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Metallica's work since the Black Album has been mercilessly scrutinised in my opinion, and sometimes this has been rather unfair. Load is certainly a departure from previous albums, but what is wrong with a little change?
It is obvious fairly quickly that the thrash elements of the band's music in the 1980s are not present, but I think that Load is a good album, and Metallica were adventurous in trying something different. The songs are slower and generally shorter than those on, say, Master of Puppets. Load starts off well, its first track having a fast tempo that is a brief reminder of Metallica's older material, and “Until It Sleeps” has a creepy, sinister sound that keeps the listener engaged, and is easily one of the best tracks on the album.
However, by the middle of the album some of the riffs become fairly forgettable and “Bleeding Me” plods on for too long in my view. Generally, the guitar solos on Load are not as distinctive as those of classic Metallica songs such as “Master of Puppets” and “One”, which is a shame because a lot of the tracks on Load have solid riffs that make the songs good on their own, the chorus of “Thorn Within” being an excellent example. James Hetfield is on fine form, with tuneful vocals in a similar vein to those on 1991's Metallica.
Load is quite dark in its tone, and the guitars dropped down by a half step certainly contribute to this. Some of the slowed down songs can be as menacing as the faster, thrashier ones of old, showing that speed isn't necessarily everything to make a decent Metallica song. Clean guitar sounds are sometimes used, for example in “Bleeding Me”, which adds some variety to the music that again makes Load a bit different to other Metallica works, as before Load the vast majority of songs involved heavily distorted guitars with little else. One could even argue that several different musical styles are used on Load: metal is present throughout, but some songs are less heavy and could be regarded as hard rock, and “Mama Said” even sounds like country music, which is practically foreign territory for Metallica based on their back catalogue.
The album improves towards the end, but at fourteen tracks long I feel that Load could be truncated and made even better, while some fans would argue that the best songs on Load and ReLoad could have been stitched together to make one very solid album. I still maintain that most of Load is very good and that it has had a harsh treatment. It's well worth a listen, though it isn't quite the same standard as Metallica's classic thrash in the '80s glory days.
Over the years many have viewed Load as Metallica's start to their so called downfall. Coming off the back of one, if not the biggest selling metal album ever made with their self titled album would never be an easy task, especially when many of Metallica's older fans already claimed they had lost their way when they stopped producing thrash when they teamed up with 80's pop-rock producer Bob Rock to produce said album. If Metallica fans were looking for a more thrash tinged album to compensate for their drop in pace then 'Load' was definitely the album they were fearing the most.
The majority of this 14 track album is as good as any album you will find. Fair enough, so 'Ain't My Bitch' is not quite the classic opening song that 'Fight Fire With Fire' or 'Battery' is and songs like '2X4' and 'Ronnie' may not have the intensity and speed of anything off their first 4 albums but what we have are songs full of heavy, ballsy riffs, melodies and quite a fair bit of experimenting especially on ''The House That Jack Built' with its voice box and vocal effects which give it quite the atmosphere. 'Until it Sleeps' is where a lot of people seemed to have a problem, not with the song itself (the song went on to be a live favourite throughout the 90's) but with the video in which the band is seen wearing make-up, another reason for the fans of the 'thrash' era to dislike the new Metallica style even more. 'King Nothing' is basically 'Enter Sandman' part 2, down to the little reference at the end but again another live favourite even to this day.
Halfway through the album is where things start to get a little bit messy. After the first of 2 epics, 'Bleeding Me' is where the songs start to lose their interest. songs like 'The Cure' and 'Poor Twisted Me' have some nice riffs but that about it, there's nothing too memorable about them and wouldn't be too missed if they were cut from the album altogether. 'Wasting My Hate' is one of the bands unsung greats, nothing too fancy just full of great riffs and attitude. Why they never play this one live often is a mystery to me. 'Mama Said' is another controversial song with the band experimenting with country music which doesn't really surprise me as Hetfield hasn't exactly been quiet about his love for country music. Of course all good things must come to an end and there's no better ending on a Metallica album than 'The Outlaw Torn,' a near 10 minute epic which is not just the best song on the album but one of Metallica's best songs ever written. As with all the songs on the album its worth mentioning how good the individual performances are on 'Load' especially from Lars Ulrich, who more often than not gets criticised for his almost out of time style of drumming which works wonders on this album. James Hetfield's voice is also one of his strongest and really shows his range from singing the more ballad like songs such as 'Hero of the day' to the more ballsy 'Ain't My Bitch' type songs.
In the grand scale of Metallica albums 'Load' has a lot more in common with its predecessor than any of their 'classic' 4 albums ever did so its not quite the giant leap which a lot of people claimed that it is. The production on this album is crisp and sharp, just as 'Metallica' before it was. Everything sounds crystal clear which for the most part is never a bad thing but at times it can come across as a 'safe' sounding album but this is just down to personal preference. 'Load' is a highly recommended album for any rock/metal fan out there, sure it has its unmemorable moments and at times it can seem like its dragging and at one second short of 79 minutes, its not an easy album to digest at first but with a few listens it has definitely become one of my favourite Metallica albums.
Be thankful that Metallica didn't continue writing the same old album over and over and that they had the balls to actually try something new and that the risk has paid off tenfold.
Five years after a repetitive and dull but commercially successful groove metal release in the form of "Metallica", the same band comes around with a headless and boring but once again well selling successor entitled "Load". At least Metallica didn't try to copy the sound of the famous predecessor, but to progress and try out new things. Thrash and groove metal elements are almost completely absent on this album. The band headed for a more blues, hard and southern rock influenced sound. This record also includes the first two Metallica songs that feature no guitar solo at all. To underline its new approach, the band went even further and presented a new and ordinary looking new logo and came around with a controversial cover artwork which consists of a mixture of bovine blood and human semen pressed between two sheets of plexiglass. All these somewhat radical changes speak for some sort of midlife crisis of the band and a desperate try to reinvent themselves after the overwhelming success of the past years. Old school fans were going to hate this album anyway but from the artist's point of view, this brave new direction could have brought some fresh air to the band in a time where relationships between the members already started to decrease. While "Reload" sounded surprisingly liberating, open-minded and structured with its southern rock influenced style, "Load" suffers from an directionless, unimpressive and weak song writing. The album is not only completely overloaded with a running time of seventy-nine minutes but many songs are at least two or three minutes too long and turn out being either endlessly plodding or losing the momentum of the few good ideas present on this release. In fact, there isn't one single track on here that completely pleases me. The better songs on the album have a few creative ideas in form of some atmospheric tones, a few great guitar licks, riffs or solos or some newly introspective lyrics but there isn't one single song without any obvious flaws.
Among the better tracks on the record is first of all the joyous yet mean opening rocker "Ain't My Bitch" that features an energizing rhythm section and a great blues rock inspired guitar solo. On the other side, the track is slightly too long for being a straight opener, the vocal performance sounds humorously exaggerated and the lyrics are quite vapid as well. Five years earlier, this track would have been a bonus track for a single at best and now it's one of the few solid tracks on the entire album. The plodding "The House Jack Built" goes the other way around as the lyrics are quite interesting and the eerie vocal effects build up a particular atmosphere. The overtly experimental instrumental section with talkbox effects is though laughable at best and really pesky at worst. This song also drags on for far too long with its chugging riffs and pseudo-progressive sounds. "Until It Sleeps" was a quite courageous choice as a first single to represent this release as it has nothing to do at all with the band's past and also feels like a foreign body on this album. It's an alternative rock song with an eerie and hypnotizing atmosphere but which fails to truly develop from there. "Mama Said" is a laid back country ballad with acoustic guitars that develops a certain campfire atmosphere. What could have been a truly original track is harmed by an extremely drowsy chorus and annoyingly whiny lyrics.
All other songs are not even worth mentioning because they sound invalidated, plodding and unspectacular. As they are all terrible, it doesn't make sense to point out any of those confusing, overlong and weak oddities. It really strikes me how the band succeeded most of its experiments on the consistent, energizing and entertaining "Reload" while "Load" is its complete antithesis and sounds inconsistent, directionless and plain boring. The songs on here are not as bad as several tracks on the oddball that was "Lulu" but even this horrible project still had two or three entirely decent tracks which isn't the case for this album as it sounds really unimpressive as a whole. Between a record that has a few great tracks and many truly horrible songs and filler compilation that leaves you completely cold, it's actually quite tough to judge what is worse and that's why my final rating of this failure here could have been even lower than it actually is. In the end, I would still slightly prefer this record to "Lulu" but it's a close run. This album was a disappointment when it was initially released back in the days and in comparison to its much better twin album "Reload", this record didn't age well and didn't grow on me at all. I would simply suggest you to just avoid this record at all costs if you're not a diehard collector with too much money to waste.
