Metallica - Load
Vertigo
Hard/Blues Rock, Heavy Metal
14 songs (1:18:48)
Release year: 1996
Metallica
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

An astonishing five years after Metallica’s world-devouring monster of a hit self-titled ‘black’ album they returned, by now relishing their roles as the biggest band in the world. It’s hard to see how it wouldn’t have been a surprise for fans, having just gotten used to the stadium metal anthems of Metallica, to hear Load twisting the massive riffs of the former and adding Bluesy focus here to create a hybrid that is still generally ignored by people when they assemble a list of Metallica’s best albums. Sure, Kill…, Ride…, Master… and Justice… are untouchable in their position at the top four, but what of the band’s nineties period?

Well, whatever you think of Metallica, Load is a step sideways into a world far removed from the Thrash Metal of previous days. The songs present on this album, all fourteen of them, take a wildly different approach to the Thrash madness of previous days. Opening track Ain’t My Bitch is the closest to the old style, having a Hard Rocking groove that grabs the listener and opens the album excellently. It’s the best track on Load and would be the best thing to come from the band for the next twelve years, complete with a Country-influenced solo from Kirk. 2 x 4 follows and is another great song, taking a more Southern Metal style with what sounds like Pantera influence and another stellar solo.

From here on, Load is a distinctly mixed bag and you’ll get different reactions to each track depending on who you ask, but for the most part all are well-written, excellent songs that stick in your brain long after you’ve gotten over the move away from Thrash. The likes of The House Jack Built and King Nothing are great Hard Rock songs, lengthy without being dull, catchy without resorting to Pop tricks. Of course, there’s also the mellow side of things, with Until It Sleeps especially standing out not just because it was the first single from Load but in my books it’s one of Hetfield’s best vocal performances, showing that he could sing then even if he can’t now, the note of fragility that enters his voice in the verses more affecting than any of his snarls. Otherwise, it’s a great follow-up to Enter Sandman in single terms, with plenty of catchy riffs and a wonderfully laid-back solo from Kirk.

Hero Of The Day is another Until It Sleeps, but it’s done just as well, and the quieter style works well, especially when contrasted with the almost Thrashy section around the mid-section, and there’s yet another great solo from Kirk (being a great guitar player doesn’t stop just because you stop playing Thrash, after all!). Although the following track (the first of two long ‘uns) Bleeding Me follows fairly fervently in Nothing Else Matters’ footsteps at first, the guitar playing soon becomes extraordinary, and it never once gets dull – something you can’t always say for previous Metallica long songs.

Cure isn’t dreadful, but it lacks the stellar songwriting exhibited elsewhere, and so makes you wish that it were left out (someone should have told Metallica that not every album of theirs had to be over seventy minutes long). Same story with both the effect-laden Poor Twisted Me, Hetfield’s voice twisted without cause, nearly spoiling the song despite some more excellent guitar playing, and Mama Said, an acoustic, practically Country song that would fit wonderfully on the Firefly soundtrack but sounds slightly strange coming from Metallica. It’s still a good song, however, and sets the path for Thorn Within, another Ain’t My Bitchy Thrasher that in turn sets the path for Ronnie, which channels 80s ZZ Top with style. The album finishes with The Outlaw Torn, another lengthy song at nearly ten minutes long but not nearly as good as Bleeding Me because it follows more conventional structures, even with the instrumental section later in the track.

All in all, Load offers much, but you have to forearm yourself with the knowledge that this is a step sideways from the self-titled album’s grandeur. This is not a Thrash Metal album, this is not a classic Metallica album, hell, it even suffers if you get too familiar with it; what it is, is a quality piece of work from a band that when at a crossroads in their career chose to do what they wanted and experiment rather than produce another Metallica, and when looked at as such is a highlight of later Metallica, in many ways never surpassed in songwriting terms even by its predecessors. Ignore the artwork (Andres Serrano’s Semen and Blood III, which speaks for itself – far too arty for a band experimenting not with Prog but with the Blues and traditional Rock sounds) and appreciate Load for being a great album, if not up to the high standards which Metallica fans generally hold the band to.

Killing Songs :
Ain’t My Bitch, 2 x 4, Until It Sleeps, King Nothing, Hero Of The Day, Bleeding Me, Mama Said, Thorn Within
Goat quoted 79 / 100
Adam quoted 58 / 100
Other albums by Metallica that we have reviewed:
Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Metallica - Ride the Lightning reviewed by Adam and quoted CLASSIC
Metallica - Reload reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 62 / 100
Metallica - The Videos 1989-2004 DVD reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Metallica - Some Kind Of Monster DVD reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 15 reviews click here
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