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When Load came out, I wasn't a metal fan. I was 10 and my favourite music was Elton John. But I can imagine the slightly confused/angry reaction at the complete change in direction Metallica did. Which begs the question.. Why on Earth did Metallica release this album? A bunch of songs that didn't make it onto Load? What the hell where they thinking?
This album generally continues a lot of the ideas that where on Load. There's the bluesy riffing, and the slight country angle that was present in Load is now a bit more up front. But there's a lot of strange stuff that no other band has ever attempted. It all makes for a rather mixed up album, but it's more cohesive then Load.
Still, don't start thinking that Metallica went completely un-metal. Fuel is a fast, heavy and powerful song, from the catchy opening riffs to the heavy chunking just before the solo. The solo itself is very impressive, very melodic and a bit more like old Hammett. The song Prince Charming should also be mentioned here, because it's just such a menacing song, and very heavy at that. Great song to head bang too, just a great song all round. Full of big riffs and a huge chorus. I think Slither deserves a special mention, because it's verse and pre-chorus are all really, really heavy.
After those three, we're left with a big group of oddities. Bad Seed and Attitude sound like a heavy AC/DC, Memory Remains has some ghoulish vocals served up by Marrianne Faithfull, a big, extended Na-na-na-na ending, and some of the catchiest soloing you will ever hear. Devil's Dance is super groovy, while Low Man's Lyric is almost a straight up country ballad, but full of depth and sadness. Like a lot of these songs, it's unlike Metallica have ever attempted.
Of course, these songs are crappy generic ones compared to Where the Wild things are and Fixxxer. WTWTA is a twisted, multi-layered epic. Full of strange clean parts, strange chromatic bits, military style drums and a fairly unusual, though effective solo. Fixxxer is an 8 minute long epic, with backwards guitars floating around, lots of overdubs, and a very strange, almost spoken word interlude thing. It's another very moody and unusual song from Metallica. It's also the best song on the album.
A lot of these songs vary a bit in quality, but there's a few things on this album that remain constantly top-notch, that is, the vocals, the lyrics, and the production. James can be very abstract on this album, and well, I guess the lyrics do dip a bit in some places, but there is quality in every song, from the whole faded-star stuff on Memory Remains, too the Strange imagery on WTWTA, and definetly on Fixxxer, where he talks about his father's death. The vocals aren't as good as Load, but they are all really, really good. A fair bit of growling, but a lot of full-on singing. His voice isn't as rich as it is on Load, which brings me to the next point: The production. The production is the rawest since AJFA. Well, it's still fairly polished, but unlike Load and Self Titled, it doesn't sound like there where 200 guitar tracks and 100 vocals tracks or whatever. It gives the album a bit of a rough edge, always a good thing.
This album definetly isn't for everybody. For every killer track there's an Unforgiven II or a Better then You. Still, there's a lot of unique, interesting ideas in this album, and if you're an open minded Metallica fan (That may be an oxymoron though. Boom Boom!) you should check this album out.