Metallica, St Anger
If you’re like me and your desk is not even two metres away from customer service people talking all the time (and getting up to discuss, clarify and air issues continually), then you appreciate having music and good headphones to block out the general verbal noise. Human noise is one of the most distracting forms there is. Especially since the editorial work I do favours reasonable quiet and calm precision — is it any wonder that I sometimes turn to heavy beats and guitars to drown out the yack and piffle. (And in a bracketed footnote, it’s also worth noting that being forced to listen and use music like this for seven hours makes me almost resentful of music. I cannot listen to much more at the end of the day when I’m at my prime, and that galls me. I’m obsessed with music at the best of times, but there’s limits to all tolerance.) Which leads me to Metallica, the ultimate gossip-drowners. After having a great laugh at the Monster
movie (see below
), I’ve come to think that St Anger
ain’t half bad. It’s positives and negatives are clear-cut; it’s a here-it-is album with little gravy or trimmings. Monster riffing, power drumming, no solos. Really shitty lyrics though — I appreciate their spirit and angle but somehow the couch-clichés seem at odds with heavy, angry music. It’s a very angry little album (maybe not quite as aggressive as Vulgar Display of Power
maybe, also heard again recently, which is just pale with rage) but then again Metal is all about anger or at least looking angry all the time. The lyric ‘I wanna hate it all away’ seems like a neat Metal manifesto. Anger: the patron saint of metal. Etc. But on the whole, compare say the lyrics and range of …And Justice for All
and the closet-cleansing of St Anger
becomes obvious, lumpen. Does Hetfield actually feel
better now he’s got it all out? Somehow it’s an uncomfortable mesh, not really driven by real psychological affect or unabashed madness: I just don’t feel the import or emotional revelation (like on a Velvets record). But the music: dropped-D tunings, power riffs, clattering snare drums. Sometimes I thought I was listening to Helmet. At least Lars is on top of his game and every beat — at times it feels the band is centred by him alone — and his changes are integral to the impact of the album (Bad Brains: A band is only as good as their changes). Up a gear, heavy roll. Down a gear, different bass drum level, stop. Double-time. Back to the roll. He’s a great machine. Like …And Justice
, this album might’ve benefited from a real (Robert Trujillo) bass presence — it’s a pity he came into the album several years after it was begun. Bob Rock should’ve stuck to the desk and left this a bass-less album, methinks (and I’ve got issues with him as producer too). Actually, I sometimes wonder whether bass is really necessary in so much metal… Bart assures me that some death-metal is heavily dependent of bass-groove, but obviously this has to be researched. If I was Bob I would’ve mixed me out just like they did Jason on Justice
. And overdubbed more guitars — I mean, they’ve got six hundred guitars — I wanna hear them all! Still, St A
sounds great cranked up after a beer or two. Great for hoovering, air guitar or headbanging. It still begs the question of where-to-from-here, and I think Prog might be the answer (again): longer, more complicated multi-sections, extended solos, fairy lyrics. A veritable suite of heaviness but spread over a bigger canvas. A structure for improv perhaps. Acid maybe? Anger is just so damn limited emotionally, and it’s high time the boys got their heads around a theme again (like, maybe the War on Terror and Iraq? The lies of the media, the idiots in control? The effect of torture on a people? The destruction of rights? Something with a pang of conscience for the boys in the tanks, shooting them up whilst banging their heads). See, I could be a Metallica lyricist. I’d like to see them get angry about those.
Like all Metallica albums, I feel fatigued by the end of it, and ready for something calmer like Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert
. What a wonder of improvised contemplation and joyous groove that is. Such a pleasant vista of exploration and harmony.