My Lifestyle Determines My Deathstyle

When Metallica’s St. Anger came out the hoopla around it was pretty overwhelming, which once everyone had heard it reversed to underwhelming. “Trendy”, “no solos”, “that snare sound” were a just a few of the many things that were mentioned as part of the overall indictment of the long gestating, long drawn out, post-rehab, post-therapy, and post-Jason Newsted record. The San Francisco speed metal kings seemed to have left tradition behind, and instead went the path of modern heavy music. “Nu-Metallica”, as their sound was dubbed by me just now. What the hell were our big bros that created “Metal up your ass” thinking? Were they so lost that they had to jump on some musical bandwagon in order to rekindle those flames that seemed to have been quashed by years of pent up resentment at each other?

And really, that snare sound? Did you not hear that guys?

Well, here’s a little secret for you. You see, St. Anger wasn’t as bad as you remember it. In fact, St. Anger was a damn good album(yes, even with the snare thing.) All the bands that Metallica were blamed for copying? Those trendy new(nu) metal bands? Well they were copping Metallica’s sound, while morphing it into something of their own. System of a Down, Slipknot, Deftones, Korn, and all those other late 90s/early 00s bands that brought the heavy music drama to popular music in a heavy way grew up with James, Kirk, Cliff, Jason, and Lars. If anything, Metallica were just inspired to go a different route by these bands. St. Anger is still very much a Metallica record, both lyrically and musically. And its probably their heaviest record since …And Justice For All.

Let me explain this…

Every year since 2006 I will watch Some Kind Of Monster at least once. It’s just as much therapy as it is entertainment. From the first time I watched it I was completely enthralled with seeing this band that I grew up with not act like the mega rock stars they are, but human beings. Human beings with egos, anger issues, self doubt, fear, and just generally being like you and me(albeit with a ton more dough.) There was a lot said for how they came across as whiny and spoiled and just generally not rock star-like. That’s the whole point of it all, isn’t it? We know what these guys look like in magazine spreads, on stage, and on record. We get the persona that’s built for us. I think the genius of the movie was that Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky captured one of the greatest metal bands ever at the point of complete implosion, and despite what the popular consensus is I think the band handled it pretty well.

You see James Hetfield, the prototypical front man that exudes machismo and tough guy,”fuck yeah, dude!” righteousness turn into this guy trying to rebuild himself after years of alcohol abuse and running from his feelings. Lars Ulrich seems to get the most flack for being, well, Lars. But here’s the thing, I think he comes across pretty earnest. He’s not putting on a show here. He’s got an ego and that’s that, but he’s not being anything else but himself. He seems generally concerned for his longtime band mate, friend, and long time band. Can he be self-absorbed? You bet, but that’s just Lars. And really, I think history has proven he was on the right side of the whole Napster thing. Sure he’s a millionaire, but does that mean it’s cool to steal from him? I don’t think so. Poor Kirk Hammett. He’s still like the little kid stuck in the middle of two battling parents. He seems like a genuinely sweet guy that wants to just keep playing with his big bros and tour the world and buy horror memorabilia. You say anything bad about Kirk and I’ll take you out back and introduce you to Jack Johnson and Tom O’Leery.

The rest of the players? Well there’s Bob Rock, the mega rock producer that turned Metallica into MTV darlings thanks to The Black Album. He seems genuinely confused and uncertain of the band’s future. He stepped up here to get the album finished, and in the end it seems to have finished his over 10-year residency as the fifth member of Metallica. Phil Towle, the therapist/performance coach brought in by Q Prime Management to help Metallica deal with all the internal and personal strife. He’s a hired hand, and his job was to dig deep and get to some core issues that had been long festering between the group. There is some cringe-worthy stuff here with Dr. Towle, I have to be honest. The Dave Mustaine session? Ugh. Dr. Phil arguing about trust issues between him and James? Seemed like the doc was trying to manipulate the most vulnerable guy in the group to me. I think he did help the band overall, but he seemed a little too cozy by the end. Robert Trujillo. I love this guy. I think he was and is a great fit in the band. I think he makes Metallica work harder and think outside the box, honestly. And thank Christ they didn’t go with Twiggy Ramirez. Jason Newsted, the man at the center of the movie, really. He was the earthquake that brought the Metallica Corporation down. Can you blame him for leaving? I can’t. And Torben Ulrich? What an interesting dude he is. He’s like a Tolkien character come to life. His “screaming in the echo chamber” comment makes me laugh every time. The honesty of a parent is undeniable and hilarious, regardless how painful it can be.

Some Kind Of Monster is one of the best documentaries about music I’ve seen. It’s up there with Dig!, Don’t Look Back, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, 30 Century Man, and I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. I’m sure part of that is because I love the band so much. Some people probably hated this movie because of precisely the reason I loved it: it humanized Metallica. Some people don’t want to see their heroes vulnerable, broken, and well, human. For me, seeing Hetfield, Ulrich, and Hammett struggling to figure shit out is exactly what I need to see sometimes. It makes me feel not so bad in my own daily struggles. One of the greatest metal bands of all time nearly fell apart because they couldn’t deal with their emotions, so I think I might be able to get thru this whole “oldest kid going off the college” thing. Also, I love that inside look into the making of music. The scenes in the Presidio, regardless of how uncomfortable they were, were still fascinating. The process of hashing it out together as a band and seeing where things go is something I love. And the HQ sessions were equally engaging. The little moments where a lyric clicks and a melody emerges from spitting words into a mic is just fascinating. Hetfield stumbling onto “Some Kind Of Monster” while trying to figure out what the song is about, I love it.

