|Metallica St. Anger||Elektra|
When a band is being lampooned in the press for the sound of it's album, you know not all things are going well.|
Yes, it has become trendy to knock Metallica, as their arrogance in the media over the last several years is largely unchallenged by any rival.
The fact is that fans have come to expect great things from Metallica. The band turned thrash on its head in the 80's and were at the headway or legitimizing the music form to a wider fan base. Then the guys about-faced and created one of the biggest ever metal albums in history, with the mega "black" album. That was the band's first venture with famed producer Bob Rock. They have worked with him ever since, as they have done on St. Anger.
With a band as big as Metallica there is no doubt that you will find many that love this album - or anything the band churn out. But through the reviews and fan reaction already publicized, it is clear that those that love this album are in the minority.
Even worse there isn't just one problem with this album. It's clear where listening to it that there are problems on several levels.
The most obvious and main complaint is the sound of the album. It sounds bloody awful. But you can't just say that it has a bad production and/or mix. This is just the production style the band chose. And they should be held accountable for that decision.
The fans were looking for something big. Yes, this is heavy, fast and furious and rocks at a pace that 20 year old would be happy to set. But it sounds so bad it becomes unlistenable. It hurts! With a 6 year gap between studio albums and the very reliable Bob Rock behind the desk, it's clear that expectations called for something better than an album that sounds more akin to an indie garage band.
Just take a listen to sonic intensity of the black album and enter Sandman, then listen to this. No comparison.
So the guys decided to go with this sound - someone should have been there to advise against it - to warn of the consequences. It was a gamble that could have seen the band hailed as geniuses, but it hasn't worked at all. That's what Bob Rock (or any producer) is supposed to do – realize this fact and act. He has clearly dented his reputation as a crack producer for being involved in the making of this album. The fact he has now appeared in interviews to justify the sound of this album shows just how deep the resentment goes. Where was the record label in this process? Where was their A&R guy? What did the band spent their advance on? It certainly wasn't studio time.
Yes, the Ulrich's drums sound like trash cans, yes Hetfield's vocals sound strained, yes there is no discernable bass, yes there are no guitar solo's - which on it's own will piss off at least 50% of the band's fan base.
Lyrics, vocals and style aside, this is a way below average album sonically. You are never going to turn the world on it's head by going this far backwards.
Interestingly, the DVD portion of the set features a new live mix of the sound which fixes a few of the problems of the studio version. The drums are more listenable and the songs have a little more life to them. It's still far from their best work, but it does show how important the production and mix of any album is. Crank the DVD and you will find some appreciate of this material.
In anyone's terms, this album has to be a disappointment. When you stack it against the band's previous releases, it just doesn't do the Metallica name justice.
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