Metallica had a lot going against them on “St. Anger”. It’s the SCUD missile of comeback albums: it’s not in the air very long and does very little damage. I was in high school when it first came out and amongst my friends and classmates, it was meant with a resounding “…Seriously?”. It’s what happens when you mix a strangled bid at relevancy with self-actualization, but forget to add what everybody loved about your work in the first place. The massive hype couldn’t cover up what a creative misfire it was.
Every member of Metallica had their strengths diminished on “St. Anger”. James Hetfield wrote formless drop-D riffs with no melody and turned in ridiculous dime-store turns of phrase centered around his recent sobriety, Kirk Hammett wasn’t allowed to play solos, producer Bob Rock (filling in on bass thanks to the then-recent departure of Jason Newsted) wasn’t allowed to tighten up the mix in a misplaced bid to sound “edgier” (which is seems the band associated with sounding like shit), and Lars Ulrich decided popping his snare drum to get the super repetitive “pounding on a railroad spike” sound was genius…well, at the time it seems given the video below…
But aside from the occasional excursion with Lou Reed, Metallica has bounced back admirably. If nothing else they’re still a massive concert draw and their legacy in heavy metal is secure, in spite of their darker and weaker periods. “St. Anger”, however, remains a huge sore thumb in their catalog. It remains a symbol of a painful time in the band’s career (that was sadly preserved via film) that perhaps is best moved past and ignored.
…Never underestimate fans on the internet though who want to make right was once went wrong though, because a trio of unknown musicians decided to re-make “St. Anger”. Members of Grace The Skies and Adust came together to re-record “St. Anger” in its entirety, only with better production and tighter song-structures. You’ll notice their version is 15 minutes shorter than the actual album.
Sadly, one thing that could NOT be fixed is James Hetfield’s ridiculous lyrics. Vocalist Dave C. does a fantastic impersonation, and his self-harmonizing is impressive, but there’s no way you can make lyrics like “My lifestyle determines my death style” or “I’m madly in anger with you” sound epic or badass. That said, the fuller sound of the guitars and drums make a massive difference. It can NOT be understated how much of an albatross Ulrich’s popped snare was, and a tighter rapid-fire drum sound adds a lot of energy and thump, even to songs that didn’t have much distinctive hook or melody to them originally.
It doesn’t cover up the flaws that existed on the original recording, but Grace The Skies & Adust have done something remarkable with this experiment. I listened to the whole thing in one sitting and if nothing else, it makes for an enjoyment (if formless) groove metal album. It’s nice to see some guys at the bottom come together and cut the bullshit that the guys at the top seem to be incapable of doing. Click on the video below if you want to give it a listen.