There are so many little bits in this that keep bringing me back to it.

So St. Anger may be your least favorite Metallica album, and there may not be anything I can say to change your mind. That’s perfectly acceptable. For me its a therapeutic thing that happens every year. I will watch Some Kind Of Monster, extras and all, then I go into a St. Anger death spiral that lasts for a couple days and then it gets shelved for another year. Lars said it best, that they wanted to prove that you could make an angry album out of positive energy(I’m paraphrasing here.) I think the creative process started in a very negative energy space, but by the end that energy had gone 180 degrees in the positive. There’s nothing more therapeutic than cranking up a record full blast and letting massive amounts of pent up rage come down on you. It’s like a dip in a hot spring, or surfing waves of hot lava while shooting devil horns to the world. There’s nothing like it.

St. Anger and Some Kind Of Monster are some massive waves of hot lava, baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “My Lifestyle Determines My Deathstyle

    1. I’m not a fan of 90s Metallica…at all. So St Anger was a much needed change to my ears. Definitely middle of the road, but they get an A for effort in my book. There’s enough there for me to still listen to it 15 years on.

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      1. That’s how I feel about it. I wasn’t totally convinced but it was a welcome change. Not a fan of the Load/Reload era. It’s probably the album I’ve enjoyed the most since the S/T. Has its moments for sure. And I love the movie!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve never minded St Anger, I just think apart from the singles the songwriting isn’t up to very much. It was the stepping stone to get back where they belonged, I really like Death Magnetic.

    I could never bring myself to watch the film, I felt like it would be watching an autopsy.

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  2. This is a great post. I really like St Anger; haven’t thought through where it would fit on a subjective list of my favorites from the band, but the objective truth is that it is probably my second “most played” of their albums after Master of Puppets. I really get pulled into its angry, relentless riff ruts when the mood is right. My Metallica-loving son hates the album and I have not yet found the right button to push to make him “understand” its graces.

    (Note: At risk of undermining fellow-travelership however, I feel I must add the disclaimer that I do not hate Lulu either.)

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    1. The first four tracks on St Anger are chugging relentless bliss. Great stuff. This is Metallica’s “dirge” album. Low down stuff.

      Your son may never like this record. It’s one of those albums that it either hits you or it doesn’t. i liked it from the get-go(thanks to my brother for lending me his copy after it came out.) As far as Lulu, I have never listened to it. Maybe I should correct that.

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  3. As someone who only really delved into Metallica’s catalogue a few years back, I wasn’t much taken by St. Anger. A few songs I liked, but I think maybe it was too relentless and, well, that snare didn’t make it easy! I’ll need to revisit it, of course.

    Some Kind Of Monster is on Netflix and even if I watched that a million times, I’d still have it on my list to watch.

    And I like Lars. He seems like a genuine guy… a passionate guy. Have you seen Mission To Lars?

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    1. St Anger is the outlier in their catalog. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking it’s shite. I love it just on a very personal level, which is directly connected to the documentary.

      I’m right there with you with the film. I have to watch it at least once a year. Lars is Lars, that’s why I like the guy. I haven’t seen Mission To Lars. What is it? I’m intrigued!

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      1. Mission To Lars is pretty much about a family’s attempts to arrange for their Metallica mad brother to meet Lars. The more important details being that it’s made complicated by their brother having Fragile X syndrome. It’s pretty great.

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  4. Hello,

    Found your site searching for Metallica topics. I haven’t poked around your world very much but so far I think I have found a brother from another mother. With your permission, I would like to become a follower.

    I got Anger when I was serving in Iraq in the summer on 03. I was so disconnected from civilization that I was shocked when I got it in the mail from my brother.I had no idea they were recording let alone close to producing a album. I listened to it daily for four months and just absolutely fell in love with it. It spoke to me on levels that Metallica hadn’t spoken to me since the Master/Justice/Lightning days. When I came back, I read on the internet all the negative comments I was surprised. I didn’t get it then and don’t now either. Invisible Kid, Sweet Amber, Dirty Window, Purify, Shoot me Again. They are all great, I love to listen to it today. It is a solid, in your face album that never lets you relax. It is dark, complex, and emotionally deeper than anything they have done since. Although “The Day That Never Comes” was in instant classic.

    I first saw the Monster doc in 06 or 07 (I have no idea when it was released) because I was still deploying “over there” and someone sent it to me. Again, when I saw it, I identified with it all because that was where I was as a human. I was in a bad place and I had to stop the movie several times I needed to have a emotional moment. I haven’t watched it since, because it was so overwhelmingly emotional for me and I have no desire to re-live that period of my life or theirs. Once was enough.

    Anyway, I still think Anger is a top 3 album for me personally. Maybe top 2 depending on where I want to rank Master or Justice. Ride the Lightning is my number one. Throwing up the horns to you and everyone on your side of the internet.

    rob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there! You are more than welcomed here. Glad you found my place!

      I just became a father for the second time when St Anger came out. Strange as it sounds the aggression in that album was strangely calming to me. Drives into town for diapers or carry out because my wife and I were too tired to cook were soundtracked by that album. It centered me, as weird as it seems.

      Glad you found your way here.

      J

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