Post-Jordanism: noun- The artistic (cultural?) movement which began in late 2011. Works within this deal with themes of existential crisis, identity crisis, posttraumatic stress disorder, the state of being broken, intrusive thoughts of (non)existent(?) memory, the morbid preoccupation with suicide, grief, uncontrollable emotion, and darkness as a simple abstract concept. ex. 1: "Kill me."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On St. Anger and What I Think of It

St. Anger was Metallica's eighth studio album, released in 2003. It had a long and strenuous development history, with band members freaking out and going into rehab and probably exploding or some shit. It had eleven songs, three music videos (that I know of), and EVERYONE HATED IT.

This confuses me to high hell. I had heard so much anti-hype for St. Anger when I was getting into music. Even my friend Paul Botsford, normally a very open and intelligent musician, told me to basically be wary of the album, as it's a radical departure from Metallica's previous works.

So when I finally got a chance to listen to the album, I was expecting something outrageously bad. What I got was, in my opinion, their best album since ...And Justice For All. And for reference, ...And Justice For All is one of my favourite albums of all time. So yes, I am officially saying right now that St. Anger is one of my favourite albums of all time.

Let's break it down.

St. Anger is a concept album, first of all. Fun fact about Metallica: They are fucking progressive as hell. They make concept albums regularly, they often have extensive instrumental passages, and their music has all kinds of influences. Their most-praised works, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All? Concept albums (Death, Control, Corruption of justice, respectively). So what's St. Anger's concept? Not anger, but controlled anger. Productive anger. Expression of anger. To quote a comment from metalsucks.net:

The reason people hate St. A so much, I think, is that those amazing first four albums were about power where St. Anger is about powerlessness. "Kill" through "Justice" were about strength, catharsis, in a way even uplift. You finish "Battery" (still my fav Metallica song) and feel like you just kicked someone's ass and it was AWESOME and no matter how shitty you felt before, now you feel GREAT. That's the sweet spot a lot of us metal heads live for, when you put your fist in the air with a sense of power and purpose and say "THAT FUCKING RULED."
St. Anger is a betrayal of all that. It doesn't feel awesome because real rage, the kind we don't like to touch, feels too horrible. It consumes you and makes you miserable. It ruins your life. The Metallica guys learned that the hard way and then they made an album about it. They made an album that deals with anger as it actually is, not as we wish it to be. In that way, it is totally and fundamentally honest.
The sound of St. Anger is fierce, aggressive, almost punk-ish. Repetition is used full-force, but it's not just repetition; riffs are played with. The same riff is rarely played exactly the same twice. The guitars are probably as heavy as they'll ever get, the drums are infamously mixed (the best word to describe them is "they sound like steel"), the bass is difficult to hear (...And Justice For All was mixed similarly), and the vocals are extremely angry (as should be expected!).

People dislike the end result, and I honestly can't figure out why. I often hear people criticizing both St. Anger and ...And Justice For All because you can't hear the bass in them. Maybe I don't have the right sound system or something, but personally, I don't care. xD The guitars are the bass, they do all the bass is supposed to do: Keep a rhythm. I mean, hell, guys. THEY HAVE TWO GUITARISTS. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? If anything, these albums sound heavier without bass! They're heavy enough that they don't need bass! But now I'm just defending it. My opinion is that I love the sound, and I legitimately don't understand what people mean when they say they don't like it because there's no bass.

See, I have this bit of logic when it comes to subjective subjects like art: I don't worry about what it doesn't have. I worry about what is there, what it is trying to convey, and what it does convey. St. Anger is trying to convey sheer aggressive anger and, as the comment above said, powerlessness. And it conveys that very well. I don't even notice a missing bass.

Which brings me to my next point! A common complaint of St. Anger is that it's missing guitar solos. There are no guitar solos in the entire album. o: Personally, I find that interesting! It's different. I mean, look. I love guitar solos as much as the next guy. Arguably moreso! But... once you've heard enough of them, you kinda hear 'em all. Personally, I really don't worry much about a missing guitar solo. >_> If anything, St. Anger really doesn't call for guitar solos. The songs are supposed to be aggressive and repetitive; they play with riffs, they don't show off talent. But my main argument is just that guitar solos are not necessary. Not even in metal.

Next complaint! The songs are too long! ....I'm not even gonna fucking touch this one. xD OKAY FINE SO I WILL. The songs are not too long. It is physically impossible for an art work to be too anything; what matters is what the artist intends. And if Metallica intended for these songs to be as long as they are (which they did. Know how you can tell? Because they released the songs at those lengths), then they aren't "too long." So yes, in people's opinions, the songs are too long for their tastes, but in that case, that's your own problem, buddy.

...also, the fact that the same people who criticize St. Anger for being too long are the same ones who love "The Outlaw Torn" and the black album.. well, that's pretty annoying to me. 'Cause hey, let's use some more logic: If you can't sit through eight minutes of Metallica, you're not a Metallica fan. Or maybe you are and you just can't sit through that much music, period. That's fine! But don't blame the music for it.

So then. What's my opinion of St. Anger? I think it's a fascinating album. It is a drastic change from Metallica's earlier works, but I appreciate the sound and the concepts touched upon. The sound fits the concept brilliantly, and the lyrics are goddamn beautiful. Oh yeah, that's another complaint people usually have! "The lyrics are shit!" I respectfully disagree. St. Anger's songs are ripe with wordplay and metaphors, and the emotive language is just the kind of thing I love. :3

I love St. Anger, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

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