Sound — 7
Now, the album's been out for close to 3 years, so it's had a lot of time to sink in. At first, the album was utterly disappointing, lacking in the kind of material that make metalica an enjoyable band in the past. By now, I'm used to the drum sound, and even welcome it. Just as a side note, the drum sounds on Dream Theater's "Images And Words" album are annoying too, since the snares are triggered, and every snare hit sounds the same, and yet that album is a classic. Once you get used to St. Anger's drum sound, there's not much left to dislike. The lack of guitar solos and polished production may be seen as another point where the album is lacking, and they're mostly right, but there is still enough going on musically with this album to challenge most people. The question should not be whether or not this album needs the "fundamental elements of a metal album" to be good, but rather whether or not this album is an enjoyable listen. For the uninitiated, this album does not deliver. This album is for the Metallica purists. The sound itself is muddy, the bass is inaudible, as usual, and there still needs to be a lot of polishing to make this record sound less like a demo tape. With a little more polishing, this album could have been a great one. Not even the "normal" snare drum sound or some guitar solos are needed to make this a good album. Though a couple of guitar solos would have been nice, since we all know what Kirk's capable of.
Lyrics — 5
This is the album's major failing. While the lyrics are far more personal and introspective than on previous releases, they also show that the band is still struggling to find its own voice. Many of the lines seem rather juvenile, like this is the first time they've ever written lyrics. Of course, a few of the songs have their lyrical moments, like the anthemic verses of "Some Kind Of Monster" and "Invisible Kid", and "The Unnamed Feeling" does have a more haunting vibe to it. James' vocal delivery is as raw and uncut as it gets, where you can actually hear his voice shaking a bit in places. Though his voice is rather harsh most of the time, he does lay down a few gentler passages on songs like "The Unnamed Feeling" and "Invisible Kid". Overall, the lyrics and vocals on this album are the biggest disappointment to me.
Overall Impression — 8
While the album is littered with nu-metal references, it's still undeniably a Metallica album from start to finish. If the band decided to continue on this path, but fix the problems with it, and perhaps bring back Kirk's lead guitar stylings, I would not be disappointed. But as it stands, this album is really more of a fans-only ordeal. Another aspect I'll delve into is the packaging. The album comes in a cardboard-ish digipack, which I found to be quite flimsy, though the packaging is indeed pretty flashy. It's quite clear that they put a lot of work into the packaging, but the materials are low-quality. The included DVD shows the band rehearsing the album in full, and honestly, the album sounds no different from the rehearsals, which can be counted as a plus for the band to play the album live. If this album were stolen, I'd buy another copy after a while once I actually feel like listening to it. It's not a classic album, it's not underrated, but it's also very misunderstood, and should be accepted for what it is as a part of the band's history. It's not a bad album by many standards, but it doesn't quite live up to what many Metallica fans expect.