REWIND: 15 years ago, Metallica almost destroyed their legacy with St. Anger 5 years ago

REWIND: 15 years ago, Metallica almost destroyed their legacy with St. Anger

F**k it all and... yeah, definitely some regrets.

Deep breath.


Here's the thing about Metallica and St. Anger.

It's dreadful.

And yet...

No, it's definitely dreadful.


But still...

Well, yeah, it's really quite fascinating, isn't it?

And there genuinely is the odd tune or three in there, but we'll get to that.

St. Anger hit shelves on 5 June 2003 amidst a period of considerable turmoil for the veteran metal outfit.


Bassist Jason Newsted - who replaced the late Cliff Burton following his tragic death in a bus crash while Metallica were on tour in Sweden in 1986 - left the band following creative differences and the feeling that he wasn't allowed express himself musically elsewhere, despite no such barriers being in place for frontman James Hetfield.

Though Newsted was something of a peripheral figure in Metallica - he himself felt that he was never fully wanted or accepted, and he was often drowned out on album production - his departure hit the band hard as a crisis of the self emerged, before the need for reaction and rebirth kicked in.

For better, and for many people, for worse, St. Anger is what happened next.

Critics at the time were famously split, though many sang its praises as the shock of the new washed over them.


NME, Rolling Stone, Spin and Uncut all penned glowing reviews, while Pitchfork went full Pitchfork with a 0.8 out of 10 review that was ahead of its time for some.

St. Anger isn't generally looked back upon with fondness, and it arguably ruined the aura and legacy that Metallica had worked so tirelessly to establish.

But is it really that terrible?

15 years on, here we present the five most enduring takeaways and talking points...

1. That snare drum


Where else can we really begin?

Clip via Warner Bros. Records

A preface - this writer honestly quite likes the production on Lars Ulrich's kit, especially the snare drum sound, but enough pub-based arguments means I know when I'm beaten.


But yeah, everyone, and I do mean everyone, loathes and detests the ludicrously tightly-wound snare drum on St. Anger almost as much as people generally can't abide the man playing it.

Still though, what's worse - the OG snare sound or going to the trouble of 'fixing' the entire album but ending up with something much more cheap and generic-sounding?

Clip via St Anger

2. Some Kind of Monster

The single greatest music documentary that has ever been, and will ever be, created.

Named for the never-ending song of the same name, Some Kind of Monster is a journey into the heart of darkness that was Metallica and their now-infamous recording sessions around this time.

James Hetfield would later describe the film as "the best mirror we've ever had" and he's right in that it is a genuine warts-and-all reflection of a huge band with the egos to match.

Clip via MetallicaTV

It's the real-life Spinal Tap as Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett attempt to drag their band up from the grave and create "the album of our lives."

At times, Some Kind of Monster is unbearable to watch, whether it's Hetfield's struggles with addiction coming to the fore, Ulrich swaggering around like an obnoxious child, poor Kirk Hammett being neglected and mistreated, or the $40,000-a-month therapist in step with the band's every move.

But it's always, always compelling viewing. It's funny, strangely heartfelt, cringeworthy and totally unique in its way. And like any great documentary, it starts off being about one thing and then the filmmakers discover something bigger and more bizarre.

Honestly cannot recommend SKOM highly enough even if you cannot stand Metallica.

3. The songs are too goddamn long

You can get hypnotised when listening to St. Anger.

Most of the first batch of songs - 'Frantic', 'St. Anger', 'Some Kind of Monster' - are quite enjoyable until you suddenly twig that they're all one colossal loop.

Those three songs take up a whopping 21 minutes in total. Look, it's metal. Long songs are part and parcel and that's fine, but this is just repetition for the sake of it to the point that you'd be forgiven for thinking you accidentally hit the repeat button along the way.

As a result, every song on here - even 'The Unnamed Feeling' which is a legitimately great piece of business - shows its structural flaws early doors and become a chore to power through.

St. Anger is an endurance test. To take it all in inside one sitting is a rare feat, so fair play to you if you can manage it.

And it's really not helped by...

4. The lyrics

James Hetfield isn't going to join Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar in winning lofty prestigious gongs for his song and lyric-writing prowess.

Metal singers rarely get such nods, but it's not like the genre is incapable of harnessing poignant brilliance in amongst your standard 'get in the pit' fare. Hetfield, too, is capable of the odd revelation.

Clip via TheDreadedDruid

Still, on the whole, and even if we're being kind, he's not an all-time wordsmith.

His work on St. Anger is truly astonishing in all the wrong ways.

We'd list a bunch here, but just hit up this Genius page and feast your eyes.

5. The follow-up 'apology' album sucks

Clip via Warner Bros. Records

There's a popular myth out there that 2008's Death Magnetic is a good, maybe even great album.

A myth that is demonstrably untrue if you've ever actually suffered through it.

Death Magnetic is Metallica's big mea culpa to their fans.

It sounds like it was recorded terribly in a garage with a remote microphone. 'Don't worry, we won't try anything experimental ever again, we swear.'

It sounds like trash, because it is.

And the snare drum is weak as hell, which just isn't acceptable now is it?