Metallica - Load

Metallica – Load

84 / 100

Metallica’s complete removal from what made them legends was total and complete, ‘Load’ abandoned everything the band stood for.

Written by: Dangerzone

ARTIST: Metallica
LABEL: Elektra
SERIAL: 61923-2
YEAR: 1996
CD REISSUE: Reissue List

LINEUP: James Hetfield – vocals, guitar * Kirk Hammett – guitar * Jason Newsted – bass * Lars Ulrich – drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Ain’t My Bitch * 02 2 X 4 * 03 The House Jack Built * 04 Until It Sleeps * 05 King Nothing * 06 Hero Of The Day * 07 Bleeding Me * 08 Cure * 09 Poor Twisted Me * 10 Wasting My Hate * 11 Mama Said * 12 Thorn Within * 13 Ronnie * 14 The Outlaw Torn



Following the mammoth success of 1991’s ‘Black’ album and the never-ending tour which followed it, Metallica took their time constructing their next album. The mid 90’s were a desolate time for heavy metal, something Metallica themselves were exempt from, clearly the standard bearers for the weakened genre.

The question on everyone’s minds is what direction the band would take with their next album. They’d shunned their thrash origins with the self-titled album and influenced almost every other notable thrash band to do the same. This was a major bone of contention for metal fans (myself included) and hopes were high they’d return to a sense of normality.

This was still in a day and age when preview tracks weren’t generally forthcoming, the same with artwork, lyrics.. anything. In fact up until the day ‘Load’ was released, I barely recall having heard anything off it, this being before the internet was rampant of course.

Still reeling from major disappointments from the likes of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Anthrax, etc. in past years, I was resigned to another one and in all honesty I wasn’t let down.

Metallica’s complete removal from what made them legends was total and complete. ‘Load’ abandoned everything the band stood for, right down to their image, with the band preening in avant-garde fashions, complete with Goth makeup and horrendous clothing. For my 20 year old mind it was too much to take and although I immersed myself in the album, it was yet another sellout.

The Songs

Listening to this 21 years later, my thoughts of the album haven’t changed much. I still find the half-baked hard rock sound tedious, with too many tracks, most of them overlong. It’s not as if the band were old men either, still in their early thirties. But clearly they wanted to branch out and distance themselves from the past, especially Ulrich and Hammett.

‘Ain’t My Bitch’ – There’s no denying the crunch of the opening track, with its fair share of huge riffs and bludgeon, yet sounding nothing like anything the band had done before. The tone is mainstream hard rock, which permeates the whole album. A lost gem overall however.

‘2×4’ – Somehow the band had lapsed into a type of country infused hard rock, almost sludge like. This track is a good demonstration of this, featuring some rather dour melody lines which certainly date this in the mid 90’s.

‘The House that Jack Built’ – One of the singles released from the album and well-remembered, with a grindingly slow feel, chugging along in a more traditional Metallica fashion with a well-crafted hook. It lacks a devastating punch though, a problem systematic of the album as a whole.

‘Until It Sleeps’ – This was the lead single and a good indication as to the album’s sound and tone. Still a mainstay in their setlist to this day, it’s atmospheric in its own way, acceptable melodic hard rock which has aged surprisingly well.

‘King Nothing’ – Another piece of mid-tempo metal, bolstered by an instantly unforgettable hook and some solid guitar work. This emerged as one of the albums highlights, but in the decades since seems to have faded away.

‘Hero Of The Day’ – This was also a single and was another departure for the band. The tone is almost happy and upbeat in the pre-chorus sections, before revolving back to familiar savage Metallica territory in the chorus. It’s a strange song and certainly left me bemused at the time.

‘Bleeding Me’ – A lengthy eight minute track and where the album starts becoming an exercise in frustration. Extremely slow and laborious in the build up to the chorus, which I admit is worth the wait. It’s too long however and could have been cut in half, despite the obvious grit and emotion of the music and vocals.

‘Cure’ – Upon rediscovering this album I had no recollection of this song at all. There’s a valid reason- the track is flat melodically, not heavy by any means and a total misfire. There’s nothing unique about ‘Cure’ and it could have easily been left off the album. This is one of the weakest tracks of the bands career.

Poor Twisted Me’ – Here the band takes their blues/country rock fetish to new heights and in the process alienating probably 90 percent of their fan base. The loudspeaker sound effect is pure 90’s and once again the track drags, with little in the way of memorable riffs or melody. I understand the band wanted to branch out and discover new sounds, but this was probably pushing it too far.

‘Wasting My Hate’ – A more classic sounding track which could have fit on the 1991 album, with the right amount of punch in the riffs, delivering blow after blow. It sounds like you’d expect Metallica to, just minus the speed.

‘Mama Said’ – This acoustic led country ballad is another change of pace for the band and something that left me stone faced and bitter in 1996. The metal world was crying out for a true thrash album from Metallica and to be presented this was almost insulting. Even now I have a hard time digesting it, even if it’s not a bad song by any means.

‘Thorn Within’ – More of the same stagnant hard rock, with repetitive riffs and vocal lines. This is where the album becomes a chore to sit endure.

‘Ronnie’ – I wonder if the band would even acknowledge this song exists these days. Yet more heavy country and tepid beyond belief. Some may take exception, but it’s boring, even more so than much of the recent ‘Hardwired’ album, which at least was metal.

‘The Outlaw Torn’ – The band saves this 10 minute epic for last and if you haven’t fallen asleep yet, this should do the trick. Again it’s not a bad song, but unnecessarily long, droning on in its one dimensional pace, which is slower than anything before it. There’s a selection of Hammett solos and feedback taking up several minutes, which render this an exercise in excess.

In Summary

As expected the album shifted millions upon release and confirmed the band as the biggest metal act on earth. But opinions were divided and for many it was the ultimate sellout. Just seeing the band with their hair cut short and wearing eyeliner was bad enough. Years later Hetfield came out and was critical of everything surrounding the album, even the mangling of the Metallica logo. It’s hard to blame him and I’m sure Jason Newsted had no say, being the hired gun.

The album itself could easily have been ten tracks and would have seemed more cohesive. 1997’s ‘Reload’ was equally as uninspired and it would take six more years until ‘St. Anger.’ Is ‘Load’ truly terrible? Not at all. But for Metallica it should have been much better, given the length of time it took to record. You can understand why Pantera were so popular at the time, providing an alternative to what Metallica were offering. Someone had to stick to the basic ideals of heavy metal. Metallica didn’t and is exactly why ‘Load’ suffers its lowly reputation to this day.


Entire Album (Select Tracks)

Ain't My B*tch

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