On the tenth anniversary of the release of Metallica's St. Anger, Rob remembered that I had made some off the cuff remarks that some very small portions of this unbelievably horrible and unlistenable album, could have, if developed, produced, edited, performed by different musicians and translated into Finnish, resulted in a decent song. Somehow, in Rob's mind, this became twisted into "HURR DURR, DARREN LIKED ST. ANGER" and I was asked to write a series of ten bullet points of things that aren't so bad about it.
Of course, this is something akin to saying that you laughed at a Jeff Foxworthy joke once, and then being asked to write an essay suggesting him for the Nobel Prize in Literature. However, being a magnanimous and wonderful human being, I decided to come up with ten things that aren't literally worse than Hitler about St. Anger.
After careful deliberation, here are the SIX THINGS that aren't literally worse than Hitler about St. Anger.
6. James Hetfield's ridiculous primal yelling on All Within My Hands
If you got all the white overprotective suburban mothers from the 80s, who wanted to ban metal in its early stages, put them in a room and extracted their paranoid fantasies of what they imagined metal sounded like (none of it accurate at the time), it would sound a lot like this portion of this track — a 45-year old recovering blow addict yelling "KILL KILL KILL KILL! KILL!" surrounded by a wall of tuned-down, amelodic guitar riffing and rhythmless percussive attacks on helpless kitchenware.
Metallica succeeded in doing what none of the actual persecuted 80s bands ever did: create something that actually squares with the delusional misconceptions of what clueless 80s parents thought metal sounded like. I assure you, my enjoyment of this passage is purely unironic — I imagine a 1987 version of Tipper Gore playing a tape of this song to Congress trying to get anti-obscenity laws passed and a smile crosses my face instantly.
5. The lyrics on "The Unnamed Feeling"
On an album filled with lyrics that sound like they were written on by an alternate-reality Dr. Seuss on psylocybin ("FRANTIC! TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK TOCK!", "I feel my earth shake/like an earthquake", "Shoot me again, I ain't dead yet!!!!"), the lyrics on this track stand out as a throwback to earlier pre-washed up Metallica albums. It effectively captures the claustrophobic feeling of depression in a way that a lot of the songs on "Justice" did (Cross my heart hope not to die/Swallow evil, ride the sky/Lose myself in a crowded room/You fool, you fool, it will be here soon), and makes you think, maybe, 8 songs in, there's a chance the rest of this album might not suck as bad as the first half did.
Of course, then there's an 18 and a half minute repetition of a boring bland riff that gets old after 45 seconds, and any remaining hope is flushed down the toilet. This is one of three or four songs on this album that, given some editing, guitar solos and polish, could have been a good Metallica song, but they were content to just ramble incoherently into microphones like a middle-aged car salesman out in the desert on a retreat, banging a drum and yelling about how his wife bullies him.
4. Sweet Amber
Most of St. Anger is filled not so much with what could be described as "songs" but what you might hear hanging out in the bus station listening to the crazy guy with crap in his pants yell about Obama fluoridating the water, while banging a set of pots and pans over his head intermittently. Sweet Amber is probably the closest thing to something I can call a "song" on this album. It has a classical rock structure, a halfway-decently-catchy riff, and not so bad of a hook. It also has a couple of patented James-isms which are one of the best parts of any Metallica album but weirdly absent from most of St. Anger. It is also, mercifully, the second-shortest song on the album (at just over 5 minutes!!) and so it does not contain nearly as much of the long, boring, repetitive stretches of unimaginative riffing that are painfully common on this album.
Finally it also has the cleanest vocals with the fewest voice cracks from Hetfield (but still contains a couple). Although that might be a negative since spotting and making fun of the voice cracks is one of the bright spots that entertains you if you find yourself in the unenviable position of listening to St. Anger. Still, this is one of the handful of songs that could have been a decent Load-Era Metallica song if it had the normal prerequisite amount of editing and reconsidering and "holy fuck, *that's* the snare sound?!".
3. Bob Rock actually sounds pretty decent on bass
That is, if you can pick it up, over the sounds of the Tupperware and old-man angst. Being that Jason Newsted could only be heard on like maybe 4.8% of the 3 1/2 albums he played on, and Robert Trujillo appeared on LULU which leaves him automatically disqualified, Bob Rock might have a technical claim to being the best living bassist in Metallica history. Put THAT in your beard and smoke it, Rick Rubin! Right next to the mulligatawny soup. And the cigarette butts. And the bird's nest.
2. …Sorry. I got nothing.
Well, slightly more than halfway through the list and I realized I'm out of stuff. I apologize. I thought I could squeeze 6 good things out of this album, but the best I could do is four, taking a lot of liberties. If Rob ever asks you to review something, say no. In fact, don't just say no, recognize that he is probably sadistically foisting misery on you for his own enjoyment, and punch him in the dick.
If you are so inclined, you can order St. Anger over at Amazon.com.