I have spent many years pretending to hate Metallica, and it is only recently I have realised how awesome they actually are, and that even production problems can't prevent me from enjoying ...And Justice For All or St Anger. They have done not-as-good-as-the-rest songs in the past, but they have always been listenable and provided strong album filler. Unfortunately, Load takes it to the next level and features some indefensibly dreadful compositions. And so many too! Since when does an album need to be 14 songs long?! Let's not give it the courtesy of a long review.
'The House That Jack Built' is the most repulsive Metallica track ever, neither interesting or likeable on first listen. There are no hooks to speak of, neither is there an atmosphere; Metallica sound like they were literally dead during the recording process. The whole composition sounds wrong; it sounds broken. I can feel any sense of hope dying inside when those first few arpeggio chords ring out, and feel sick when the vocals come in. It's definitely the worst Metallica song for me. I can't even listen to it. So the rest of the album kind of looks good in comparison, right? Ehh... You would have to be completely starved of decent music or have no basic music-based education to think songs like 'Bleeding Me' and 'Cure' are in any way good. Sure, they aren't bad - they follow the basic principles of songwriting, but they are so terribly average that it doesn't even feel like Metallica anymore. More a side project with the same members, where the songs aren't written by any of them.
Is there anything excellent on this album? Yes, and it is the worst titled song on the album: 'Ain't My Bitch'. And what exactly makes it the best? It has energy. It's inane and bluesy, but goes quick enough to prevent too much analysis. Which is the problem with the rest of the album: yes, there's some neat blues riffs, but they're killed by slow tempos, under-development and feeling unnatural in the hands of Metallica. '2 X 4' is dumb, and what seems like a 'Man! I Feel Like A Woman' crossover: From 'I'm-a gonna make you, shake you, take you!' I'm forever going to be ready for 'I only wanna have a good time!' to come next. Those verses weirdly fit together. But that is another song with plenty of energy and heart. 'Hero of the Day' is maybe the biggest stylistic departure for the band, listed by Wikipedia as a 'power ballad'. It's quite cute, with soft verses over which Hetfield does his best cuddly but misunderstood lion impression. Sadly, it suffers from a ridiculously unsuitable bridge, which is far too heavy in relation to rest of the song, and due to the production and guitar tone, it sounds very messy. And as much as I once disliked 'Mama Said', it feels like some actual thought went in during composition, and you can feel the emotion during recording. Hetfield sings very well, and makes the song his. In fact, as mentioned above, it sounds and feels like a solo-release by Hetfield.
The rest of the album is take it or leave it. And that isn't really something you can have said about Metallica before this release. The songs do little to inspire, they don't make me want to pick up a guitar and play along, and the lyrics and melodically stunted compositions are nothing to sing or hum along to. If you cut down the goddamn length it wouldn't be so bad! Some of these songs are not material good enough for an album release, and would have made a fairly okay but avoidable EP (like Beyond Magnetic). The length isn't even the worst thing about reviewing the album... it's the general 'meh'-ness of the music. All of this is only made worse by the disappointment of realizing that 'Fuel' isn't on this album, when I always thought it was. Some people recommend this to hard rock/blues rock fans, but even that seems a bit insulting; none of these songs are essential to the genre. Load is purely for the most hardcore Metallica fan, who can find more ways to defend it than I can.
Load is an album that has received more than its fair share of hate over the course of the years since it was released, much of which it does not deserve. What Load is is the next step in Metallica's musical evolution, having already taken place on their self titled album. Load is a fourteen track long blues-rock album with some sizable chunks of metal distributed throughout the record that clocks in at just under the CD-limit of 80 minutes, bursting with lively energy and variation unlike anything found on a Metallica release before. This album is sandwiched in between the flawed great that was The Black album and the cancer to the ear of Reload, and manages to carve out an identity all of its own. Buckle up, Sputnik, for when listening to this album, you are in for one hell of a ride.
Opening the album up, Ain't My Bitch is one of the heavier songs on the album, packing the bite that Metallica were known for in their thrash hay day of the 1980's, despite continuing the deviation from this style that was introduced on the previous album. This could easily have fit in among the songs found on the Black Album, being brash and rude, whilst still being aggressive. The lyrics are rather poor, but they are more than made up for by the level of fun that has clearly been put into the song, which is blatant throughout the record. This is an album with Metallica going with the flow and incorporating so many different styles that it simply becomes a wonder that it works as well as it does. The album is primarily a blues-rock release, but there is the metal side covered by Ain't My Bitch and parts of epic closer Outlaw Torn. Until It Sleeps displays the most commercially-oriented style of Metallica that would be explored to a greater degree on the following album, with its verse-chorus structure and catchy nature, with music that takes a minimalist approach to allow for the vocals to seep to the front.
Whilst on the subject of the vocals, this is James Hetfield's real transition point. The Black Album contained moments of straightforward singing on songs such as Nothing Else Matters, whilst still retaining some shouted vocals and hard-edged vocal songs on various tracks, with Enter Sandman being the most well known example of this styling. On Load, however, James never reverts to the barking that was utilized throughout the past three albums, instead packing a sleazy style of singing, akin to a more radio-friendly style of vocal work. Songs like Until It Sleeps and Cure contain some decent enough singing within the context of the album, but it is the Southern rock tinted exploration of 2 X 4 and the bellowed vocals throughout The Outlaw Torn and parts of Bleeding Me that really steal the show vocally. The Outlaw Torn carries a lot of weight through its vocals and lyrics, proving to be one of the most emotionally-charged songs the band has put out in the vein of Nothing Else Matters and The Unforgiven, but without needing to be structured as a ballad. Bleeding Me is the other epic-lengthed song of the album, with both clocking in at over eight minutes in length, and both actually utilizing said lengths to the best of their ability. Both stand out as two of the best in the band's discography, regardless of opinions on the album.
The Cure is a solid enough song, with some nice bass work perfectly audible played by Jason Newsted in the final third of the song, and containing some of the better drumming from Lars Ulrich. Ulrich went for a very simple style of playing on this album to fit in with the radio-oriented blues rock styling of the album, and, whilst it is nothing special, it actually isn't half as bad as has gone down in history. Ulrich, regardless of what mockery of himself he may have become on St. Anger, and regardless of the sellouts he had a hand in over the year, and regardless of the Napster controversy, is actually not as poor as stated. How much creativity could truly have been expected from a simplified blues rock album? The guitar work is similarly simplistic, with Kirk seamlessly adopting a shift to a more streamlined sound, whilst still retaining his knack for writing decent enough solos, evidenced here by the killer lead work found on Bleeding Me, Poor Twisted Me and Cure. The lyrics are very introspective of James Hetfield's life, dealing with various topics, including but not limited to his mothers battle with cancer and feelings of regret, as well as drug abuse. They are well written, without being anything too special, but they undeniably manage to convey the feelings that the songs outline in a formidable manner. The one major criticism that can be made of Load is the running time, with Outlaw Torn having had to be cut by over a minute in order to keep the album within the time restrictions to avoid the CD-rom skipping. However, this is not the overly drawn out styling of songs that would cripple St. Anger or Death Magnetic, instead being very much manageable song lengths, but with some feeling a little unnecessary. Bar the very personal lyrics, King Nothing is a little unnecessary, as is Mama Said which feels like a weaker version of Nothing Else Matters and contains the worst vocal performance on the album, and the repetition found towards the end of Thorn Within does drag on a little too long.
Overall, this may well be one of the most criminally underrated and overlooked albums in history, standing out as one of the more unique and enjoyable in Metallica's discography, never growing stale, despite the hideously long running time and the certain lack of instrumental prowess on display on this album. This is an enjoyable enough blues rock album, which has a lot to love about it, and is merely a little too drawn out for its own good. Were it two tracks shorter, and with a couple of sections to certain songs being cut back a little, then this would stand tall among the earlier releases by the band. However, this really is still a great album and deserves a listen, being the last album that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. Unfortunately, the rejects from this album would later be released on the aforementioned tragedy that is Reload, which does little to redeem this album's notoriety, which was never earned in the first place.
Metallica became a big band, one with worldwide fame, due to the superb thrash metal they played throughout their first 4 albums. They became ever bigger when they released their 5th record, in which they would include a much more heavy metal-oriented sound, but still with a very good share of excellent songs. ‘Load’ represents an evolutionary step, perhaps too big for the band’s hardcore fans back in the 1990’s, mainly because it fuses hard rock, heavy metal elements, and even some country music (‘Mama Said’).
If you are looking for some mind-blowing thrash attacks, then go and listen to anything but this. If instead you want to listen to some very neatly recorded hard rock/heavy metal tunes, you might be satisfied with this. Bob Rock’s production is good, but not too good, because the guitars lack that crunchy sound one would expect in a metal record.
The overall guitar sound is very clean, very smooth, and one doesn’t really get that heavy click that makes riffs kill. The use of the wah-wah pedal is, to say the least, completely off track and is used jaggedly in some random parts of the songs where it makes no sense. Solos are very weak too, but given the song structure in the entire album it would sound awkward to have strong, catchy solos there. The bass is very plain and actually adds nothing to the music. The drums are a bit boring, especially on the slower parts because they are not too diverse and often tend to tune down songs that might be a bit catchier, but they don’t. Hetfield’s vocals are actually kind of cool because he manages to range from competent singing down to emotionally disturbed, slightly throaty rasps.
