As anyone who’s seen the documentary Some Kind Of Monster knows, Metallica nearly tore itself apart recording its eight album, 2003’s St. Anger. They fought constantly and had difficulty agreeing on artistic direction. The band resorted to working with a performance coach and James Hetfield abandoned the sessions to go to rehab.
Metallica emerged from these trials better for them and did eventually release St. Anger, which sold millions and won a Grammy, but some were not impressed. Amusingly, Pitchfork gave the album a 0.4, and there was grumbling among the band’s longtime fans, who haven’t been universally happy with anything the band has done since the late ‘80s, with complaints mainly centered on the lack of guitar solos and St. Anger’s overall sound.
In retrospect, though, St. Anger is one of the most satisfying albums that Metallica has released in years. Right out the gate the band seems set to kill or kill itself trying, with Hetfield growling the great line “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle” on “Frantic.” The title track intriguingly alternates pummeling riffs with tuneful, quiet passages; proving the band still had a strong grasp of dynamics. “Sweet Amber” veers from a fast-paced, simple riff into a woozy chorus that calls to mind Dirt-era Alice In Chains.
The band’s next effort, Death Magnetic, saw Metallica continuing its return to form, but with less intriguing results, proving all the on-camera theatrics of its process here were beneficial.