After we did some thinking and reflection, we decided to be blunt, direct, and without a trace, just like this album, Metallica's eighth album released on June 5, 2003.
So let's start with the story as it is perceived in our eyes...
If "Load" and "ReLoad" were controversial albums that finally split Metallica fans into two groups, one loved and embraced the change the band brought while the other hated, rejected, and was outraged at the metamorphosis in sound and style, then on the album "St. Anger" Metallica took over those two groups on all their charges, put them in two buckets of water and kicked them out with tremendous force, washing away the fans along with the water...
Since the release of the "Black Album", Metallica has started collecting negative charges. The band's credibility was questioned, its creative honesty was questioned and its desire to succeed at the expense of professional integrity sat on its shoulders like huge basalt rocks. The one who of course was brought to the fore at every opportunity and for whom the almost exclusive responsibility was placed was Bob Rock. The man who produced the "Black" album and has since produced all the Metallica albums up to "St. Anger" inclusive!
These charges caused many conflicts within the band, some of which are depicted in the movie "Some Kind Of Monster" which tells the story of the recording of the album "St. Anger". This is a very important film in its essence to understand what the band went through in the period since the release of the "Black" album. Metallica decided to share it with the fans, which is a bold thing in itself. Entering the band's room while undergoing psychological treatment is revealing, embarrassing, and even painful. The film softens a bit the digestive action of the album "St. Anger" as the exposure of what goes on behind the scenes helps us understand the crises this band went through along the way and thus evokes some empathy that helps us try and get the album despite the great difficulty of containing it.
The story of Metallica and the album "St. Anger" have many complicated elements like...
The departure of bassist Jason Newsted was caused by the abuse and degrading treatment of the band members for many years. He said in one of the interviews that he never felt part of the band, and always received contemptuous treatment and abusive behavior on the part of Hetfield and Lars. This period affected him significantly and caused him deep mental damage, so he decided he could not continue (after all who leaves one of the biggest bands in the world at its peak?).
Hetfield suffered from severe alcohol addiction and some say drugs as well. While working on the album he went into rehab for a year and continued after his release. After he came out of rehab the situation was even more difficult since he had huge difficulties handling reality as it is. There are moments in the film where it hurts to see Hetfield struggling with himself and the reality taking place around him. There are even moments when you as a viewer fear for the life of the main character and the band.
(Photo: Kevin Winter)
Bob Rock who was already an integral part of the band was a partner in the whole process they went through. Since the fan base blamed him for Metallica's deterioration, he had to deal with a bunch of demons. Demons who came from the outside but also demons who came from the inside. When the situation heated up, something that happened very often, the band members pointed an accusing finger at him for their condition. (Now imagine Hetfield and Lars staring at you with accusations). It was pretty clear this was the end of a great friendship (some of you would define it differently) and Bob who recorded the bass roles on this album ended his career with Metallica after the album came out.
To deal with all the problems, intrigue, precipitation, and troubles, Metallica took a coach/therapist who accompanied them throughout the process. We think that a lot of the style and sound of the album are related to that same coach. He pressured the band members to be real, to get everything out, no trace, no filters. Rough, unequivocal, uncompromising, and unpolished.
One of the most notable hallmarks of this album, aside from the style of music and song structure is the sound of Lars' snare. A very difficult-to-digest sound that drummers rarely use. Just for the technical understanding of how such a sound can be extracted (which we think is important here), under the snare, there are coils made of iron attached by a mechanism to the bottom of the snare. The usual sound of the snare is when these coils are stretched and attached to the bottom of the snare's drumhead by the same mechanism. When this mechanism is open the coils do not touch the snare's drumhead the outcome is a sound is a combination of a Tom with a metal echo. Lars liked the sound, he made another little adjustment (pinned the reels very loosely) and decided to keep it throughout the recording of the album. In one of the interviews, he said that he felt the drum "sang to him" in a very nice way!
You must have noticed that this album does not have grandiose solos or fancy guitar poems, in fact, there are no solos at all on the album, unlike the previous albums. Hetfield and Kirk decided they did not want to create an engineered sound or concoct riffs and solos with processed recipes, but instead, to go for a rough, real line in the style of "what comes out I am pleased with". No adaptations, special effects, or dubbing. The guitars were clean and sounded like something emanating from a band playing in the garage of a house or in a dim rehearsal room in south Tel Aviv that had seen better days decades ago.
The song that opens the album, "Frantic" is just what it takes to understand what awaits us next, and as the name of the song, one has to be really "crazy" to keep listening to what happens next. "Frantic" is the second single from the album and actually sums up what Hetfield went through in the two years of writing the album or maybe even long before.
The second song on the album is a song that bears the name of the album and not just, it is the essence of the album both in terms of sound and lyrics. It was the first single from the album and won Metallica a Grammy win in 2004. The clip for the song was shot at "San Quentin State Prison" located in California which is one of the hardest and most notorious prisons in the US. This is the first appearance of Robert Trujillo, the new Metallica bassist who joined with the album's release.
The third song, which bears the title of the documentary "Some Kind Of Monster", lasts about 8 minutes and tires the listener with Metallica's tough and uncompromising sound on this album and is the beginning of the journey. If you have survived this far and enjoyed it, then from here you are on a roller coaster that occasionally derails. If you did not survive, you are asked to come down and try to get a refund on the ticket at the box office.
At every opportunity the band members talk about the album, they say they wanted this album to be like it used to be, four friends meeting in the garage, writing and playing rock music. No polished production and no polishing sound, guitars, or drums. Music with a raw sound that comes out of the stomach and sounds, in reality, that way to record it. And for the most part, this was indeed the case. An album written with a lot of emotion, and a lot of charge, and reflected exactly what the band experienced at the time.
Like the post about the band from yesterday, we are sure that today there will be conflicts about the album (we like conflicts, especially "FaceOff"), you probably belong to one of the buckets kicked by the band, but the question is whether you returned to one of the buckets or gave up and went looking for others?
A band is a living and breathing creature, people who make music and create it from the gates, from within. So even if we do not like, get angry, worry, or even hurt by what the band does, we must remember that in the end, these are people like us who are affected by what they go through in life. When these influences usually find themselves in the work of art, and in most cases it is positive and it is good. Did this happen in "St. Anger" as well? You're probably already guessing what we think, but each of you will take it from here in the direction that suits him!