I revisit Metallica’s eighth studio album St. Anger more frequently than any of the others in the bands stacked discography. Many fans of Metallica may think this is highly unusual, as the album is considered one of the most polarising releases the band has produced over their 36-year career.
As I have said in a previous blog, I would not consider myself a “metalhead” or a connoisseur of metal music. However, I do like some heavy rock and metal and like to dip in and out of the genre from time and time. Come to think of it, looking at my collection, it dawns on me that I have a varied catalogue that forms the whole spectrum of music. I choose my listening material dependant on what I feel like at the time.
I think it is because I am not in the “metal bubble” as the reason as to why I like St. Anger. I do not visit any of the metal forums. Am I showing my age there, do forums still exist? I do not read any music magazines either in print or online, I do not engage with die-hard metal fans for them to enhance or tarnish my enjoyment with their opinion.
St. Anger was released in 2003 straight after the Lars Ulrich Napster lawsuit, which had alienated a huge portion of the Metallica audience. This left a bitter taste in the mouth of fans that didn’t want a multi-million dollar drummer to tell them that they could no longer download music for free.
This was coupled with the bands popular, cult figure bassist, Jason Newstead leaving the band before the albums recording sessions began. Newstead cited creative and personal differences for the split, not happy with controlling frontman, James Hetfield.
The recording sessions were surrounded with controversy, James Hetfield the band’s frontman and creative force enrolled himself into rehab.
A plethora of delays occurred as the band hired a performance coach to get the band back on track. This was seen as a step too far in the eyes of the fans that still crave an air of authenticity and working-class spirit from their multi-million dollar rock star heroes.
In hindsight, maybe this was the wrong time for the band, who were now being portrayed as money-hungry businessmen, to release an album.
When the album came out it sounded different to Metallica’s past releases. There was no longer any signature Kirk Hammett solos, the production was raw, the drums sounded different and the lyrics were self-referential and in some cases childish. St. Anger was unlike any other Metallica release, it was unfamiliar and it is safe to say that although millions of copies were sold many people moaned about the contents of the album.
But none of this matters to me. I prefer St. Anger to many of the other albums in the Metallica discography. I embraced the new sound and I certainly wasn’t interested in any of the band’s other interests/controversy that occurred away from the music. I didn’t have any trendsetter telling me not to like this album like many others at the time.
I see this album as Metallica trying to be unique, they were not trying to be a version of themselves. A trap that many bands fall into in 2019, living off former glories, trying to recapture the magic, hoping lightning would strike twice.
Although it still is fashionable to hate St. Anger, I still like the album and will continue to revisit it regardless of the collective opinion.
Till the next reboot…