked up by a cheese detector (like they couldn't afford one?!). With some of these, he sounds forced, like he's trying to turn a catchphrase into a hook because there are so few musical ones on the record. Another flaw: way too many riffs, little rhythmic exercises, and repetitions of parts that don't matter all that much in the scheme of things. Another flaw: three tracks I'm not crazy about: St. Anger, Shoot Me Again and All Within My Hands... just too many grating vocals, nu melodies, illogical fits and starts, near comedic drumming passages. Positives time: I love the production because it goes to entirely new places rock records have never been. The guitars have this buzzing, permeating quality and Lars is captured strangely, controversially, often - and not always - whacking a snare drum that sounds like the snares were on at the half position (or fully on with three of the individual wires busted off). I'm sure with the meticulous, anal-retentive army making the record, it wasn't as easy as all that, but as a drummer, that's where I know that sound from. More positives: there are many heavy songs on here and just enough fast ones. As well, you gotta admit that the album is cohesive: many of the exotic, weird things that can be said about the record, whether you love or loath 'em, can be said about each and every song. I also think there are great riffs all over the place, even if many of them are tossed aside, or buried in a stack of a dozen per track. As an aside, I'm well aware that reviews are running 25% positive and 75% negative (yes, that's correct as of this writing - I've become a friggin' expert on St. Anger opinions because I've looked for and found tons of them). Couldn't care less if I'm in the minority. All I know is that I continue to be intrigued by it, and am playing it a lot, finding that it gets better when you know what's around each of its 321 corners. I guess an overriding sentiment with me is the guts it must have taken to make such a nasty, anti-musical, anti-radio, butt-ugly record of what might approximately be called noisy math rock punk rock. I love that the record has caused so much passionate discussion, even if much of it is vociferously negative, because cool art often provokes, is often ahead of its time, is often too much to take, often becomes imitates, often only slowly or eventually becomes appreciated. I've had a bunch of guys write me and say, just you wait, we'll be proven right; people will come around. Maybe, I wouldn't rule it out... they came around for Born Again, Dogman, Tusk, Led Zeppelin's III, Sabotage... hey, it could happen. In the mean time, open yer mind, applaud the band's courage, their restless creativity, and yes, their heaviness (it's all over: go find it).
Rating 8.5

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