The trials and tribulations leading up to St. Anger are well documented. The fissures in what the band members themselves describe as the well-oiled "Metallica machine" were beginning to show; Bassist Jason Newsted's nebulous exit from the group. James Hetfield's voluntary sojourn into rehab and much-longed-for sobriety. Public squabbles over the illegal downloading quagmire. All of these issues revealed the kind of seismic fault-lines that even the Metallica jauggernaut could not navigate - could not negotiate away.
At stake? Nothing less than the very existence of the band itself. Metallica's three principals, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett, along with their frequent producer/collaborator Bob Rock, found themselves at the kind of crossroads worthy of the themes in many a Metallica song. The kind of foreboding scenario Ulrich and Hetfield could write in their sleep.
The irony was, if this was Metallica's oft-predicted meltdown, each member would have to face it in his own way. And from the inside out this time, without the Metallica heat-shield to fend off all the bullshit that tends to calcify when you're a member of the most exclusive rock club in the world for twenty-odd years. With James on an indefinite hiatus, the group admitted to becoming professional speculators' themselves as to whether Metallica was headed for a rebirth, or withering away on life-support.
"It has been a very interesting three years," Lars Ulrich begins with atypical understatement. "A very different three years for us. Difficult. Awkward. It's been a ride that's taken us to places inside ourselves, inside the band, inside the potential of human beings and the music and everything else that we could not imagine existed. But if you asked me then, I would say for the first time in my life with Metallica, I was starting to prepare myself that maybe the ride was over."
If it sounds like the tenets of a Herculean struggle, who else but Metallica to apply for the job. The result of the ride' Lars refers to can indeed be found in the sweat and blood and grooves of St. Anger. From the album's crushing title song and its burnished heaps of magnified guitar and drums, to the colossal time and tempo changes of "Frantic," to the chugging slabs and staccato exchanges of the exalting confessional "My World," Metallica has once again, in the boldest strokes imaginable, made music its most viable currency.
The three bandmembers, who gingerly refer to themselves as brothers - and mean it - emerged from the other side of their journey with their musical compass intact. St. Anger is an album that invariably will draw comparisons to their best work, to Metallica's halcyon days, most notably their classic 1983 opus Kill Em All, and 1986's Master Of Puppets. Monumental in scope, the new album also recalls - by its sheer willfulness - the group's 15 million selling masterpiece known as the Black Album. But this is clearly a work that couldn't have been made twenty years ago. Not even a decade ago, though it fits the Metallica canon like a glove.
According to producer Rock (the Black album was his first collaboration with Metallica) St. Anger completes the circular creative cycle that only the greatest artists are able to sustain. "It's been my experience that only the big artists know how to achieve a goal in their career, like Metallica did with the Black album. Fewer still could have gone through what they experienced with all their personal journeys, throw away the rulebook and try and capture the soul and truth of Metallica again. I think the real vision was to almost take them back to where they were first getting together when three or four guys get together and say: this is the kind of music we like, let's write some songs.'"
For James, whose own personal quest may have been the tipping point for Metallica's inspirational sea change, the album was an important step in their evolution not just as bandmembers, but also as friends. "The early days of Metallica were about brotherhood, just survival mode, relying on each other and stuff. As the machine got bigger, you tend to forget about the friendship part and start worrying about where the machine is going. You get a little more protective, a little more isolated. Certain factors ignited the need to look inward again and just get to be friends. Now we're stronger than ever because we know what we're doing and we have experience on our side too."
Part of the familial equation the group had to deal with was the departure of Newsted and the search for a new bassist. Enter Rob Trujillo. A former member of Suicidal Tendencies and one of the masterminds behind the 90's cult band Infectious Grooves, the accomplished bassist has also played with none other than Ozzy Osbourne.
All three bandmembers immediately hit it off with the respected Trujillo, and the hole in Metallica's musical armor was filled. Trujillo came aboard too late to appear on St. Anger. The band members did not seem to be in any rush to hire a bass player. Bob Rock, in addition to being the co-producer and co-songwriter on St. Anger, was considered the 4th member of the band. Bob even filled in (quite masterfully) at a few live events with the guys. But, as Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett says, Trujillo's chemistry with the band is undeniable. "From the first rehearsal Rob was just mind blowing, because he had such a huge sound and he pulled with his fingers which is very reminiscent of Cliff Burton and we really liked that sound. He delivered on all fronts. He had a big sound and on top of that he's really a great, solid guy." Adds James: "He pounds. The power that comes through his fingers. He's a ball of energy and he's so calm and able and balanced. He's got great stuff to offer but his personality is just right. He's on fire, he's ready, he's plugged right into the strength of Metallica and helping it shine."
Another aspect of Metallica's rejuvenated approach on this album was for Hammett to join in on the lyric writing, territory previously exclusive to only James and Lars. "At first I was like I don't want anything to do with this, this is James' job. But Bob was very adamant. I looked at James and I said Well, how do I do this?' James said stream of consciousness.' I would scribble down some lines and James would single out the good ones. It was a great experience and I think it's all in line with the theme of the album, if there is an underlying theme, which is just being true to yourself and how important that is to the overall picture."
