St. Anger Keeps Spinning Metallica Comedy Gold

Metallica’s controversial-at-best album really is the internet gift that keeps on giving
(Credit: Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

James Hetfield gazes longingly at his computer screen. Sultry piano hangs in the air. “I’m madly in love with you,” Metallica’s frontman types with a faint smile. On the receiving end is Lars Ulrich. He pounds his middle fingers onto his keyboard to reply, “I’m madly in lust with you.”

It’s getting spicy now. James grins as he takes things to third base. He writes Lars, then excitedly jumps on the phone. “Dude, anger works better rhythmically,” he declares before launching into a clearly lip-synched guitar inferno. “I’m madly in anger with yewwwww!”

The scene? An AOL ad in 2003 as part of Metallica’s marketing blitz for St. Anger, their first album of the millennium. Nearly 20 years later, the heavy metal legends’ snare-ra remains their greatest wellspring of accidental (and sometimes intentional) comedy gold. St. Anger Metallica is a clumsy yet relatable high school yearbook that you can’t help but love, especially with senior quotes as priceless as “my lifestyle determines my deathstyle.”

 

 

Metallica was definitely at a crossroads at the making of St. Anger. Come the 2000s, nu metal was all the rage (against the machine), James hit the darkest days of alcoholism, the band got flack for suing Napster, and then-bassist Jason Newsted noped out of the band — truly the perfect time to sick a film crew on the guys.

Some Kind of Monster (a.k.a. The Gang Goes to Therapy) would become the defining record of St. Anger Metallica’s Y2K puberty, the perfect storm of nu metal and midlife crisis malaise for documentary comedy. No episode of The Office can compare to Metallica celebrating “aloha day” with Hawaiian shirts, only for Lars to get pissed he was left out.

Fans continue to share edits and compilations of the doc, including Kirk Hammett ignoring his bandmates to riff as James calls him in Alan Partridge fashion, Lars pacing around a ping-pong table like a petulant child, incoming bass player Robert Trujillo’s uncanny Ozzy Osbourne impression, producer Bob Rock learning there’s no smiling in metaball, therapist Phil Towle basically trying to join the band and even more over-the-top meme fodder.

At one point in the doc, the band jokingly suggests the album title “Floods of Vomit,” which isn’t far off from the album’s mixed reception. St. Anger pans are hilarious all on their own. “Hetfield and Hammett’s guitars underwent more processing than cat food” (Pitchfork). “Every song is eight minutes long when it should be five” (Alternative Press). “‘Raw’ is often just a gentle way of saying ‘badly produced’” (The A.V. Club). You get the idea.

Which brings us to the snare. Oh, the snare. If you want over an hour of a garbage can ringing through your skull, St. Anger is the album for you. Lars’ self-described “abortion of St. Anger is the source of endless parodies today — from a fan edit of “Master of Puppets” to isolated drums on “Frantic” to drummer Frederik Weile full-on covering Metallica classics with St. Anger’s cursed turned-off snare.

 

 

Two decades of ribbing later, Metallica is undeniably self-aware of St. Anger’s legacy. “Everyone’s favorite album, ‘St. Anger,’ was released 19 years ago #OnThisDay in 2003,” they posted last year. “Do we dare ask what your favorite song on the album is?” As James recently joked to The New Yorker, “‘It’ll have its time, maybe.’ He laughed. ‘Maybe not!’”

However, as non-stop jokes readily prove, St. Anger is absolutely having its time online. St. Anger has become shorthand for so-bad-it’s-good, standing by your band even when they falter, the awkward family photo of Metallica’s discography that we can all relate to. “It’s a very odd record, but it’s the truth,” Bob Rock reflected in 2020. “It’s the raw truth about them at that time.”

That’s just why we’re madly in anger with St. Anger some 20 years later. Its imperfect chaos was the catalyst that allowed Metallica to survive. It affirmed that Metallica the idea is bigger than Metallica the band, an impeachable fortress of aggression for respite, headbanging, and shitposting. The guys truly made it from St. Anger Things to Stranger Things, and with another album-world tour combo ahead. If Metallica can survive St. Anger, we can get through today.

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