There are some interesting heavy metal songs on here, though. ‘Until it Sleeps’ is quite catchy, and even though it has a completely different tone, it sort of follows the same type of song structure that ‘The Unforgiven’ does (from 1991’s ‘Metallica’). ‘The House That Jack Built’ is 6:39 long, but it turns out to be a cool song because it starts out very slow and introspective and it gains intensity as it goes. ‘Wasting my Hate’ is a fun song because it has some energy to it that combines old-style speed and raw attitude (were all the songs like this one, this album could be something else entirely). The same goes for ‘Bleeding Me’, a song that carries a curious vibe, one that strangely enough might relate to Iron Maiden’s ‘Killers’ (just listen to the first 2:30 minutes of this song).
Then there are a good number of songs that I don’t think can be considered heavy metal and which might not at all be attractive to the metal listener’s ears. ‘Mama Said’ is a ballad-like tune in a perfectly identifiable country music style, which turns out to be quite an odd choice for this band. ‘Poor Twisted Me’ is a very strange song, one that I cannot categorize. It sounds like what a mix between drug-crazed Alice in Chains and semi-depressive Ugly Kid Joe could be.
Overall, this is a hard rock album with a few cool heavy metal tracks, but definitely one that doesn’t fit the Metallica brand as it should. If you want thrash metal, forget this album. If you want heavy metal, listen to ‘The House That Jack Built’, ‘Until It Sleeps’, ‘Bleeding Me’, and ‘Wasting my Hate’. Quite frankly, the rest of the album doesn’t measure up to heavy metal standards.
When Metallica released their self-titled ’91 album, they were propelled into the realms of super stardom. No longer were they a fairly successful metal band making ends meet by touring. Now they were a moneymaking metal machine. A band that were selling squillions of albums and making a fuck load of money in the process.
Now with fame and money comes change. Everything changed for them. Their lifestyle, their principles, their taste, and most defiantly, their taste in music. I can appreciate that the members of the band have grown up and would have had different tastes in music. Country, blues, indie (Lars, you dick!), but normally when it came to Metallica, everybody put their individual tastes aside, put their metal caps on, and got down to work. Even the “Black” album, while very commercial (for Metallica, anyways), still contained some of the band’s heaviest work. Sad But True, Holier Than Thou, Of Wolf And Man to name just a few, but when Load was released it was just a step too far for some in the rock/alternative direction for the metal giants.
Most of the songs on the album are good in their own right, it’s just that some of them are blatantly not cut from the ‘Tallica cloth. Until It Sleeps and Hero Of The Day sound too clean and poppy to even be on this album to begin with and probably would have sounded better on an Alanis Morissette album or something else of that ilk. Ronnie, while I do like this song, just sounds massively out of place. The song, I believe, would have benefited more as a b-side or bonus track on CoC’s Deliverance. County, rock, and blues seem to have taken precedence on this album more so than metal. You wouldn’t think it given the name of the band, y’know, ‘METAL’lica.
Now, I know a lot of people (myself included) started bitching and moaning that Bob Rock changed Metallica, but in all honesty both the band and Bob Rock were equally as guilty for change in musical direction and even though Bob Rock may have been the catalyst that started Metallica down the more commercial road, he had given the band a new thickness and broadness to their sound and made them, sonically, a better sounding band.
OK! Enough picking at the album. Let's now focus on the good stuff. The album kicks off with Ain’t My Bitch, an awesome rocker that deceivingly makes the listener think that although this isn’t a return to Metallica’s thrash metal greatest, this album is going to rock from start to finish.
Now this album does rock in sporadic burst with Metallica branching out into areas unknown and new only to come crashing back down to Earth with random shit songs (Cure, Poor Twisted Me, I’m looking in your direction). 2x4 is a heavy, groove-laden number that is the first song on the album where you realize that this isn’t Metallica of yore, but something different/new.
If the track listing had been trimmed down by about 5 songs, the album may have been accepted a little more because some of these songs blatantly don’t belong on this album. Here’s what I thought the track listing should have been:
1: Ain’t My Bitch
3: The House That Jack Built
4: Bleeding Me
5: King Nothing
6: Thorn Within
7: Wasting My Hate
8: Mama Said
9: The Outlaw Torn
Bleeding Me and The Outlaw Torn are by far the best songs on the album. Both songs are kinda reminiscent of each other and both are over 8 minutes long. They tend to have a mellow or melodic intro with quiet verses, heavy choruses, and long sections of basic, bluesy instrumentation in the middle and at the end of the song. Both songs sound very epic without having to try to hard. There aren't numerous different sections à la Master Of Puppets to make the songs longer. They are just... long, yet they don’t feel it.
Performance-wise, the band doesn’t slack off too much. Hetfield’s voice sounds as strong as ever. Firmly established by years of drinking and touring is the patented “Hell Yeah!” approach Hetfield has taken with his vocals and it fits the band and, in particular, this album perfectly.
Lars had taken a very stripped-down approach to his playing for this album. I can’t recall any double bass on this album. It’s like he turned into a completely different drummer. I mean, I know that Lars was or would never be classed as the best drummer in metal, but he is full of energy when playing live and is a master of covering up his mistakes during songs, but the actual playing on the drums just sounds lifeless with only a slight groove or injection of anything that would be deciphered as passion for playing music. The sound of the drums, however, is immense. The only redeeming feature for the drums on this album is that they sound hellish, very heavy, and pounding. Thud-to-the-chest sorta good.
Now to me this album seems to be the antithesis to ...And Justice For All because the bass can actually be heard and plays a main role in the music with tons of low-end giving the band a slightly heavier edge. Adding to that, the band have decided to tune down to Eb for this album and it sounds all the heavier for it.
Now we get the meat of Metallica: the guitars. Hetfield and Hammett have achieved an awesome guitar tone for this album. In my opinion, it’s the best guitar tone they’ve ever achieved. I’ve got nothing against the whole “sweep-the-mids” sound, but it gets a bit monotonous when every single metal band is doing it, but for this album they have dropped that tone and went for something with a little more chunk and bite. The riffs range from good, heavy, chunky riffs to alternative pieces of wank. I don’t know what the band was thinking with some of the riffs they decided to throw in. Some of them just don’t even sound remotely like Metallica where others, although different, sound like a natural progression from what the band started on the Black album.
All in all, this is a very hit or miss album. It has some very good songs, but also has some of Metallica’s worst. The band were neck deep into experimenting when they recorded this album. Some may say the experiment worked, some may say it exploded in their faces. I’m of both worlds. While I do think the album exploded in their collective faces yet not enough to damage their careers (in fact, it did the opposite. Ka-Ching! $) and they were able to recover with some fine musical plastic surgery (i.e. Death Magnetic). Even though I have had a bit of a negative rant about this album, I do put this album on occasionally and do enjoy it. I enjoy it even more when I make a playlist of my version of the track list, but that’s by the by.
So if you’re a Metallica fanboy, you’re probably gonna eat this up. If you’re a Bay Area purist, you’re probably gonna hate it. If you’re open-minded and a fan of music in general, I recommend giving this album a spin. It’s not their best, it's certainly not their worst, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Go on. What’s the worst that could happen? <- Awaiting law suit for last quote.
Suck. It's the gift that keeps on giving, and Bay Area juggernauts Metallica caught their case right about the time they decided to abandon nearly all traces of sensibility and good taste, around 1993-1994. There have been all manner of arguments through the ensuing decade or so about why such a thing as Load was necessary, and none that I could add upon, but let's just try and apply some common sense here: The Black Album sold megabucks. It's overt simplification and accessibility brought it to an even wider market than their previous blockbusters Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All. So why not delve a little further into the realm of hot cars, designer clothing and Billboard? Hell, they'd pretty much already arrived on the back of "The Unforgiven" alone.
Note that Load's status as 'sellout' or 'not a sellout' does not necessarily resonate or interfere with the actual contents of its music, because it would be wholly naive to think that an album is good or bad concentric to its sales and popularity. Metallica had already been 'selling out' auditoriums, T-shirts and records long before this turd arrived in their colon of creativity, and success was not a novelty. No, the real elephants in the room here are the banal aptitude of the songwriting and the watered derivation of The Black Album formula. This was a band whose 80s output set repeated standards in not only the metal genre, but music as a whole. Masters of Puppets and Kill 'Em All are two of the albums I'd considering among the greatest ever penned by mankind, and Ride the Lightning close behind. Hell, even ...And Justice for All seems like a masterwork of sonic architecture compared to any of the ensuing records, and while it pursued a similar aesthetic of 'dumbing down' the band's central, thundering aggression, The Black Album expressed it with strong songwriting...