Which leads to what is sure to be another topic of discussion among Metallica-watchers when pouring over the epic arrangements and knife-edged nuances of St. Anger. For a band that is in the throes of introspection, and in a larger sense, collective healing, they sure have laid down some motherfucking aggressive music. For hardcore fans who patiently waded through their all-covers release, 1998s Garage Inc., a spry homage to the songs that shaped their early career, and the symphonic wanderlust of S&M, a stirring experiment that showcased Metallica with noted producer/writer/arranger Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony, St. Anger is a thirst-quencher. But one that offers nothing but fire this time around.
Lars says there was no conscious effort to make this album louder or longer. "I think the great thing about Metallica is that we can pretty much chart where we want to chart. Playing other people's material (like on Garage Inc.) was something we talked about for years. It was the music the band was basically founded on. With the Symphony stuff we got a call from Michael Kamen who wanted to do it and the band was excited by the challenge - something Metallica has always embraced. "But now that we are back playing the stuff that people think is the purest, it is the most natural, it is the most effortless. The other thing I think we're challenging here is that most people have the perception that in order for things to be really, really, energetic that they can only come from negative energy. Metallica was fueled by negative energy for twenty years. Now we've spent a lot of times working on ourselves and on our relationships and we've turned that around. Now Metallica is fueled by positive energy that has manifested itself so it sounds like the album we've made."
Case in point: "Some Kind Of Monster," with its bristling, time-bomb refrain, and yet, underneath, a hint of affirmation: this is the voice of silence no more.' You begin to understand the complex dynamics required for a world-renowned construct like Metallica to be even able to conceive of an intensely personal triumph like St. Anger. For James, the process obviously begins in a much quieter place than a recording studio. "It comes from us realizing the world doesn't revolve around Metallica. For me it began with my name is James Hetfield.' St. Anger means to me that now that we've found our serenity we're capable of making this monster of an album going full-throttle all the time. Anger is an energy. It's a feeling. It's gotten a bad reputation but it's what you do with it after that gives it its reputation. I could squeeze out sideways with rage and stuff the shit down, yet it can be such a source of strength. Metallica has always been about invading places where we don't belong. We just took down the barbed-wire, that's all."
Metallica Bio from Discogs
metallica formed in 1981 by vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. The duo first met through an ad in a Los Angeles-based music newspaper. At the time, Ulrich had little musical experience and no band but managed to secure a slot on an upcoming compilation record called “Metal Massacre”. Metallica’s contribution, “Hit The Lights”, featured Hetfield, Ulrich and lead guitarist Lloyd Grant. Afterwards, Ron McGovney became the band's bassist and Dave Mustaine joined the band as lead guitarist. This line-up would re-record "Hit The Lights" for subsequent re-pressings of "Metal Massacre" and would also issue several demos. In 1983, McGovney quit the group and was replaced by Cliff Burton, which also saw the band relocate to San Francisco. Metallica then traveled to New York after signing a deal with Megaforce Records. However, once in New York, the band fired Mustaine. It would mark the beginning of a long feud between Mustaine and Metallica, mostly fueled by remarks Mustaine would make to the press. Mustaine was replaced by Kirk Hammett of Exodus (6).
Metallica's debut LP, "Kill 'Em All", was released in 1983. It was followed in 1984 by "Ride The Lightning". This led to a major label deal with Elektra. In 1986, the band released "Master Of Puppets", which is considered by many to be one of the greatest heavy metal records of all time. In September of that year, while on tour in Sweden, the band was involved in a bus accident which took the life of Cliff Burton. Eventually, Jason Newsted (of Flotsam And Jetsam) was hired as the band's new bassist and he made his debut on 1987's "Garage Days Re-Revisited", an EP of cover tunes.
In 1990, Metallica hooked up with producer Bob Rock for a self-titled release that would become better known as "The Black Album", due to its cover art. Released in 1991, the black album would become one of the best-selling rock albums of all time, selling over 16 million copies in the US alone.
In 1996, the band experimented with Rock music style Alternative Rock, this could be heard on the album "Load". The following year, "Reload" appeared which had the similiar formula as ''Load''. The albums continued the band’s trend of more accessible music. In 1999, the group released an album and accompanying film called "S&M", which featured Metallica performing their songs with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
In 2001, as the band was preparing to begin work on a new album, Newsted quit the group, citing personal and musical reasons. Work on the new album was further complicated when Hetfield entered rehab for alcohol abuse. The album, called "St. Anger", was eventually completed in 2003 with producer Bob Rock handling the bass. Upon its release, "St. Anger" drew mostly negative reviews. Following the recording, Robert Trujillo, formerly of Suicidal Tendencies, was hired as bassist. The making of the album was captured in the documentary “Some Kind Of Monster”.
In 2008, "Death Magnetic", produced by Rick Rubin, would surface and was hailed by many as Metallica's return to thrash metal. The following year, Metallica was inducted into Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Former bassist Jason Newsted was present and Cliff Burton's father appeared on Cliff's behalf. Dave Mustaine, wh .... Click here to read the full bio on DISCOGS.