Lars Ulrich's Snare Sound on St. Anger is the Best Thing About the Album

Vistalite Black

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It's an atrocious album. The problem is chiefly terrible lyrics ("I'm madly in anger with you") and chasing trends -- like the call-and-response lyrics. I think the sound of the guitars is pummeling and the tightly-wound "snare" fits well.

Anyone Lars Ulrich and Bob Rock both have thoughts in this article from Stereogum:


Seventeen years after its release, the drum sound on the Metallica album St. Anger remains a fun point of contention. Metallica spent years recording St. Anger, and vast piles of money went into the album’s creation. As captured in the documentary Some Kind Of Monster, Metallica put themselves through group therapy to make the album. They delayed its recording so that James Hetfield could go to rehab. They made it without a regular bassist, as Jason Newsted had recently left the band. (Producer Bob Rock filled in.) And they came out with a tinny, ugly, grooveless album with lyrics about “my lifestyle determines my deathstyle” and drums that sound like a can of soup falling onto a trash-barrel lid.

Over the years since St. Anger, the members of Metallica have been alternately contrite and defensive about the album. For reasons that might have something to do with quarantine-based boredom, we’re going through all that again. As Loudwire reports, Bob Rock made an appearance on the podcast Tone Talk earlier this month and told the story of how that drums sound came to be. While defending the sound, Rock pointed the finger at Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich:

[Ulrich] set up the drums in the rehearsal room, we were on our way, and Lars just kept staring at the drum. Finally, he sat behind and said, “Just give me a snare drum.” I had bought a Plexi Ludwig snare because I wanted to try it, and he put it on the drum kit, and he said, “That’s the sound.”…
He just would not go back. I’m not blaming him. Basically, if you can wrap around a concept, this was the sound of the drums when they were rehearsing the album, it’s basically the closest to them being in that clubhouse. And no matter what everybody says, it kept the band together, and that inspired them to go on…
So I’m okay with all the flak I’ve taken. It’s a fucking snare-drum sound, give it a break.
Blabbermouth reports that Ulrich is also talking about the St. Anger snare sound once again. In a SiriusXM interview yesterday, Ulrich said, “I stand behind it a hundred percent, because at that moment, that was the truth.” He went on to tell the story of how he arrived at it:

I hear St. Anger. That’s a pummeling and a half, and there’s a lot of incredible, raw energy. It’s, like whoa! It’s been slapped around a little bit. But the snare thing, it was like a super-impulsive, momentary…
We were working on a riff. [James] Hetfield was playing a riff in the control room, and I ran up. I was like, “I need to put a beat behind that.” I ran into the tracking room and sat down and played a couple of beats over this riff to not lose the energy of the moment, and I forgot to turn the snare on. And then we were listening back to it, and I was like, “Wow! That sound kind of fits that riff, and it sounds weirdly odd and kind of cool.” And then I just kind of left the snare off for the rest of the sessions, more or less.
Then it was, like, “Yeah, that’s cool. That’s different. That’ll fuck some people up. That sounds like that’s part of the pummeling,” or whatever. And then it becomes this huge, debated thing. And sometimes we’ll sit on the sidelines and go, like, “Holy sheeet! We didn’t see that one coming,” in terms of the issue that it turns into.
It sounds like the St. Anger drum sound still makes Lars Ulrich happy. Given that none of us has ever played drums for Metallica, maybe we should just let this one go.
 

Drm1979

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I much prefer this version. This is 2 guys one on vocals and one who plays the guitar, bass, and drum parts. They re-recorded the entire album and even though the lyrics are still the same cringey one from the original with the right production behind the instruments it is a much more listenable record. If you look up st. Anger re-recoded on your tube you can find the whole album.

 

Houndog

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I like how you suggest we cut Lars slack on this being as how we aren’t him , yet you slam all kinds of things .

Well done ..
 