But straight from the get-go, Load seems tailored for rednecks and NASCAR rallies. Not the cool, REAL kind of rednecks, mind you, who would strap you to a gun rack, dowse you in gasoline, read you the Bible and then flick the match. I love those guys. No, this is more of a rock record for people who enjoy bands like Creed and Puddle of Mudd. Fast food hillbillies who gorge on repetitive rock radio. Consummate middle American consumers, whose knowledge of metal music probably fails to extend past Fred Durst's rantings or Ozzy's "No More Tears". This is an album that starts off with a song called "Ain't My Bitch", and then proceeds into another by the name of "2 x 4". We're a long way from "Trapped Under Ice" or "Leper Messiah", people, but if shitty lyrics, run down alcoholic emotions and songwriting that makes Glenn Danzig seem like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by comparison are your thing, bid thee welcome to the crushing cornucopia of disappointment.
Welcome Load: the boring rock record, 14 tracks and 79 minutes of LCD commercial rock and roll with only minor inflections of The Black Album wrought through it's Zeppelin-esque blues groove guitars. The heaviest you're going to hear on this record is something like "Cure", which comes off as a sort of crossbreed of Danzig and 90s Trouble at best. Or "King Nothing", the big single from the album which is basically a re-molding of "Enter Sandman", complete with bedtime story lyrics in the bridge! Yeah, sure, there are electric guitars here, slowly noodling along forgettable courses that make "Sad But True" seem like a monolith of long lost brutality. I wouldn't remember a thing about "Ain't My Bitch", "Poor Twisted Me" or "2 x 4" if it wasn't for the reprehensible song titles and the fact that this is supposed to be Metallica. For fuck's sake, if you slapped these tracks in the hands of Kid Rock (where they arguably belong), they'd STILL suck.
Are there diamonds in this rough? Not a one. If anything, to distinguish the highs and lows of this flabbergasting failure is to distinguish between the 'wouldn't listen to this today or any other day' tracks and the irreversibly, offensively inane. How about "Mama Said", a flirtation with country rock which is about as underwhelming as rock songs are manufactured. Hey, Lars. James. You wanna play country music? Go jam on a fucking Hank Williams, Jr. record. He at least knows what he's doing. Want more ballads? "Bleeding Me" gives you about two minutes in the vein of "The Unforgiven" before wearing out its welcome with six more minutes of simple escalation that might, if I were generous, yield a single riff sequence of note (around the 5:00 minute mark). Or "Until it Sleeps", another of the singles here, which is arguably the best song on the album yet still not fit to lick the boots of "Nothing Else Matters".
Even when Metallica start to kick out some Skynyrd/Aerosmith-like boogie grooves in "Ronnie" they feel like a phone in. What ever happened to this band's ability to scar the listener's spirit with their hammering thrash riffs, forceful vocals and lyrics of relevance? This has all dissolved into a mockery of what the band once represented, a no compromise streak of superb songwriting which greatly expanded metal's ability to be taken seriously not only by its pre-installed adherents but by the public at large. Even the solos on this album are weak. Love or hate Kirk Hammett, but his work on the previous albums was incredibly memorable even for its lack of outright technical shredding. About the only thing that fit in flushly with this mundane new territory was Lars' drumming, and that's because it was so simple to begin with.
I can understand that bands change, that sounds evolve. I was fully on board when Metallica was considering a less complex follow-up to ...And Justice for All. I would have appreciated it more had they gone in the opposite direction, towards an even more extreme sound, but it made sense that they would not want to repeat themselves. After all, why should they have? They were already on top of the world. They still are. But laziness and the laws of adaptation are no excuses for the sort of banal songs that clutter up this clusterfuck. The world is already choked with mainstream radio channels endlessly cycling boring, formulaic hard rock music to people without the balls to experience real passion in music. Why add another? And why should that other have to be Metallica? Load isn't the worst album ever written, and it's not even the worst from this particular band, but it's not even good for a country-blues pop-rock effort. It reeks of sterile pop polish and crass, wimpy attentions, and funny enough, they smell sort of like a cash register.
It just had to happen, Metallica wasn't metal anymore. Hard rock is where the future lied for the superstars. This isn't the most ill-advised career re-invention of all time as Metallica show occasional glimpses of what could have been. Metallica's "Load" isn't the worst album of all time but a substantial part of it is horribly mediocre. There are a few moments where they pull it off but they can't break free from the chains of mediocrity and inconsistency. They continued to sell records worldwide even if their material after Metallica is sub-par at best.
One could excuse this band for experimenting but this did not rub off well with the metalheads. This was stage two of Metallica's inevitable fall from grace. The wheels were already set in motion with their previous album. Here, on "Load", Metallica was a band which had a bunch of decent ideas in mind but couldn't quite implement them as well as they had imagined they could.
The production is spotless, may be just a bit too spotless, just as you'd expect from Bob Rock. If you thought Metallica had a clean production, wait till you hear this one, It's even more polished. Too bad that the actual material found here can't match up to the standards of the production. One can't blame Bob Rock for any of Metallica's shortcomings, he did his job and helped sell records.
"Ain't My Bitch" is the album's opener, an average rocker with a southern boogie rock vibe and lyrics that get old pretty soon. The riffing is about as generic as they come and the song fails to take off, at all. "2 X 4" is a slightly better fare with some decent, heavy grooves and a catchy chorus. The grooves themselves are passable but not quite memorable. "The House Jack Built" is surprisingly better than you'd think. The song's best quality is it's driving, momentous chorus and Hetfield's singing. The riff sounds like a slower, looser version of the main riff of "Ride the Lightning".
Metallica's newfound love for chorus-driven hard rock is further evident in "Until it Sleeps". It's a simple approach, write a catchy chorus, sing the chorus over some thick grooves and that's about all you need to do. "King Nothing" is more like it, a more conventional Metallica song with a structure not unlike, "Enter Sandman". "Hero of the Day" and "Mama Said" sees Metallica exploring their softer, bluesier tendencies, both of whom are quite decent, if unspectacular. Lars Ulrich sounds best on the slower, moodier tracks. Hetfield is quite confident of his vocal abilities and for the most part, he delivers.
There's no need for "Wasting My Hate" when there's already "Ain't My Bitch". The two songs are basically the same, same approach, same lyrics, same tempo and NOT quite what you'd want to hear from this band. The album has it's share of really terrible duds like "Cure", "Poor Twisted Me", "Thorn Within" and "Ronnie". The likes of all these reek of mediocrity and the putrid stench of Nickelback and Creed.
Fortunately, there's some good Metallica stuff to be found, two really good songs. "Bleeding Me" and "Outlaw Torn". Two long epics, in fact. "Bleeding Me" sees the best of James Hetfield, the composer and the guitar player. Hetfield is the life of this song with his deep, emotional lyric-writing and his passionate delivery. Kirk Hammett's contributions on this album overall lack substance and memorability but he springs into life on this track with a fantastic guitar solo. Lars Ulrich keeps it very minimalistic and this approach does have it's own novelty as it makes the song sound even heavier. Not to mention the solid bass work from Jason Newsted.
And finally, "Outlaw Torn", an unsung classic of epic proportions. A song that should rightfully be played more often in Metallica's set lists. A near ten minute epic composition. The monstrous rhythms of Hetfield are back and it's great to see Metallica sound heavy again. The lyrics are written with class and honesty that is to admired.
To take back what you left me
I know I'll always burn to be
The one who seeks so I may find
And now I wait my whole lifetime
The lyrics that seemingly any blue-collared listener could understand are just a little insight into the man's life. This is a far cry from the redneck aggression found in the lyrics of "Ain't My Bitch". The song's composition is exceptional and dare i say, progressive. The song never jumps out at you and rewards the patient, attentive listener. The highlight of the song is Hetfield's guitar solo towards the end which completely destroys everything from Hammett. The man rarely solos but when he does, you just have to listen.
As this album finally draws to a close, it's way, way too long with too much filler. It's an album with occasional moments of brilliance, but overall, is pretty tame by any standards, let alone Metallica's standards. It's an album that is hard to recommend to anyone.
Usually I would draw a few lines about Metallica´s career, their former succesful abums, musical change, controversies (the usual cliché) but since I see that stuff in almost every music review I´m gonna cut the crap and go straight to the topic. Metallica´s 6th studio album has just been released (only for the purposes of this review, for actually we are nearing the end of 2008) and after having produced their self-titled album it´s obvious which horse they´ve chosen to ride. Expectations were high (as for every Metallica release), so how did this one come out?
Pretty good, actually. They´ve modified their sound a bit again and while the Black Album still had some metal elements, Load is pure hard rock from start to finish, with a distinctive blues/jazz feel. Yeah, you hear me. Grab this CD, enter you car and have a ride of your life. You won´t regret it.
