Warning: Album review

As a long time Metallica fan who has owned and loved every album since Kill em all I feel I am somewhat qualified to discuss their latest effort. It is obvious that the band have made an attempt to go back to their roots but in my opinion it just doesn't work. Until now the music of Metallica has matured with each new album and has evolved from straight thrash metal to a dark introspective fusion of various musical styles. Throughout this time they have managed to keep their trademark heavy, crunchy sound and high production values. This is no longer the case.

Once again Metallica have teamed up with producer Bob Rock who has been with the band since the 1990 recording sessions for the "Metallica" album (the black album to most people). Rock's involvement with the band has brought about a 'fuller' sound and generally higher production values - until now. St. Anger sounds like it was recorded in a backyard shed with a $20 microphone...Well maybe not that bad but you get the idea. The drums in particular sound hollow and cheap. This is made worse by the fact that they appear to be quite prominent in the mix (they are quite loud). The bass guitar on the album was actually played by Bob Rock and I can't help but think that he should have spent less time on the bass and more time behind the mixing desk actually producing the album.

The music
This album differs from Metallica's previous efforts in that there are no ballad type tracks to break up the carnage. I find this dissapointing as I believe that songs such as Nothing else matters and The unforgiven have provided some of the band's finest moments. The drumming consists of a lot of double time sections (you know - the parts that sound like the drummer is just bashing the kick and snare as fast as they can) which could have worked better had the drums not been so damn loud (see above). It has been said that Rock's efforts on bass leave a lot to be desired and didn't really do much for the band's sound. My response is "you can't polish a turd". By this I mean you can't expect complex melodic basslines on a heavy metal album. The songs leave little scope for the kind of bass sound that would truly make it's mark. Above all else, the biggest dissapointment of this album to me is the complete and utter lack of lead guitar sections. Gone are the blisteringly fast solos and soaring interludes that formed such a big part of the Metallica sound. Kirk Hammet was the main reason I learned guitar in the first place and has always been my number 1 musical hero. It is sad to see that he has given it up in favour of more rhythm based parts.

The Video
Included with the CD is a DVD of the band playing the entire album live. The setting is a large room (rehearsal studio?) containing the band, their gear and a camera crew. The performance is a fairly accurate rendition of the album which is all well and good but the thing that I noticed most was the way that newcomer Robert Trujillo entirely fails to fit in with the rest of the band. I know he is new but witness him dancing around like a gorilla while the others adopt more traditional heavy metal poses and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's more amusing than anything really.

You may have gotten the idea by now that I don't really like this album. Well you'd be right, but not entirely. It does have it's moments (Invisible kid and St. Anger were the highlights for me) but when compared to some of their previous efforts this falls a long way short of the mark. Perhaps this is just a misguided attempt to inject youth into their music or perhaps the band really are trying to regain their roots...Either way this album has changed my view of the band and when they next release new music I will (for the first time) be listening to it before I buy.