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Digging my way to something worse - 54%

screamingfordefender, April 21st, 2011

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.