Load is literally LOADed with excellent songs. The guitars have a nice, hard and full sound, which is a little overused, but works perfectly. This is one of the main things why I like the album so much. It´s rock, it´s quite hard, but not so heavy, compared to Master Of Puppets or ...And Justice For All. The songs are simpler than those of their thrash era, but don´t sound repetitive or boring at all. It´s a nice change, concentrating on the songs to work well for the listeners, and not just pumping riff after riff, solo after solo. The riffs are damn catchy. Hammet does a big amount of wah soloing on the album, which is very nice, and fits the music lovely. Hetfield´s job at rhythm guitar is simply flawless. Lars´s drumming is nothing spectacular, but on the songs like "Bleeding Me" really shines. The problem with the inaudibility of the bass seems to be finally solved as Newstead´s bass lines can be heard very well throughout the whole album. The vocal performance is nothing short of excellent and James really outdid himself here, bringing variety, passion and tenderness (!) to his voice, thus making the vocals one of the main highlights of the album, which was never Metallica´s strong point. As for the lyrics, they finally don´t deal with stuff like death or God or whatever, replacing it with issues like drug addiction or even a song about Hetfield´s mother. A weird combination, but it works. The production overall is top-notch, every instrument is clean as ever. The songs are also pretty consistent, almost every track can be described as „good“ or „very good“. This was a problem with the Black Album, of which several songs were amazing, but the rest sucked bigtime. Metallica didn´t make any room for those kinds of errors on Load, so no skipping tracks, save one, this time.
The album kicks off with "Ain´t My Bitch", and what an opener it is! It starts with a brief one-guitar riff and then the bass and drums enter the place. Hetfield´s singing is easy-going (something that we weren´t used to) yet possessing that harshness he´s known for. A great chorus and a nice slide solo by Hammet. This song perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the album. After that comes "2x4", which sucks in my opinion. Uninspiring and boring. Thank God the rest of the package makes up for this song. "The House Jack Built" is one of the singles released before the release of the actual album (along with "Until It Sleeps"). It´s just plain creepy. It contains a nice weird-sounding pedal solo, and the verse is pure tension. But, a good song, one of the better. Other splendid tracks are "King Nothing", "Cure" (a real headbanger) and the chillout song "Mama Said". It has some pretty good acoustic guitar work and the whole song is a nice ballad. "Hero Of The Day" is in it´s tempo very similar to the aforementioned track, only a bit faster and heavier. The "Outlaw Torn" is the longest track on the album, and one of the best. Nice vocals, catchy main riff, amazing guitar work at the end. But the best song on the album, and easily one of the best songs ever written by Metallica is the monstrously epic "Bleeding Me", 8 minutes of sheer hard rock orgasm. It begins with some nice touches from the guitarist, and the Hetfield sings (really sings!) the beautiful words „I´m digging my way...“, followed by a nice falsetto. A superb riff forms the chorus, without any vocals. The formula repeats again, then comes the solo, then an agonizing guitar work, then the chorus once more, Lars accelerates, and... massive slowdown. The instruments fade, and after a wee silence a single guitar riff kicks back, followed by the others. Then comes the last chorus, Lars and the guitars are at full speed and echoing are the words „I CAN´T TAKE IT!“ In this part, Hetfield doesn´t scream or shout the words, he fuc*ing BELLOWS them, with such force that would make even Peavy Wagner crouch in the corner. The spine-chilling continues as Hammet immediately unleashes a long wah solo. The song comes to an end as everything slows down and the initial verse is being repeated one last time. Masterpiece and an instant classic.
This album simply kicks ass. It has superb riffs, some breathtaking vocals, solid drumming, nice solos and a wide variety of songs, most of them excellent. It´s not metal, nor I see a reason why it has to be, and newbies or fans of good hard rock as well as metalheads shouldn´t omit this release. Actually, I place Load on the second spot in my most favourite albums by Metallica, right after Master Of Puppets, and that is a hell of an argument for listeners to try out this album.
When I first got this album I valued it for its bluesy feel. If I wanted to just relax and listen to something cool and laid back, this was it. However, after two years of sitting in my iTunes library, I realized I wasn’t listening to it. I never listen to it anymore. I guess after the first few listens I just lost interest completely. The fact is, it’s really boring, not just for a Metallica album, but for blues-influenced rock in general.
Ain’t My Bitch rocks a little, but I personally prefer 2x4. Even with the cheesy vocal effects and the rather drab solo work, 2x4 is the second best song off the first half of the album. Only Bleeding Me is better, and then only because the instrumental work is beyond what the rest of this album shows. Until It Sleeps was not one of the songs I valued for its bluesy feel. I found this song to be a slightly more lively, but less metal, remake of Nothing Else Matters, another dreadfully boring song. Hero of the Day was similar. The rest of the first half was bland attempts at sounding like metal with a blues tinge.
The second half was even worse because that’s where they introduced another influence, this time far worse than simple blues. Country has no place in metal, I don’t care what anyone says. Even when I listened to this album for its blues feel, I skipped the country-style tracks. All I can say about the second half is that I enjoy the drawn out downer Outlaw Torn, again, for its bluesy feel. And, for whatever reason, I don’t know, the lyrics to Cure appeal to me. The rest, though I thought it had merit at one time, does not actually have merit.
The mistake that is most commonly made with regard to this album is to listen to it and expect metal. It is not metal, it is rock. I think the band even admitted this when they put it out. Whatever. I listened to it and knew it was rock. But after the initial enjoyment of blues rock wore off I forgot this album even existed. Going back to it while perusing my iTunes library, I realized why. It may be rock but it is boring rock. Even true blues has a soul, but this has nothing. A few good licks and lyrics, but these are spread far too thin to redeem the album as a whole. As such I now only have the four songs left.
Some may enjoy the blues rock on this album even after the first impression wears off, but I didn’t. Eventually the sheer drabness of the songs made them totally forgettable. The blues should have meaning, a soul, a heart, an atmosphere of loss or longing bordering on depression that is characterized not by pining away but by the fact that one’s life situation is not what one wishes it were, but that one can overcome the harsh times and still live life. The blues is about showing that you have been through Hell, and showing that you can get over it because you’re strong, not about whining because you’re too weak to deal with that Hell. It is in this sense that blues can have a place in metal, but that is not what Metallica gives us here.
I have since discovered ZZ Top, a far superior blues rock band. Their single song Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers rocks ten times as much as this entire album. And if you really want to hear blues with a heavy edge, pick up their album Eliminator, because that one has a soul, that one has vitality. It even has a touch of humor with the song TV Dinners.
In sum, this is not where to look for metal, and yet it is also not where to look for blues rock. I don’t know exactly what it is, then, except a waste of compact disc materials.
Metallica is the most controversial metal band ever. Universally adored during their early times, their reputation among the metal community was considerably shaken by, firstly, the creation of a music video for the classic “One” and, secondly, the release of the self titled record (“Metallica”, “Black Album”, whatever).
By this time, there were two sections of the metal community thinking different things about the band; the thrashers were quite furious at them, accusing them to lead the thrash metal genre to ruin with the groovy self-titled; and the rest of the metalheads that enjoyed the “Black Album”, saying that they had to move on and try new things, in order to not stagnate. In fact, the self titled was generally well accepted by the metal community, thanks to its “crushing riffs and solos”.
Then, metal went downhill and Metallica took a pause of some years, in order to rest and prepare the new album, the (in)famous “Load”. By this time, grunge was taking over the music industry, thanks to the mainstream success of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. Everyone was expecting the new Metallica album to resurrect metal, and bring it again to the top.
I guess that the metal community felt betrayed when the music video of “Until it Sleeps” was leaked, along with pictures of the band without long hair (and with eye-liner and such). “They are sell-outs!”, even the ones that supported Metallica when the s/t was released were thinking like this. Lars Ulrich even said, one day, that Metallica was no longer a metal band; “we are a pop band now”said the drummer to the journalists.
And so, after “Load”, all the metalheads began to reject and dismiss Metallica. They lost the status of metal gods and the band's legacy (an enormous legacy, I must say) was neglected too. The metalheads divided themselves again; some began saying that early Metallica rocked and such (basically, that the first five albums rocked; however, nowadays, this faction divided itself yet again: now, there are some who say that just RtL and KeA are good albums, mainly because of Mustaine's intervention on them, and others that say that the first four records ruled and so on), and others began saying that “Metallica were never good” (what a lie) and that their impact on metal music is “insignificant” (LIE).
Metal fans are strange. If a metal band changes its sound, they immediately accuse them of selling out and such. If a metal band stays the same over the years, they immediately criticize it too. A bit unfair, isn't it? Metallica changed their sound and experimented with new things here, on “Load”, and, of course, the metalheads labeled them as sell-outs. Unfair, indeed.
So, is “Load” atrocious, like many say? Is “Load” terrible?
No, my friends, of course not. Metallica is a fantastic band, songwriting-wise; they can play anything they want to, and still keep the music catchy and solid. I bet you now are thinking that I'm a Metallica fanboy, but this is just the truth, friends.
