Sound — 8
When I first heard the lead-off single, "St. Anger", I positively hated it. I thought the production values were terrible. There was nothing I could find in all of Metallica's back catalog to prepare me for this kind of sound. It reminded me of Mushroomhead or Mudvayne and I was so disappointed that Metallica had stooped to ripping off bands that I didn't find compelling at all then I saw "Some Kind Of Monster" and I gave this album another listen. And another... and another. Two months later, I've gotten used to the raw sounds, the unconventional song structures, and well the lack of anything that reminds me of what Metallica sounded like before. The production sounds bizarre, there's no doubt about it, but given the themes at work in the album I don't think it would have sounded as genuine if the music hadn't sounded as raw as the emotions they were working through making the album. If anything, I'm amazed by the clarity of their playing even when their instruments are all grunged out like this. We all know they can make a riff sound compelling with a polished sound but how many artists could make songs this compelling with a sound this rough?
Lyrics — 10
Like others have said these lyrics don't much resemble the lyrics on other Metallica albums. But I think that's a good thing. The depth of these lyrics is deceptive it's taken me a long time to read through them and try to parse together what they mean within the body of the song and the album itself and I've got to say what they've accomplished lyrically is amazing. The lyrics here remind me somewhat of a lot of Bob Dylan's earlier work cloaking complex ideas in deceptively simple lyrics so that it takes many spins to have them filter down. James Hetfield has never done singing this amazing in his life. He growls, he barks, he pleads, he rages, he whispers, he croons he has more range on this album than I've seen in any other vocalist in years. Once again, the vocals have an amazingly raw quality to compliment the themes and music behind them.
Overall Impression — 10
So like I said I hated the new Metallica at first. Now I'm dead certain they've created the first masterpiece of the 00's. So much of their earlier work has been wrapped up in an image that was hard to look past or not work into their music. Sure, "One", "Harvester Of Sorrow" and "Don't Tread On Me" are amazing compositions but what do they fundamentally tell us about the men who wrote that music? Absolutely nothing. Metallica's made most of its career out of tackling issues that allowed them to avoid examining themselves, but that barrier has broken down on this album and I think it's the best album of their career as a result of this. Now every song seems to jump out at me with new ideas and angles of viewing personal angst and the walls that people use to separate themselves from the rest of the world. Once deciphered, "Invisible Kid" reads like a biography that I'm willing to bet any metal musician will find hits uncomfortably close to home. Likewise, "Frantic" and "Shoot Me Again" have the band tackling the most important questions of the human experience: "Why am I here? What is my place in this world? " "St. Anger" is the most honest and direct examination of how aggression has driven a human being and wondering what it's cost them as well. I could go on and on if you've got the patience to work through what is admittedly a very inaccessable album, the rewards are great and may even hit more close to home than you'll realize. If you want another chest-banging shred-fest check out Megadeth's new release. Dave Mustaine seems very comfortable not moving beyond that stage. Kudos to the Gods of Metal for taking huge chances and producing such amazing results.