I’m sure by now you’ve probably seen dozens of reviews of Load, ranging from “Man, this is great!” to “Man, this bites!”. I’ve even seen one that contained the quote “Apparently Metallica lost all their talent when they lost their hair” (author’s name and publication withheld to save them embarrassment). And while some hardcore fans of the band have taken particular offense to the fact that “their band” has made a fairly radical change in their sound and appearance, the album itself is some of the strongest material Metallica has put out since their And Justice For All album back in 1988.
What makes Load a strong album is that, more than any other Metallica release, it showcases all facets of the band’s sound. For the past two albums, Metallica has seemed stuck in one of two different extremes – they’ve either played constant “chukka-chukka” grinding metal, or found a niche playing really well-crafted and dark songs that people mistake as “power ballads”, such as “Nothing Else Matters” and “Unforgiven”.
And while the first single from Load, the melodic and powerful “Until It Sleeps”, once again bringing to mind previous Metallica hits such as “Nothing Else Matters”, the remainder of Load seems to be a trip through the band members album collections. Songs such as “2X4” and “Poor Twisted Me” bring to mind the swagger of ZZ Top among other artists.
But these songs aren’t just “Tush” with a crunchier guitar sound and James Hetfield’s unmistakable vocals. All the songs on the album, regardless of their sound, still sound like Metallica. The essence of the sound that Metallica has created over the past decade remains intact, from Kirk Hammett’s thick guitar (made even better by Hammett’s inclusion as a rhythm guitarist, another first for the band) and Lars Ulrich’s deep drum sound to Jason Newsted’s dead-on bass playing. The Metallica sound itself is still there, the band is just doing a little something different with it on Load then they have on past albums.
And why shouldn’t they? Metallica has been around for over a decade now, consistently playing some the best harder rock available. The missteps in their musical career have been few, and their songwriting and musicianship has improved with each album, instead of seemingly wasting away as fame comes around like so many other acts in the genre. But after a decade of having essentially the same sound, the band changed to reflect the changes in their life.
Let me say that again: the band changed to reflect the changes in their life. This isn’t an album where a band changed to stay current and hip with everything out there. Metallica isn’t trying to cash in on that big “alternative” musical scene, they’re just playing what they want – and playing it well.
Ain’t My Bitch
2 X 4
The House Jack Built
Until It Sleeps
Hero Of The Day
Poor Twisted Me
Wasting My Hate
The Outlaw Torn