“Load” is a bizarre record, mainly because of all the different elements it carries and blends. The heavy metal/hard rock that made the “Black Album” what it is, is mixed here with some country and blues elements, which, of course, turns this record into a delightful and varied musical piece. The guitars are no longer crunchy and heavy; they are tuned differently, so their sound is less aggressive but still tasteful.
Hetfield's riffs shine here, but not because they can crush bones; they shine because they are beautiful and groovy. Kirk is, again, using the wah-wah pedal too much, but that doesn't matter much to me; his solos are emotional and somewhat original. Newsted is finally audible, giving an extra groove to some songs, and Lars Ulrich delivers here a simple but effective work, overusing sometimes the “kick-snare-kick-snare” pattern, but, all in all, his performance is very, very good, dynamic and solid. He is very criticized, nowadays, by the metal community, mainly because of his so-called ability to “ruin songs with his horrible drumming” and of the problems with Napster. Anyways, he is pretty good here, in my opinion, especially on “The Outlaw Torn”, but I'll talk about that song later.
So, as I've already said, this record is very varied and that is shown by the songs. There are lots of highlights here, in fact. The majority of the tracks are mid-paced and, sometimes, very calm, which makes “Load” a record that you'll not want to listen everyday. “Ain't my Bitch” and “Wasting my Hate” are the heavier of the bunch, the first being a truly great song, very powerful, and the second being a pseudo-punk take, featuring some laughable lyrics that fit well with the music. Those tracks also show the incredible vocal approach of James Hetfield; he improved A LOT since the s/t, showing here a very nice vocal range and, most of all, his ability to sing emotionally, which is a thing that I value.
His emotional approach is highlighted by the incredible amount of ballads and “half-ballads” present on “Load”: they are “Until it Sleeps”, “Hero of the Day”, “Mama Said”, “Bleeding Me” and “The Outlaw Torn”. I think that all of them absolutely kick ass, except for “Until it Sleeps”, a song that I consider a bit weak compared to the others, but, hey, it's good, nevertheless. “Hero of the Day” features some nice double-bass parts, here and there, and fantastic guitar melodies. It's a very underrated song, in my opinion. The same thing for “Mama Said”, despite being a bit weaker. It's an authentic country take, with an anthemic and catchy chorus. Again, not a thing that I want to listen everyday.
And now the best part... the two epics, “The Outlaw Torn” and “Bleeding Me”. Well, the latter is an amazing, almost atmospheric song; it has two different sections, the first one is very calm, James Hetfield shines with his amazing vocal performance (“I'm digging my way...” - so beautiful), and the second decently heavy, containing a nice hard rock riff that leads us to the outro, which is very soft again. Honourable mention here to Lars Ulrich too, that, during this song, uses the almighty RIDE CYMBAL!! After just using the hi-hat during the self titled and “...And Justice For All”, he finally understood that using the ride cymbal is a good thing! Yay!
Well, about “The Outlaw Torn”... I don't have words to describe it. This song is so beautiful, oh my God, this track is one of the best epics Metallica ever made, yeah, it's right there, struggling with “... And Justice For All” and “Master of Puppets” for the prize. I will just say that its chorus is amazing, its bassline gorgeous and its outro stunning. AH, and it also contains an amazing solo. And a great main riff. And complex drumming. And...
Forget it. Concluding, despite all the good songs there are some fillers here (“The Torn Within”, “Poor Twisted Me”), but, fortunately, they don't ruin the whole listening experience. James Hetfield is the man of the record, thanks to his fantastic vocals, as he absolutely reached his peak here. Kirk delivers some good leads and solos and Lars one of his best performances.
One last word to the fantastic production, one of the reasons why this album is so good. Everything is audible and well mixed, and the record has a nice distinctive sound, thanks to it. The drumkit is the intrument that shines the most because of the production; the snare is not as powerful as on the self-titled but still sounds great and the hi-hat is pretty loud too. About the guitars, they carry a very rock-ish sound, which benefits the whole atmosphere of “Load”.
As you can see, “Load” is also very long (clocking in at almost 80 minutes), so it requires multiple listens for you to understand its real greatness. That's another characteristic of this record.
So, open your ears and mind, forget about all the critics surrounding Metallica and enjoy this epic, beautiful, groovy, whatever, record. “Load” deserves to be heard carefully and as a whole, so that its atmosphere gets you. Absolutely recommended, but forget this piece if you are one of those that label Metallica as sell-outs. I wish this record, in the future, will get the praise it deserves.
Again, open your mind, this isn't as bad as many say.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the beginning of “2X4”.
-the solo section of “The House Jack Built”.
-the double bass parts of “Hero of the Day”.
-“I'm digging my way...”
-the first riff of "Ronnie" (which sounds a bit like "Seek & Destroy").
-Everything about “The Outlaw Torn”.
You know the embarrassment you get when your parents sing along to your music, horribly off key and without any sense of what the music's about? I get the same feeling here. Why?
Metallica, by now, had gotten into quite a formulaic "rut" in their process of making music. It wasn't an honor to record anymore, it wasn't a "fun" thing to do, it was a chore, and writing music now something dreaded not something celebrated. They wrote music based off of what's popular, not what they feel deep down inside. That worked when the music Metallica were good at making -- Metal -- was popular. When shit changed, and metal wasn't popular anymore, replaced by alternative, Metallica had 2 options. One was to go back to their original sound, say fuck you to the record executives, and go back to being a more "underground" outfit, sacrificing fame and fortune for integrity and quality. The second option was to attempt to follow the trends at the time and make an alt-rock album. We all know what Metallica did, right?
This could've at least worked somewhat if Metallica were any good at writing alt-rock songs. Unfortunately, they weren't. They forgot to throw away all the jigs and zigs in the shop before they went to record a new album, and thus made another "Black Album", but crudely molded and hammered into something resembling an alt-rock album. By crudely, I don't mean the production; it's pretty much crystal clear. I'm referring to the songwriting. The same riffs show up, but mutilated and sterilized. They were not meant for hard rock, and no amount of regurgitating of the same set of chords will make them work. The drums are done poorly, but Lars was never a good drummer, it's the energy that was his strength in earlier albums, and his sloppy style works to the detriment here. The solos consist of vulgar amounts of wah; it's almost as if Kirk is hiding his lack of talent (or obscuring any shred of talent he does have) with the excessive wah. Either way, it sounds like shit. He does not know how to use wah right at all. The singing is laughable, with James' JD'ed-out voice barely choking out the lines, and sounding laughable whilst doing it.
The image around this time couldn't be worse, with Lars proclaiming that "Heavy Metal is dead" and the cutting of the hair. It proves that Metallica are the worst kind of sellout, and their post-Justice history will forever be a sordid example of blatant commercial degradation.
It’s tough evading the clichéd arguments, and so I will give in and try to address them in this review. Did Metallica sell out with Load? Did Metallica end their streak of five classics in a row with Load? Did Metallica become a mediocre fraction of their old selves with Load? These are questions we’ve all heard before, and they’re questions that overshadow the most meaningful one of all:
Is Load a good album in itself and without comparison to anything else Metallica has ever done?
My answer to this is a resounding yes, and I sit here wondering why so many listeners have failed to recognize the album’s respectability, bravery, and balls. First of all, Metallica did not sell out with Load. As a matter of fact, Load is Metallica’s most atypical album from a musical standpoint. From start to finish the band experiments like never before, throwing in slices of blues rock here and segments of progressive rock there. Each song stands on its own because of the individuality factor; the record is not as jointed as their holy trinity (RTL, MOP, and AJFA) because it isn’t meant to be, and it wouldn’t work that way.
It’s also important to note that Metallica did not end their streak of great albums with Load, because that streak ended with The Black Album. Personally, I’ve always thought that TBA was Metallica’s most underthought and uninspired output, and I’ve never understood the acclaim it has garnered. Load was a clean slate for the band to write on because they’d already created their most commercial offering and there was no reason to revisit that style.
The bottom line is that with Load, Metallica didn’t delve into mediocrity; they saved themselves from its depths. The album is not perfect (it’s far from it), but it’s an engaging, enjoyable experience. The combination of elements, the diversity of mood, and the energy present throughout is addictive and sometimes masterful. It radiates with that uncanny inspiration most artists only achieve in their formative years, and as a paradox of sorts is incomparably mature.
“Bleeding Me” and “The Outlaw Torn”, the two best songs on the album, owe more to progressive rock than to raw thrash, and they’re better for it. Both are right up there with “…And Justice for All” as some of the best progressive metal songs ever, and they’re also some of the most uncompromising pieces of weaponry in the Metallica arsenal. These tracks are a tribute to the band’s willingness to change, a tribute to their musical aspirations and their endless pit of knowledge to draw from.
The supporting songs are excellent, with the riff-oriented “Ain’t My Bitch” and “Wasting My Hate”, James Hetfield’s surprisingly solid vocal showcases “Until It Sleeps” and “King Nothing”, the off-kilter “The House That Jack Built” and “Ronnie”, and the blatantly mainstream “Hero of the Day” and “Mama Said”. The bottom line is that no matter the feel or aim, most of the material present is relating in quality.
