Well here it is ladies and gentlemen, METALLICA’s first album in 6 years, and they ended up exactly the way I thought they would. There is an old cliché where someone states that a situation quote “would be funny if it weren’t so sad”. You know what, METALLICA has actually broken new ground for once in the past 10 years, as they have succeeded in reversing this cliché and created something so pathetic, so sad, and so horrible that it is a full blown laugh fest. After spawning a whole generation of bastard Half-Thrash bands who all made their careers ripping off “Master Of Puppets”, we are introduced to the new generation of METALLICA’s illegitimate progeny, Mallcore. And in usual form, after helping bring these atrocious bands into existence, the former Thrashers are seemingly falling over each other trying to join ranks with them. But ironically there is a silver lining to this album that I will get to later.
Before I proceed to pick apart the garbled mess of riffs and random thoughts from this cesspool of amateur produced noise, I have to take a moment to mention the unbelievably misleading and pretentious hype that was injected into this album by the critical field. Apparently it was review day for the hearing impaired and legally blind when the various news outlets compared this release to the Thrash/Doom classic “And Justice for All”. All you have to do is read the lyrics, or listen to the words if you don’t have one, to understand how much of a far-cry this is from anything METALLICA has ever released. And when you listen to the music, it sounds so contorted and ridiculous that you think your listening to a garage demo of DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. Suffice to say, if I meet the idiot that thought to compare this with “Justice”, I’ll be checking for the hearing aid and/or the seeing eye dog.
And so we kick off this album with “Frantic”, and right away we know what is wrong, the guitars are a muddy mess and the drums are way too loud. There are actually some mildly interesting riffs in here, though they lie buried under a messy production. However, Hetfield’s vocals are god awful, and the lyrics are ridiculous, to the point that the Mallcore accusations become inevitable. Also note that at several instances on this track the guitar tracks are not in tune with each other. The title track “St. Anger” follows and suffers from the same dilemma as the opener, although Hetfield’s vocal performance is slightly better, despite being way to loud in the mix and having equally absurd lyrics. “Some Kind of Monster” is a complete throwaway track, way too long (this album’s “The Outlaw Torn”) and extremely sloppy. This would have been a good song to keep Kirk’s solos in, because it would have softened the blow a bit.
“Dirty Window” has one riff in it, and although it’s half decent it’s barely developed, making the song seem longer than it is, and also plagued by terrible sounding drums and a lousy vocal performance. “Invisible Kid” takes my pick for the worst song; the lyrics are absolutely awful, making the likes of Fred Durst and STINKIN’ PARK sound like poets. This song is also suffering from “The Outlaw Torn” syndrome, only now Lars is banging on garbage can lids rather than a drum kit. The guitars and bass are an absolute muddy mess, but at least here they are a bit easier to hear, making this the second worst track on this lousy album. “My World” is another song with one decent riff, although here there is a bit more changes, over some more idiotic sounding lyrics. The vocal tracks, at moments, get so over-loaded with reverb that they completely drown everything else out, not what I call a great idea. Oh yeah, did I mention that Lars’ drums still sound horrible, to the point that he should’ve probably use his higher toms as a snare, as it sounds much better when he’s on them.
“Shoot Me Again” deserves special attention because it’s obviously aimed at METALLICA’s growing number of detractors since the “Black Album”. I would just like to state that no one needs to shoot these guys, nor has anyone, they’ve shot themselves so many times that they’ve become as holy as a 120 year old Tibetan monk. James literally sounds even more like a rapping Mallcore poser than Robb Flynn did on “Supercharger”. One positive of this song is that the drums have actually been turned down a bit; of course this makes little difference as the song is about the most non-dramatic, non-powerful, and non-Metal one they’ve ever released.
On a somewhat positive note, “Sweet Amber” has a very Bluesy sounding riff to it, and despite having an extremely muddy tone to it, actually isn’t too bad. The fact that the drums have been seemingly toned down for the second half of this album helps this song greatly, in addition to being one of the shorter tracks on here. James’ vocal performance has less ridiculous moments, an additional plus that unfortunately is extremely rare on this album. “The Unnamed Feeling” is another over-long mishmash of random riffs, but thankfully the drums are still turned down. This song is highly forgettable, nothing overly horrible but nothing good, it’s just simply there, taking up 7 minutes of space. “Purify” is the shortest song on here, and for good reason, it’s slow as hell and drags any feeling of hope that this album has gotten any better since “Sweet Amber” down completely. The over-loud, annoying trash can sounding drums are back again, as are James’ girlie Mallcore vocals. At this point they are literally killing this album until it dies from it.
The closing track on here “All Within My Hands” is one of the better tracks on here, but also probably the most inconsistent. The drum level varies from being the usual loud mess, to actually dying down a bit to let the better moments of this song shine. It’s way too long, James’ vocal performance is hit or miss, but it escapes “The Outlaw Torn” syndrome by having some interesting moments during the middle of the song. Bear in mind the basis of comparison, of course, as this album is completely terrible.
For everyone wondering what the heck happened to METALLICA here, I will state that given the circumstances surrounding the band and the lead up to this point in their career, this album is the best that it could’ve been. I can not recommend it to anyone unless you are so sick that you’re willing to listen to a band that is all but completely musically bankrupt try to sound heavy. If an album is bad, I tend not to bother with it, unless it’s done by a band I love. But don’t cry for these guys, express your outrage and pray that they get something in their heads rather than on them. People are not meant to be pitied, they are meant to be commended for getting off their asses and not letting the bad in life get them down. When they don’t do this, and refuse to even try, it is best to either ridicule them or ignore them. I have done the former, and until I see something much better out of these guys, I will now proceed to do the latter.
(Online March 24, 2009)