This is Metallica‘s most panned album. Their lowest point, after the departure of Jason Newsted (who was a bit like an appendix, at least in the studio). As result, I didn’t really approach this album with too much expectation. And in the end I can report this…..it’s great 40 pc of the time and an absolute MESS the rest of the time.
I’m a little irritated at Metallica‘s tendency to record such hit and miss music after And Justice for All. I’ve heard and reviewed everything since then, and not a single album since has been of uniform quality. That’s irritating. In a similar vein, “Frantic” is an excellent start, despite “My lifestyle determines my death style” being the single most terrible line in Rock n’ Roll history. It’s raw and in your face and powerful and all that. At least in the beginning, the speed is truly and amazingly palpable. It’s quite a rush.
Speaking of raw, Lars Ulrich’s snare drum got a lot of criticism. I think it sounds great, and really fits in with the tone of the album. Respect. A two fingered salute to the critics. After ‘Frantic’ comes ‘St.Anger’, which is a great song. One for the setlist. I LOVE slow bass groove in the verse of St.Anger. The anger and hatred is epic. This is proper garage metal brilliance.
Often its extremely ugly music, and in a good way. Don’t kill me metal purists, but I think ‘Invisble Kid’ sounds like Korn’s finest at times. Great lyrics, too, and the song holds its own despite the lack of a real chorus of the sort normal people are used to.
Metallica made a big deal of how they were going back to their Kill ‘em All thrash roots. I think this is some way further back than that. By all means, this is less produced (and in some way better) than their hallowed early days. The songs are also mercifully short and in many ways to me recall the Punk Rock ethic which predates Thrash Metal.
Another such ‘big deal’ was the lack of guitar solos, which effectively nullify any evidence of Hammett’s contribution. As it is, I’m not wild about Hammett’s soloing and while less skilled than Hammett for sure, Hetfield is a better composer of solos (the solo in Nothing else matter could not possibly be better, for instance). Either ways, the garage metal ethic works up till ‘Invisible Kid’.
Unfortunately, things start to go downhill from there. Big time. Midway through the album, I slowly started to realize that the song structures didn’t make that much sense anymore, that the fury wasn’t really that honest and that the tempo changes and riffs were mostly the same. ‘Sweet Amber’ has one of the most pointlessly messy song structures I have every witnessed, and the song has absolutely no coherence. Is this a band which has been making songs for more than 20 years? It’s hard to believe. All the songs except the ones that I have mentioned are quite faceless, and what I notice is that I do like certain ideas in most songs, but waiting for them between the musical equivalent of being jackhammered in the head is not usually worth it.
I’m convinced that at the time of compiling this album, Metallica simply didn’t have enough good songs to fill the running time of the record. More and more I think (with the hindsight of having heard Death Magnetic) that Metallica is past its prime as far as musical output goes. Even so, they will continue to sell like hotcakes thanks to the borrowed steam of the first few albums and a few good songs from subsequent albums, not mention the PR machine.
In the final totting up, only something like the first four songs are worth it. The rest is far too much of amateurish garage band stuff NOT to be included in their setlist 25 years down the line. I say this not out of conceit of my own opinion. I’m talking off a James Hetfield interview that I saw. Thats the greatest testimony of the fact that in truth, this does not sound right.
Give them another chance. Try out other METALLICA reviews HERE.
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