10 Reasons Not To Be Mad at Metallica’s ‘St. Anger’
June 5, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Metallica‘s most controversial album, ‘St. Anger.’ The album is controversial not because of its lyrical content, but because of the direction the band went with it. Ringing snare drums, no guitar solos and filthy dirty guitar riffs all combine to make a ‘Tallica album like none 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 a bad public image for his vocal 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 doors for a new member and also introduced a new writing process, one that had never been tried before with any other album.
On the 10th anniversary of this infamous album, rather than lay on criticism to the decade-old album, we here at Loudwire give you 10 reasons not to be mad at Metallica’s ‘St. Anger.’
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.
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 date, ‘St. Anger’ has sold over 2 million copies. 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 an obvious positive reception of the album that is often overlooked.
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 motherf—ers 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 a screaming bridge. There are few tracks on ‘St. Anger’ that feel as therapeutic to the band as ‘My World.’
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 ‘Tallica fans have ripped apart the band for selling out with that album, Rock is no stranger to controversy. Following the producing of ‘Load,’ ‘ReLoad’ and ‘Garage Inc.,’ Rock was once again selected as 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 a writing credit for every track. His impact on the band and the album was never more apparent than with this record.
The Writing Process
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’ show 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.
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, 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 the Album
The album is raw in its intensity and sound. It has a very frantic 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 demon 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’ should be considered the anthem for the band during the tumultuous creation of the album.
Taking the place as the title track for ‘St. Anger,’ this is just simply one bad ass tune. The song is, no surprise, fueled by anger, and gives some pretty cool shout-outs to classic ‘Tallica tracks like ‘Damage Inc.’ and ‘Hit the Lights’ with the lyrics, ‘F— it all and f—in’ 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 real-life convicts 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 official EP for ‘Some Kind of Monster,’ Trujillo was featured on six live tracks, as well as 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 the world of rock ‘n’ roll.
‘Some Kind of Monster’
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.’