While it occurred during the course of several years, it seems as if Metallica lost its might, aura, and credibility overnight.

While it occurred during the course of several years, it seems as if Metallica lost its might, aura, and credibility overnight. That's partly because with each new album, the band makes it harder for us to recall when it was the most creative, venomous metal act on the planet. Sadly, St. Anger (the No. 1 album on The Billboard 200 this issue) at one point finds the once-supremely-cool James Hetfield delivering wince-worthy, post-Layne Staley vocals more appropriate for the 14-year-old fan who attended an . . . And Justice for All concert rather than that tour's über-ferocious master of ceremonies. Too-often accidentally comical, St. Anger (rushed to retail five days early, see story, page 7) is a throwaway that finds these onetime pioneers sounding old and sorely in need of a new direction.—WO

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