It's been said that you can't go home again, that it's impossible to truly get back to your roots once you've evolved to another state -- but this two-decade-old thrash juggernaut does its best to prove that adage false on this purposefully abrasive, sometimes downright ugly collection. St. Anger
isn't exactly a return to the sound of, say Ride the Lightning
or Kill 'Em All,
but it is a pretty close approximation of the emotional tone of Metallica's early albums. On St. Anger
's title track -- which, like many of the cuts here, edges close to the eight-minute mark -- James Hetfield revels in apoplectic rage, while he and Kirk Hammett tussle with riffs that stop, start, and stutter rather than bulldoze straight ahead. The doomy "Dirty Window" lurches ahead in a similar manner, cleaving Sabbath-esque minor chords with some straight-outta-the-sepulchre vocals from Hetfield. The disc is swathed in something of an odd mix, with snare drum cutting to the bone of many songs and an unaccustomed layer of grit atop the guitars -- "Frantic" and the slide-laden "Sweet Amber" scrape with a gravelly tone that's seldom cropped up before in the notoriously clean confines of Metallica-land. There's a neo-industrial vibe to "Purify," which ratchets up the tension with a passel of false endings and an alternately funereal and thrashing machine-age rhythm bed. Some of the experimenting doesn't pan out -- notably "Some Kind of Monster," which creeps a little too far into Korn's field -- but overall, St. Anger
packs a lot of meat, and plenty of motion, into its 70-odd minutes of primal screaming.