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After the controversy caused by the release of “Load”, a very strong album that showed the new direction Metallica went through, “Reload” was released, an album mostly filled with the tracks that didn't make it onto “Load”. At least some songs of this album were written before the release of “Load”, I'm pretty sure of it since “Devil's Dance” was performed twice during 1995, together with “2x4”.
As for the music, this is not a metal album, like most of you know, but it is not “Load II” either; while “Load” was a pretty bluesy album, with lots of melancholic songs and such (“Bleeding Me”, “Outlaw Torn”, “Until it Sleeps”, “Mama Said”, etc.), “Reload” shows the band adopting a hard rock sound, some songs even reminding me of some classic rock bands out there. The tunes are generally heavy and fairly aggressive at times, an example being the opener or “Attitude”. All the tracks are also relatively long, thanks to some extended solo sections and intrumental parts, which is a thing that I truly appreciate. While the songs are not progressive 'monsters', so to speak, a la “...And Justice for All” (which is, by the way, the best Metallica record ever), their structures are quite interesting at times, two examples being the false ending of “Better than You” and the bridge of “Fixxxer”.
Speaking about “Fixxxer”, this is a song that disappointed me a bit. It is not a bad song, by any means, no – but it still can't reach the greatness of the amazing “Outlaw Torn”. I don't know, but when I saw that “Fixxxer” was the longest song of “Reload” and also the closer, I really thought it would be a diamond like “Outlaw Torn”. Unfortunately, I was wrong, but it still is a pretty good song, containing some catchy riffs and one of the best solos of the album.
Returning to the comparison between “Load” and “Reload”, James' vocal approach here is pretty aggressive and his voice sounds pretty damn raw at times. With “Load” he adopted a more melodic approach, but he's absolutely different here, try to listen to “Better than You” and “Wasting My Hate” and you'll see. As for the production, it is pretty good (obviously, this is Metallica) and clear, the guitar assuming the main role, the bass being audible during most of the time and the drums always there.
Kirk's performance here is pretty competent, but I still think that this new sound Metallica adopted didn't benefit him at all; he is a metal guitar player, no doubts about it, he can't just pull out those melodic, emotional solos that frequently, and that doesn't benefit the album. On “AJFA”, for example, he made songs like “Shortest Straw” what they were, with his tight lead playing, but, this time, he has not enought space to shine and some solos of this album are clearly underdeveloped and even weak. As for Lars, he still is extremely predictable; the new sound Metallica adopted doesn't benefit him that much either; he clearly overuses the “kick-snare-kick-snare” pattern and his fills are weak during most of the times. His performance is average, all in all.
As for the songs, I clearly disagree with the majority of the reviewers who said that the first three tunes of the album are the highlights; hell no, “Fuel”, “The Memory Remains” and “Devil's Dance” bore me, perhaps because I've already heard them too many fucking times. The best of the three probably is “Fuel” though: it clearly is the fastest and the most 'metal' tune of the bunch. “Devil's Dance” is very groovy, albeit repetitive, and “The Memory Remains” sounds great live, but the studio version doesn't hold my attention.
“Unforgiven II” is a competent ballad, nothing special, but it is when we reach “Better than You” that the album really gets going: this song is pretty damn good, in my opinion, great chorus and I love the false ending. The vocals on this track are also very very aggressive, great stuff. “Slither” follows and it is also pretty midpaced, with nice riffs. “Carpe Diem Baby” is a clear highlight, being the seventh track and sounding like a more elaborated version of the previous two songs. “Bad Seed” is a bit faster, even containing some double-bass parts, “Prince Charming” wins the prize for the song with the best riffs of this album, and finally “Fixxxer” closes the album perfectly.
Unfortunately, there are some more fillers hidden here, “Low Man's Lyric” being one of them. It is a very very repetitive tune, and the fact that it contains some violin lines doesn't help. “Attitude” is a really bad song, probably the only BAD tune of the record, and “Where the Wild Things Are” is a bit better but far from a good song, despite its relatively intricate and complex structure.
So, at the end of the day a solid hard rock album, being quite good at times. If you enjoyed “Load” (or if you like hard rock) you'll like this album that's for sure. Highlights: “Fixxxer” and “Prince Charming”.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the beginning of “Fuel”.
- the “to fall in love with life again” part of “Fixxxer”.