METALLICA's 'St. Anger' Makes ROLLING STONE's List Of '50 Genuinely Horrible Albums By Brilliant Artists'February 16, 2023
Rolling Stone magazine has included METALLICA's controversial "St. Anger" LP on its newly released list of "50 Genuinely Horrible Albums By Brilliant Artists".
"St. Anger" was released in June 2003 at the end of a turbulent two-year period in which bassist Jason Newsted left the group, frontman James Hetfield went for a lengthy stay in rehab, and the entire band threatened to break apart. The album's raw, lo-fi production, lack of guitar solos and unorthodox sound were not well-received by many of the group's fans, who still often cite it as METALLICA's worst record. "St. Anger" has nevertheless sold more than six million copies worldwide, although fans have generally not warmed up to it in the 20 years since its release.
In explaining "St. Anger"'s placement on the list, Rolling Stone called the album "deeply disappointing" and described Lars Ulrich's snare drum as coming across "like he's banging on a tin can throughout the entire album". Writer Andy Greene went on to say that "the songs are unfocused and seemingly unfinished," and opined that Hetfield's "straight-from-rehab lyrics ('I want my anger to be healthy') could have used more thought." Rolling Stone also noted that the fact that METALLICA has "played fewer 'St. Anger' songs in concert than any of their other albums" is a clear indication that the band is aware of the LP's status as one of its most divisive efforts.
Ulrich admitted to The Pulse Of Radio a while back that METALLICA was surprised by the hostile reaction to "St. Anger" by many fans. "It threw us a little bit, sure, 'cause the whole thing was to just keep it as raw as possible," he said. "And I'd like to think that we accomplished that [laughs], to the point of obviously a little too raw for some people, and that's okay. I mean, it is what it is. I have not one regret about it. I'm proud of it, proud that we had the balls to see it through."
Speaking to Classic Rock magazine, Ulrich defended the drum sound on "St. Anger". He said: "That was on purpose. It wasn't like we put it out and somebody went, "Whoa! Whoops!" I view 'St. Anger' as an isolated experiment. I'm the biggest METALLICA fan, you've got to remember that. Once again, as we've been known to do, once in a while these boundaries have to be fucked with. We'd already done 'Ride The Lightning', which I believe is a fine record. It didn't need to be re-done."
He continued: "When we heard the record from beginning to end, I felt — and it was mostly me — that the experience was so pummeling, it became almost about hurting the listener, about challenging the listener, so we left the songs unedited. I can understand that people felt it was too long."
Back in 2015, "St. Anger" producer Bob Rock defended his work on the LP by saying that both LED ZEPPELIN legend Jimmy Page and former THE WHITE STRIPES frontman Jack White "took the time to say how much they like that album."
During an appearance on the "Talk Is Jericho" podcast, Rock said that Page expressed his appreciation for the CD when the produced ran into the guitarist while they were both eating breakfast at hotel. "I know Jimmy," Bob said. "He got up and walked over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, 'It's great to see you,' blah blah, 'I love the 'St. Anger' album.'"
White's praise came at a screening of the documentary "It Might Get Loud", which co-starred Page. "I was at the premiere, and Jack White came over," Bob recalled. "He says, 'I'm Jack White.' I said, 'I know.' He says, 'That's my favorite METALLICA album.' So," laughed Rock, "I'm okay with those two."
Rock did acknowledge that "St. Anger" wasn't embraced by many METALLICA fans, who criticized it for its lack of guitar solos, extended riffs, its raw production and the thin drum sound.
"It's a very odd record," he conceded. "But it is… It's the truth. It's the raw truth about them at that time."
Rock also addressed the drum-sound controversy, explaining: "People comment about the sound, but when we went in, I said to them, 'I can't set up the drums exactly the same way. I can't do that.' It's like, why does metal music have to have this certain sound before it's metal? So I kicked the can a bit in that way."
He continued: "We could talk about this for a long time, but, really, the sound of the drums on that, I got the first set that [Lars Ulrich] ever used when they rehearsed in the house in Oakland, when they first got together. I set it up and Lars stared at it, right? For, like, months. And then one day he sat down and played, and it was ringing and it was raw, and he said, 'This is it.'"
Rock also discussed the lack of solos on the album. According to the producer, "Lars said, 'No guitar solos.' And [James Hetfield] and I are going, 'But … that's what [Kirk Hammett] does.' So every song, Kirk comes in and plays a solo, and if it doesn't make the song better, we're not using it — and we went through the whole album like that."
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