Metallica is one of my favorite bands. I can say with 100% certainty that Black Sabbath is my absolute favorite #1 band and this will never ever change, but I cannot for the life of me decide my other favorite bands in my personal top 5 or top 10. Metallica is probably #2 because that's the only band other than Black Sabbath that I ever fully collected for in terms of studio albums, live albums, and DVDs. I have listened to every Metallica album obsessively to death. It's funny because in a recent interview Black Sabbath guitarist, Tony Iommi, mentioned Metallica as a band that was most similar to them, based on the idea that individually the band members are very flawed but they come together to create this unique signature sound. Like Black Sabbath, Metallica too have never been musically consistent as they have gone through a jarring metamorphosis over the past three decades.
The weird thing about Metallica is that I enjoyed them a lot more back in the day than I do right now. My musical taste and knowledge was still in infancy and Metallica was the most talked about band at my school, where everyone was very into The Black Album and Master of Puppets. Looking back on it all, I think all of the albums offered something special, but out of their entire discography there are two albums that I will forever love, albums that I cannot live without. They are ...And Justice for All and St.Anger.
My friend said it best when he said that those two albums are just so very alike, in that they are both anomalies in the Metallica discography. According to him, these are albums that could only have been made in a particular point in time, influenced by the collective mindset that the band had during making of them. Both albums are a reflection of a distinct emotional state and special circumstances, so much so that neither of these albums could be replicated by any other band, and not even Metallica can produce another album akin to either of them.
Musically both albums are raw, progressive, and heavier than your average Metallica album. They both exhibit a lot of raw anger, frustration, and emotional pain on part of the band. I love these albums solely for the reason that they carry an air of truth, as you can really sense that the band performed the songs like they really truly meant it.
...And Justice for All is easily the best the band has ever put out, the progressive and dark nature of the music really stands out here. Thematically the album showcases the band's frustration with the world, and all the wars, politics, and social norms. It also delves into the pains of accepting the flaws of reality. It touches on death too, in particular the song To Live is to Die, a progressive and moving instrumental written in tribute for the late Cliff Burton, and you can almost sense the guitar solos mourning in that track. The entire album is musically very ambitious, progressive, and experimental. It has more emphasis on extended jams and tempo changes, with guitars carrying a lot of emotional angst.
St.Anger is the infamous proverbial black sheep anomaly of the Metallica catalog. Even to this day I cannot even come close to fathom why this album is so looked down upon by the fanbase, I just cannot objectively understand just how this album is viewed as bad. If anything, their most recent album, Death Magnetic, to me is the weakest album that the band has ever recorded. St.Anger oozes with sheer passion and intensity. There is so much honest rage and aggression in the music here, perhaps the most honest album that the band has ever put together. James Hetfield in particular puts on his most sincere and meaningful vocal performance ever, with some truly jaw-dropping vocal melodies. Lyrically and thematically the songs delve into the darkest depths of human pain and anguish, making sense of the experience of chronic depression, disdain with life and the world, and a lot of emotional intangibles that many can relate to but never fully articulate. This album is anger aurally incarnate, and musically it feels like the band is pouring out a lot of pent up rage and frustration, creating this unique and relentlessly aggressive sound. I love this album, one that I enjoy listening to even after all these years, in fact I've actually grown to enjoy its intricacies a lot more now. Songs like The Unnamed Feeling and Some Kind of Monster are some of the best the band has ever recorded.
Fans who like to make fun of St.Anger and instantly dismiss it...it really sucks to be them.