‘St. Anger’ Is Jimmy Page and Jack White’s Favorite Metallica Album
You won't find many Metallica fans who list 2003's St. Anger among their favorite of the band's albums, and producer Bob Rock understands why — but he also knows of a couple famous rockers who disagree.
"There's two people on the face of the earth that took the time to say how much they like that album," said Rock during his recent appearance on the Talk Is Jericho podcast. Going on to describe a morning when he was eating breakfast at a hotel and found himself a couple of tables away from Jimmy Page, he continued, "I know Jimmy ... He got up and walked over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, 'It's great to see you,' blah blah, 'I love the St. Anger album.'"
Rock's other pat on the back occurred at a screening of the documentary It Might Get Loud, which co-starred Page. "I was at the premiere, and Jack White came over — he says, 'I'm Jack White.' I said, 'I know.' He says, 'That's my favorite Metallica album.' So," laughs Rock, "I'm okay with those two."
Still, Rock points out that he gets the various knocks on the album. "It's a very odd record," he conceded. "But it is — it's the truth. It's the raw truth about them at that time."
That rawness extends to St. Anger's sound, which is owed to a variety of factors, some of which Rock delved into during his Talk Is Jericho appearance. For example, there's the story of how the band arrived at Lars Ulrich's drum sound, which was different by design.
"People comment about the sound, but when we went in, I said to them, 'I can't set up the drums exactly the same way. I can't do that.' It's like, why does metal music have to have this certain sound before it's metal? So I kicked the can a bit in that way. We could talk about this for a long time, but really, the sound of the drums on that, I got the first set that [Ulrich] ever used when they rehearsed in the house in Oakland, when they first got together. I set it up and Lars stared at it, right? For, like, months. And then one day he sat down and played, and it was ringing and it was raw, and he said, 'This is it.'"
Rock also discussed the famous "no solos" edict that punched up the pace of the record at the expense of a huge part of fans' expectations for a Metallica record. As Rock remembers it, "Lars said, 'No guitar solos.' And [James Hetfield] and I are going, 'But ... that's what [Kirk Hammett] does.' So every song, Kirk comes in and plays a solo, and if it doesn't make the song better, we're not using it — and we went through the whole album like that."
Perhaps most crucially, bassist Jason Newsted quit the group prior to the start of the recording sessions, which led to Rock filling in for the record while they looked for a permanent replacement. "The band was falling apart. It wasn't a band for awhile at all," Rock said. "I was part of the process of keeping them alive."
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