Tornado

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The snare is pretty wild for my tastes, but most of the extreme hate I've see comes from people who've never actually heard a real snare drum without any muffling. With the full band playing, it's pretty decent on some tracks.
 

equipmentdork

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St Anger was the last Metallica album I bought. I spun it a few times. I fell out with the album quickly. The snare sound, while excessive, never bothered me to the point it did others, and I'll admit that I let the haters sour my own opinion of the record.

Metallica's lyrics have featured an occasional astute observation, but at no point have they ever been in a situation to put either Joni Mitchell or Elvis Costello out of a job, and I'm not certain that is their goal in any event.

I'm not sure why I haven't had an interest in anything since. I think I was tired of there always being something weird with their sound quality(Jason Newsted mixed almost completely out of Justice, this snare thing). When Cliff was alive, their albums sounded pretty good to me. I guess the Black album did, as well. My impression is that if Lars were the sole producer, he'd mix out the rest of the band. It baffles me that he's made records for 40 years and seems to have almost zero ability to discern.


Dan
 

dsop

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I never understood the allure of that band. I recall hearing their first record and thinking "WTF? Is this a joke?"
 

Tornado

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I never understood the allure of that band. I recall hearing their first record and thinking "WTF? Is this a joke?"
If you were young enough and angsty enough back then, the first listen changed your world.

Music made for 1980s teen and preteen boys, essentially.
 

Beefsurgeon

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I think this album is something of a beautiful trainwreck. I can't take it seriously at all, but I somehow enjoy hearing a few tracks from time to time.

I thought this quote from Bob Rock was interesting:

I had bought a Plexi Ludwig snare because I wanted to try it, and he put it on the drum kit, and he said, “That’s the sound.”…

Is he saying that this is a Vistalite (plexiglass) snare?
 

dsop

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If you were young enough and angsty enough back then, the first listen changed your world.

Music made for 1980s teen and preteen boys, essentially.
Fair enough, but it seemed to me that there was much better music being released by others at the time that would scratch that itch much more effectively.
 
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SpinaDude

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I always liked Lars sound on Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. Punchy, with just the right amount of dirty for my tastes. pretty much everything else they've done, I haven;t been a fan of his sounds. At least they are willing to try new things and allow the emotion of them moment in the creation of the music dictate the sound. I have to give them credit for that.

I've tried St. Anger a couple of times, and again when these articles started up last week. I just couldn't do it. Part of it was his sound, but it fit the mood of the music well enough, so it didn't bother me. Now if he'd used that on Creeping Death...we would have had an issue, the little dude and I.
 

Phantomlimb777

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This is the first time you’ve made me click on one of these, congrats.
 

Nacci

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This is the second time I can remember that a Ludwig Vistalite snare played prominently in a story. Didn’t Keltner tell a story about not being able to dial in an engraved Black Beauty so took it to a famous drum shop and traded it for a clear Vistalite?

Who the hell is still listening to Metallica by the time St.Anger came out?
 

Vistalite Black

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St Anger was the last Metallica album I bought. I spun it a few times. I fell out with the album quickly. The snare sound, while excessive, never bothered me to the point it did others, and I'll admit that I let the haters sour my own opinion of the record.

Metallica's lyrics have featured an occasional astute observation, but at no point have they ever been in a situation to put either Joni Mitchell or Elvis Costello out of a job, and I'm not certain that is their goal in any event.

I'm not sure why I haven't had an interest in anything since. I think I was tired of there always being something weird with their sound quality(Jason Newsted mixed almost completely out of Justice, this snare thing). When Cliff was alive, their albums sounded pretty good to me. I guess the Black album did, as well. My impression is that if Lars were the sole producer, he'd mix out the rest of the band. It baffles me that he's made records for 40 years and seems to have almost zero ability to discern.


Dan
I'm pretty sure neither Elvis Costello nor Joni Mitchell have written songs as great as The Thing That Should Not Be and Orion.
 

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