In 2003, Metallica released their 8th full-length studio album, St. Anger. With its tinny production, absence of their signature guitar solos and serious shortage of good songwriting and songs, it was a major disappointment. The only positives I could take from St. Anger were that it was meaner and more aggressive than their previous two albums, Load and Reload, and I loved the opening track “Frantic.”
As a long-time fan, I wondered how they could screw up their five-years-in-the-making comeback so severely. The answers came in 2004, when they released the warts-and-all documentary, Some Kind of Monster. With unprecedented access and candor, the completely dysfunctional institution of Metallica was revealed for the world to see. Personal problems led to zapped creativity and there was nothing their long-time producer Bob Rock could do to keep them on track. In fact, Rock’s suggestions (and you can’t blame the guy for being a little confused) clearly made the band worse.
Well, it’s recently been announced on metallica.com that Bob Rock will definitely not be producing the next Metallica album. Rick Rubin and the band will begin recording on March 12th. Of course, Rick Rubin is the genius behind so many amazing recordings from the last two decades – from Run DMC, The Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J to Slayer, Danzig and System of A Down. To me, though, his greatest achievement was helming the #1 album of the 90s, Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and subsequently supervising their graceful evolution over the next 15 years.
Rick Rubin’s track record is near flawless, but he is capable of a stinker here and there. Ever hear The (International) Noise Conspiracy’s Armed Love? It’s nearly unfathomable he was the man responsible for that slick, soulless mess.
Usually, though, Rubin is a magic man. What he did for the Dixie Chicks on last year’s Taking the Long Way is pretty special. For a group who had lost their core fan base, country radio listeners, he added rock and pop elements to reach a wider audience while keeping them country at the same time. Resurrecting Metallica’s sound after years of mediocrity should be quite a challenge. Here’s hoping Mr. Rubin can dazzle us once again.