St. Anger has been hailed as the most controversial album Metallica released. Deviating from their traditional sound to a much grittier, some say commercialized, opus the album holds as a one time wonder. There are many elements involved on St. Anger that would near appear again; some for the better and some for the worst.
The first thing to notice is the drumming. Throughout the entire album the drums have taken on a thicker, metallic sound that doesn't sound as polished as Metallica's other albums. Instead of hammering away on a drum kit, he sounds like he's beating a truck with a metal bat. And, due to this simplistic sound, don't expect much in the way of variation.
The guitars are also heavier, adding to the thick sludgy sound that the bass creates. Some have considered this a huge pitfall, but others have considered it an element of raw emotion. Since St. Anger was created during the making of the chaotic DVD, Some Kind of Monster, the emotion seen during the DVD is felt on this album: pure, unadulterated angst and fury. Even the vocals from frontman James Hetfield sound a lot more raw — they may not be as emotional as on some tracks like "The Unforgiven" from Black Album -- but they are still raw. And the best think about raw sound is that it is human. However, there are points when the vocals get too raw, such as on the final track, where Hetfield is screaming "Kill, kill, KILL!" and it sounds like he's tearing his vocal cords up. His gruff singing is much more preferred.
St. Anger is still a thrash metal monster; none could deny that on tracks like "The Unnamed Feeling." But, there's some other interesting sounds Metallica try like the introductory sliding on "Shoot Me." The rest of the album tends to sound the same as it chugs and heaves its way through over an hour of metal madness; another plus is the lengthy tracks (or is it a downfall?). "My World" is one of the thickest songs on the album that just hammers away chord after chord after chord; oddly enough it is one of the best tracks to showcase the drums as they follow the music, trying to compete in being the loudest instrument among the bunch. That is another thing to notice; the instruments are all heard on an even level, but that's mostly because they're all trying to be as loud as possible and no one's really getting ahead of the the others.
The only real downfall of St. Anger is the lyrics. For some reason they just seem less provocative and repeated compared to other songs Metallica has done. Sure, there's a lot of mind churning themes like the justice system ("Some Kind of Monster") and youth isolation ("Invisible Kid"), but for the most part take the first verse or the chorus and repeat it twenty times and you get a St. Anger song. The supposed "sell out" single, the title track, has the most repeated lyrics of all; it's only saving grace is that it is catchy. Other songs like "Purify" don't really make any sense at all; at times it's very random, while "Sweet Amber" is just a repetition of the chorus.
Understandably, these few little things like poor lyrics or a different sound will alienate fans, but it also brings in more fans. Personally, I was rather pleased with St. Anger because it was so different, both in sound and lyrics. It isn't going to please everyone, but what album rarely does? Fortunately, it gave the band a chance to experiment a little, draw from the reactions, and release their next masterpiece, Death Magnetic, which fuses all the earlier years into one… sadly excluding St. Anger.