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Aggressive Start for Metallica's 'Anger'

With two fewer selling days than most releases have when they hit the charts, rock stalwart Metallica manages an opening-week sum larger than that which greeted its last album in 1999.

The band’s new St. Anger thus leads the Billboard 200 for the week ended June 8, marking the fourth straight week – and the seventh time in the past 11 – that a rock album has topped the chart.

The shorter selling window came as a result of the decision by the band’s U.S. label Elektra and distributor WEA to shift the album’s release date from June 10 to an off-cycle Thursday bow on June 5. That move mirrored the accelerated release that Interscope/Universal staged earlier this year for 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which has not only been the best-selling title of 2003 (4.9 million thus far) but also owns the year’s biggest opening frame (872,000 copies).

The day before St. Anger went on sale, its label and distributor predicted the title might start in the range of 250,000-350,000, but it sold even more: 418,000 copies. That beats the 300,000 units that greeted Metallica’s symphonic S&M in November 1999 and is on par with the openers of its 1997 and 1998 releases.

Reload, the last Metallica set to reach No. 1, arrived with a sum of 435,500 in 1997. The following year, the band’s Garage Inc. opened at No. 2 with 426,500.

The Metallica shift cost Elektra’s sister label Atlantic a shot at a second straight week at No. 1, because Jewel’s new 0304 is the only other album on the Billboard 200 to surpass 100,000 copies. Last week’s champ, Led Zeppelin, remains in the top 10 (No. 9, down 51%).

At 143,500 copies, Jewel’s opening week is well shy of the 368,000-unit start that placed Spirit at No. 3 in 1998 but 2.4% greater than the first-week sum that placed her previous album, This Way, at No. 9. Jewel’s No. 2 notch is also a career-high Billboard 200 rank for the singer/songwriter.

The top 10 also sports a best-ever Nielsen SoundScan week for Train and a new high for country band Lonestar. The former rolls in with 87,000, 6% more than its sophomore album rang in 2001, when it also entered at No. 6. Lonestar’s hits set begins at No. 7 with 86,000, which is down from the 112,000-unit opener of its 2001 release I’m Already There but two rungs higher than that album’s peak. This is also the group’s second straight No. 1 on Top Country Albums.

This is also a big chart week for Gillian Welch, a performer/songwriter who has long been a favorite of critics and fellow musicians.

Her independently distributed Soul Journey enters the Billboard 200 at No. 107, beating the No. 157 crest seen two years ago by Time (The Revelator). The new album’s 10,000-unit start also beats her previous best SoundScan week, set when Time sold 9,000.

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