Still, there’s some lackluster material to be found: “2x4” is disgraceful; “Cure” isn’t as good as it could’ve been; “Poor Twisted Me” is unbearably boring and “Thorn Within” is a tad weak. It doesn’t help Load’s cause that these songs take up a ton of time and often create mediocre stretches that could defer first time listeners. After a couple of spins however, it becomes obvious that the good is so much more abundant than the bad.
In my experience, I’ve learned there are several reasons for distaste. The primary reason why one would dislike a form of music is, obviously, because the respective band/album/song is terrible. Almost as common a reason for dislike is pure stubbornness, anchored by the pompous side of us all. We don’t want to admit that Metallica could actually be good outside their specialty of heavy metal, and we more-so don’t want to admit they could be great. Load pays tribute to the latter, and if only this stubbornness could be conquered, maybe more people would realize the record’s solidity.
© Kevin Martell (TheOutlawXanadu)
...the problem is that it's totally mediocre.
So Metallica stopped playing metal on this album (shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who'd heard the self-titled; it was pretty clear where they were headed). Since this was intended as a hard rock album and NOT a metal album, perhaps we ought to review it as such.
And that's where we run into trouble. For hard rock, it's really not all that good. For one thing, James sounds absolutely dreadful (and he only got worse), Kirk seems to have dedicated himself to proving that the principle of "too much of a good thing isn't good" also applies to the wah-pedal by riding it mercilessly (to the detriment of every single solo), and Jason and Lars are just there without doing anything interesting.
The songs themselves are inconsistent, with some good ("Hero of the Day" and "Wasting My Hate," for instance), some bad ("Until it Sleeps," "Bleeding Me," many others), some that would be good if James didn't sound so pathetic ("Ain't My Bitch," "Ronnie"), and some that are absolute rubbish ("2x4," "The House that Jack Built"). And then there's "Mama Said," which deserves special mention because it was such a bad idea. "Hey, look, we made a country song! Look how diverse we are!" cry Metallica. Says I, "Yes, but you're not good at it. Go listen to some Robert Earl Keen." If you're going to hard rock, do it right, and if you're going to country, you had damn well BETTER do it right.
I also feel like I should mention "Outlaw Torn." 9:48 is absolutely unacceptable, especially for this stuff. Now, "Master of Puppets" was perfect at 8 and a half, but "Outlaw Torn" is a five-minute song stretched to nearly double its length for no apparent reason. This is exactly what hurt ...And Justice For All, and it's a tendency that a lot of bands suffer from - I'd go so far as to say that 75% of all "epic" songs don't really need to be as long as they are. In fact, let this be a lesson to bands around the world: we know you THINK your song is interesting enough to last ten minutes, but chances are, it's probably not.
But I digress. Anyway, bottom line: not that great. Some interesting songs, but nothing absolutely essential. Plus, you have to suffer through way too much bullshit to get to the good stuff. Of course people bought it up and hailed it as revolutionary because this famous metal band was branching out into unfamiliar territory. However, at its core, it's a feeble, inconsistent attempt at a hard rock album, made no less feeble or inconsistent by the fact that it has Metallica's name on it. Pass on this one and get one of Clutch's three most recent albums instead.
Metallica has always been an over-rated band for as long as I've known of them. Now granted, this is a relative term which applies to many good bands out there, and it denotes over-stating the importance of something. There was a time when this band stood amongst a proud group of thrash acts, but even then, they didn't really stand out that much. They've written some good songs, even a couple of great ones, but they have never given me the urge (the way other band have) to scream out loud "Are we fucking having fun yet!!!" feeling I get when listening to Anthrax or MegaDeth.
Following the lackluster yet still riff driven Black Album, and way too much time touring, Metallica entered the studio with a demon hanging over them. Not the kind that drives you to bang your head like a maniac, but the kind that fills you with guilt over the fact that you just recorded an album that was less than what you were capable of and succeeded in gaining a fame that you didn't deserve. The ultimate consequence of letting this demon into your life is the stench of mediocrity and ultimately, self-destruction.
We kick off this album with "Ain't my Bitch", while it does rock hard, it is evidently clear that James' voice is shot and that the guitar has all but completely lost it's punch. Furthermore, it is revealed to us here that Kirk's solos have turned into a choppy mess more befitting of Neil Young (the undisputed worst lead player ever) than Iommi or Blackmore. "2x4" is a boring, redundant, recycled, quasi-Hendrix sounding riff played over and over for 5 1/2 minutes. "The House Jack Built" is a slower and even more boring rock song that actually forced me to hit the skip button before it was half over. This is probably the most awful start to an album by a metal band I've encountered.
"Until it Sleeps" sees Metallica regaining a bit of their edge by going the atmospheric route, and although it reminds a bit of "The Unforgiven", Kirk's lead prove that the still apple fell a bit too far this time. "King Nothing" has remnants of some of the better riffs of the previous album, but the lyrics are so cliche that they grate on the nerves. "Hero of the Day" takes my pic for the worst song on here, and I listened to it all the way through because it was so bad that it stopped being painful and became a bit funny. The guitar is so muddy during the loud parts and the drums are so poorly produced that it almost sounds like a few dozen trash cans being dropped out a 4 story building at random intervals. Don't even get me started on the idiotic lyrics or the goofy intro guitar theme.
Probably the only song on here that I can say I enjoyed on here is "Bleeding Me", which reminds a bit of some elements of "And Justice for All", though without the punch in the guitars. The only flaw I can really attribute to this song (besides the ones already mentioned as being present on the whole album) is that it's too long.
The next three songs are complete and utter garbage. Terms like filler are too kind to describe a bunch of 2nd rate hard rock tunes from a band that should be doing major damage to your neighbor's hearing. Led Zepplin's "4" has more punch than this crap. Furthermore, botching the drum sound on the production and then putting in a drum intro is the perfect way to annoy the hell out of anyone (reference to the intro to "Cure").
Once we get past that last trilogy of excrement, we arrive at "Mama Said", which would be a semi-decent ballad with a loud ending if it weren't for that stupid, annoying country style lead during the chorus. Some people get this ridiculous idea into their heads that if a metal band plays something non-metal that it's suddenly something completely new. NEWSFLASH! There is nothing in this song that is claimed to be innovative that wasn't either done 26 years ago by Led Zepplin or 10 years before that by Johnny Cash's back up musicians.
"Thorn Within" and "Ronnie" are two more throwaway tracks, which paves the way to the long-winded, under-developed, and way too repetitive "The Outlaw Torn". Probably one of the sloppiest songs I've ever heard, both in terms of performance and overall production.
In conclusion, Metallica fell pretty far here, owing mostly to things that began to show themselves during the Black Album. It hasn't completely malformed itself into something that merits crushing the CD under your boot, but there aren't many redeeming moments on here. The album cover features a visual by some wackjob, who thinks himself an artist, who mixed cow blood with his own semen. This is quite appropriate as this album sounds like it was thrown together over a weekend and passed off as something new and innovative. To put it plainly, Bull Shit.
Metal fans are often stereotyped as primitive idiots. While that's definetly true with some of them, a lot of fans are also intelligent, open minded people. Obviously not Metallica fans though. Here's an argument I had with someone, a few days ago.
Them: Metallica sold out!
Me: Why did they sell out?
Them: Because they went commercial with Load!
Me: How did they go commercial? They completely changed their sound, their image, everything! Wouldn't they have just released a black album sound alike? Why sell out when your previous stuff sells so well?
Them: What do you know? They cut their hair. They sold out.
Yeah, it's that pathetic. Calling this album a sell out is like calling Meshuggah's "Nothing" a sell out, cos they like, went slow dude. This is probably Metallica's most experimental album, full of strange ideas and big risks. The House that Jack Built is almost a doom metal song. It doesnt have a very conventional song structure, just lots of heavy, sludgy kind of riffs, with a long slow build up throughout the whole song, climaxing in a strange talk box (??!!??) solo. Hero of the day is in a major key (!!) for the most part, sounding bright and cheerful before going into a super heavy bridge, and then going into another cheery bit before going back into the brutalness.
I could go on like that with basically every song. Kirk treats his guitar in a very different way in this album. With the exception of maybe Bleeding Me, every solo is a composition in itself. It's probably the first Metallica album that Kirk showed what he was really capable off. Sure he was a good shredder, but hell, everyone can shred. But how many people could write the solo in Outlaw Torn? How many people could do the strange, textural solo that's in Ain't my Bitch? Sure, he does have a few low points in this album (Cure and 2x4 come to mind) but for the most part, he's doing something unique and interesting, for the first time in his whole career.
All these unusual solos are backed by a lot of strange stuff from James. Outlaw Torn's middle section could almost be in an Isis song. Mama Said is straight up country. While I don't like that song much, (Probably one of the worse Metallica have ever done.) it would take a huge amount of balls to put that in a Metallica album. There's some other risky stuff in here too, like the oh-so-bluesy stuff in Poor Twisted Me, the strange, off kilter riffing that's in Ronnie, hell, even the organ/piano whatever that hangs around in the background of the song's centrepiece, Bleeding Me.
