Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Metallica - St Anger, album review

Lyrically Speaking

This is indeed an album full of anger, manifested in the thrashing sounds primarily of drums and guitar, and the thrashing catharsis of James Hetfield’s lyrical commentary on the demons inside his head, those he had tried to expunge in rehab – putting the recording of this album into a two-year hiatus from 2011 to 2003 – and those which he continues to unleash and share through the music on this release.

It should be noted that this is a famously collaboratively written set of songs [revealed and therefore confirmed in the movie Some Kind of Monster that I haven't seen] and  much of the lyrical account of turmoil could also inherently reflect this, though it does seem to be a focus from Hetfield's personal struggles.

Reviewing this album can be best traced through the songs’ stories: the lyrics tell us more about the mood than the music, the latter primarily fast and furious to carry the angst in the confessional narrative, the first


My lifestyle (Birth Is Pain)
Determines my death style (Life Is Pain)
A rising tide (Death Is Pain)
That pushes to the other side (It's All The Same)

begins with a machine-gun rhythm, and is linguistically as transparent as one could be in terms of its nihilism. Second

St Anger

Fuck it all and no regrets
I hit the lights on these dark sets
I need a voice to let myself
To let myself go free
Fuck it all and fuckin' no regrets
I hit the lights on these dark sets
Medallion noose, I hang myself
Saint Anger 'round my neck

has a long thrusting intro before expressing its cathartic abandon, suggestions of genuine darkness in that despair. By third

Some Kind of Monster

This is the test of flesh and soul
This is the trap that smells so good
This is the flood that drains these eyes
These are the looks that chill to the bone
These are the fears that swing over head
These are the weights that hold you down
This is the end that will never end
This is the voice of silence no more

the linear repetition that describes the inner self and the outward appearance is as hypnotic as the chugging riff, a list-lyric that emulates the relentless pace of the music. Next

Dirty Window

I see my reflection in the window
It looks different, so different than what you see
Projecting Judgement on the world
This house is clean baby
This house is clean

Am I who I think I am?
Am I who I think I am?
Am I who I think I am?
Look out my window and see it's gone wrong
Court is in session and I slam my gavel down

projects the questioning through the lightning pace of a quick riff and there seems to be self-judgement in its uncertainty. Fifth

Invisible Kid

Invisible kid
Suspicious of your touch
Don’t want no crutch
But it’s all too much

I hide inside
I hurt inside
I hide inside, but I’ll show you...

could be autobiographical and therefore could be looking at the root of this narrative of anger and despair, but I am no expert and it is important not to ignore the melodramatic in the telling for effect. Sixth

My World

Who's in charge of my head today
Dancin' devils in angels way

It's my time now

Look out motherfuckers here I come
Gonna make my head home
The sons of bitches tried to take my head
Tried to make me someone else instead

shifts to assertion. The poles of uncertainty and defiance would seem to be the far reaches of psychosis, though the music is itself much more static in delivering that range. Next

Shoot me again

All these shots I take
I spit back at you
All the shit you fake
Comes back to haunt you

seems both acquiescent and then defiant, the grunge tone and spoken chorus mixing brooding reflection with the natural defense of being brave. Eighth

Sweet Amber

Chase the rabbit, fetch the stick
She rolls me over 'til I'm sick
She deals in habits, deals in pain
I run away but I'm back again

Oh then she holds my hand
And I lie to get a smile
And she squeezes tighter
I still lie to get a smile

would seem to recall fickle love or addiction to another transitory comfort, though there are accounts online that the meaning is much more prosaic, an expression of anger at a management request, and this must be the caveat for any and all of this analysis: it is surmise, it doesn’t matter, and the music may or may not inject the meaning for the listener. Ninth

The Unnamed Feeling

I'm frantic in your soothing arms
I can not sleep in this down filled world
I've found safety in this loneliness
But I can not stand it anymore

would have seemed a natural appendage to what precedes, but with doubt about that song’s meaning, this has less immediacy. The music is more thrash than anywhere else, and that caustic vocal seems at odds with the suggestion [just] of romanticism. Perhaps the ambiguity is in the title. Next


Tear it down
Strip the layers off
My turpentine
Old paint, old looks
Cover up the past
White heat, white light
Super white bones
Bones of you and I

has a garage, staccato sound, and I like the paired down simplicity of the lyric. It is clear that the purpose of the lyrics to these song is collectively to strip thought and feelings to their raw bones. Closer

All Within My Hands

Hate me now
Kill all within my hands
Hate me now
Crush all within my hands
Squeeze all within my hands
Choke all within my hands
Hate me now
Trap all within my hands
Hurry up and hate me now
Kill all within my hands again

I'll die if I let go
Control is love, love is control
I'll fall if I let go
Control is love, love is control

I will only let you breath
My air that you receive
Then we'll see if I let you love me
Kill Kill Kill Kill Kill

is as angry as it can, and does, get. The final stanza embraces the turmoil and contradictions within the whole – though the anger is a constant – and the juxtaposition of love and kill is quite direct in its confusion, though sounding certain, and frankly, the final singing of that final line is as demonstrative as it can be. This is the most accomplished of the songs in its variation, though still following the consistent hardcore template of the album. 


  1. As a cathartic and poetic expunging of alcohol demons, this works well, but the production is poor. Ulrich got his way with the drum production yet again (like the tin pots and lack of bass on ".....and Justice for All"). I see St. Anger as both a bridge between the "younger, just burnt-out" 'Tallica and the more mature, knowing, happier and still phenomenally musical act we have now. BTW I have a DVD of the film SKoM if you would like me to drop it off - it is utterly compelling (and not a little funny at times) and Debs enjoyed it from a psychologist's POV despite not being a fan of the music. Their follow-up "Death Magnetic" I rate as their finest album.....look forward to your review of what is, in effect, a "Greatest Hits" package of all new songs.......

    1. I'd read about the criticism of production and wouldn't argue, partly because I was focusing on the lyrical narrative, but also - and this is a problem I think - I listen at the computer and on extension speakers so I am not discerning as I should. I would certainly defer to your insights. Yes, would welcome watching the film - when I am the other side of my examining! Enjoy your imminent break! Thanks for the observations.