All of this is backed up by some great drumming by Lars. It's not very complicated, but it's far better then the crappy drumming in the Black Album. There's a sense of groove in the drums that where never there before, and while they aren't particurly technical, they are never, ever out of place. There's not one spot that has the wrong drum beat. No blast beats or double bass fills, just solid steady drumming.
Well, despite the odd stuff coming from James and Kirk, there is some commercial things here, I will admit. The production is very commercial, but unlike the Black album, it treads the line between commercial and overproduced very nicely. The guitars are heavily distorted and thick, the drums and bass are loud, fat and powerful, and the vocals are done very, very well. The vocals are definetly the best in any Met record. Not much growling here folks, just a lot of straight up singing. Great stuff. Bob has never been particurly popular with Met fans, but few could deny the great job he's done here. It's all so thick, powerful and clear.. THe way a metal record should be.
So while I'll admit there are a few commercial considerations, for the most part, this was a big risk on Metallica's side. Strange, epic tunes (Outlaw Torn) crash with short punk songs (Wasting my Hate). Arena rock tunes like hero of the day against straight up blues tunes. Doom metal-y stuff and country.. all in the same album. You won't find this much variety in the strangest of indie bands, and here's the biggest heavy metal band in the world doing it! Worth picking up if you're a big Met fan. Not worth getting if you only like Metallica "When they had long hair."
I dont know what the hell urged me to download this album along with Reload and The Black Album. I knew they were as bad as piss and even though The Black Album (a.k.a. - Metallica) was mediocre, these releases really pissed me off right from track number one. Metallica were awesome at Kill 'Em All and Ride The Lightning and then turned merely good with the follow-ups and descended into mediocrity with their self-titled album which I think is the first groove metal album but this album is nothing but plain sewage.
Everything with this record has a problem right from the song titles (Ain't My Bitch, 2x4, The House That Jack Built, what the hell?), the album cover (nothing as good as Ride The Lightning, Band is playing safe by not having any aggressive covers), the lyrics (Metallica were never master lyricists but Ain’t My Bitch and Mama Said have some of the worst lyrics ever - hardly making sense) and last of all the supreme problem - music. There are bands with stupid lyrics and playful song titles but who play well instead, sadly this isn't the case with Load as the music here is the most irritating modern rock record. Yes, Metallica play Modern Rock here and if you dont know what Modern Rock is - It's music that’s very vaguely metal with country-style vocals and distorted solos (sometimes) and 'riff' (I dont care about grammar, using the word in plural would be musically wrong). Metallica play a heavier Modern Rock with even more annoying vocals than the original genre had.
Flaws, dont ask. Everything about this disc has flaw written all over it. The public has somehow acquired a liking for this damned CD. Now when this CD was made Lars main purpose was to make a CD full of radio-friendly Modern rock but then you'd ask why they made long songs and a 9 minute piece called the Outlaw Thorn? I'll tell you why, the same band (its hard to believe) released a mediocre-good record called Master of Puppets in which they had a song called Orion which was 8 minute's long. Orion was an otherwise overstretched mediocre instrumental but since Master of Puppets made it to the good books of the mainstream and Metallica found that people thought Orion was "out of this world" and "progressive" they decided to put a 9 minute piece on their new album so as to generate sales from the metal public who thought that since there was a 9 minute song here, things could be different and the public would also call these songs "progressive". In short, the strategy worked brilliantly and Metallica had lots of cash and broke thousands of metal-hearts. It maybe "79 minutes" but these 79 minutes are filled with rubbish and are nothing more than space-wasters just as they did with St.Anger.
On a song level, it depends on your interest. If you like Modern rock with perhaps a bit more metal in it then you'd be over-the-moon on hearing this but if you’re a metal fan - STAY AWAY. Nothing here could remotely interest the metal-ness in you though the "nu-metal open minds" would damn you and tell you to buy it and listen to it with an "open-mind". James’s voice is terrible here as it always has been since the Black Album, Kirk's solos are just "wah-wah", Lars's drumming - as bad as always and I still cant see Jason anywhere here, Why such a talented bassist as Jason would join this band is beyond my knowledge but at least he left before the worst came (a.k.a. - St.Anger). The 1 point here goes to average King Nothing which is fun for some time and boringly repetitive otherwiseand surely the best song on Load. If you really feel the urge to hear the album, download it and dont buy it. Metal fans shouldn't put in anything into Lars’s already jam-packed money safe, Metallica's years of metal are over - they would release another modern rock album (slightly better than this but equally bad in the end) after this and then release a mallcore album (St.Anger) which has nothing to do with metal and just shame the band's early years - R.I.P. - Metallica.
I'm not really surprised I'm the first person to give this album a high review score, but it does annoy me when this album is derided as commercial or simple, because it isn't. Granted there were a bunch of singles from this album, but so what? This is album is anything but easy.
Metallica has been making difficult records from day one (excepting the Black Album). The holy trinity of albums 1-3 had no compromise and no remorse as they steamrolled every other metal act on the planet to become the biggest underground metal act of all time. ...And Justice for All was an extremely gruelling tour de force of embryonic progressive thrash. The record hit number 7 and scored a top 40 single, but there is no one on this planet who would call it radio friendly. Load follows in this tradition in my opinion, because of its musical progression from what came before, because of it’s lack of compromise. Yeah, lack of compromise if what I said.
I don't mean to say it's a thrash record because it's anything but. It's mid-tempo grooves galore(grooves? the horror!) and only the opener and a few scant sections really open throttle, and not in the traditional "Fight Fire With Fire" fashion. But in many ways it's just as difficult as the Justice record. First of all, it's a marathon record clocking in at something like 78 minutes. And although it has a few radio ready singles ("Hero of the Day", "King Nothing", and "Until it Sleeps") they tend to be butted in between marathon epics and off-kilter experimentation.
The album is all about slow-burning momentum, in the same way a doom record is even if the sounds are worlds apart. It's almost overwhelming, this loose and bass-y state that slowly smothers the listener as it rolls inexorably from solid riff to riff. In the midst of this are a bunch of strange acoustic(acoustic intro's anyway) numbers, from the tombstone gloom of "Mama Said" to the bouncy aggression of "Waste My Hate", that along with "Ain't My Bitch" and "Cure" proves the album does indeed have a pulse. Also of note are the rare (on the albums anyway) flashes of humour on "Poor Twisted Me", a self-pitying paean to those who swim in depression (I'm looking at you Miss Rubber Suicide Razor).
Load enjoys some of the best production Metallica has had, less than the ultra-produced self-titled but thankfully more than the non-production of St. Anger and ...And Justice For All. The album is startlingly heavy, probably because Jason Newsted (and for that matter, the bass guitar) finally has an equal part in the mix.
Not everything here is good of course. "2x4" is the worst thing the band ever wrote. Ever. It's so mind-numbingly dumb and dull. I don't think I've listened to it in at least a year. It's practically on autoskip. And "Cure" is a waste of a good riff, Hetfield taking poor lyrics and then making them even worse by giving out dance instructions ("Uncross your arms..."). What is this, the Metallicaraena? Kudos to the "Breakin' the Law"-ish lead break though. "Hero of the Day" is a little weak, perhaps the only really blatantly commercial song on the record. It's not reprehensible, but it sounds like they were aiming for a big "We Are the Champions"-type arena sports anthem, which in hindsight they seem to have achieved.
Compare "Hero" to the sublime ballad "Until it Sleeps", featuring one of James's best performances ever, and it simply wilts. "The Outlaw Torn" is an epic that can stand up to the biggest classics of yesteryear and look it in the eye. The whole song has such a dramatic sweep that you feel lost in it, and the majestic "Behind Blue Eyes" style climax was made for the stage, eclipsed only by the live S&M version. "Bleeding Me" is another one of those songs that nails you to the floor, particularly the godly metallic break that underscores the metal in METALlica, something admittedly missing from this record. Finally, a mention must be made for "Ronnie", a booze 'n' blooze groove that features a rusty riff and sing-song melody that sticks in my mind for miles and miles and miles.
This record really is a brave step for Metallica. Compromise would be sticking to out-and-out metal if it wasn’t what the band felt like playing. Through the myriad twists and turns of the catalogue, they rarely give the impression of writing for the sake of money or fame. Conventional wisdom following the success of the Black Album would be more of the same. Instead, we get this smoky, low-slung, and weighty album of earthtones and withering energy. On Reload they showed us a more alternative metal face, less about personal problems and more unconventionally jumpy songs. After that, they made a move that flew in the face of convention and released the clanging fury of St. Anger. Metallica may not be the same band they were in 1983 musically, but that spirit of integrity persists and shines through to this very day.
Stand-Outs: “The Outlaw Torn”, “Until it Sleeps”, “Ronnie”