Metallica - Load and Reload Revisited Mar 23, 2013 15:08:58 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Mar 23, 2013 15:08:58 GMT -5
In 1996 when Metallica finally released the long awaited follow up to the Black Album it was met with a collective groan from long time fans. A more Rock oriented style with some mild Alternative leanings definitely turned fans off, but maybe even more than that some of their fans found the band's new short(ish) haircuts to be unacceptable.
Had Metallica, "Sold out?"
Well, yes and no.
Yes, the band did make stylistic concessions to what had been going on musically over the previous 5 years, but they did so because they wanted to adopt new styles into their own. The band was ready for a change, and the Black Album was the earliest indication of their desire to push the boundaries of their sound.
Still, in retrospect, while Load, and later ReLoad, did have more of a Rock feel (and occasionally a very slight 90's Alternative Rock feel) than the Black Album, it certainly wasn't all that far removed from their mammoth 1991 hit. Load and ReLoad definitely have a looser feel with a little more groove, but the changes weren't quite as radical as they felt at the time. Hopes for another Master Of Puppets style album had been dashed, and that definitely played a role in some fans' discontent with the state of Metallica in 1996 and 1997. The Black Album had been a watering down (and slowing down) of the style that had built Metallica into the biggest of the Thrash Metal bands of the 80's, and to take the band a step farther from their base alienated some of their original fans.
But what on the album doesn't sound like Metallica? Certainly, "Ain't My Bitch," "King Nothing," and, "2 X 4," clearly sound like Metallica, granted a Metallica with a looser feel and groove, but those songs are still easily identifiable as Metallica. Easily.
The band had always been known for dynamics, so the opening to, "The House Jack Built," certainly wasn't shocking, neither was the rest of the song. Perhaps it was the lead single, "Until It Sleeps," that threw their fans the most. "Until It Sleeps," does have echoes of both Nirvana and Blue Oyster Cult (circa, "Don't Fear The Reaper"), so while the song rocks hard, it isn't full blown Metal, which is what their legion of fans wanted. And as good a song as it is, "Hero Of The Day," also failed to go near Metal territory.
Ultimately, Load and ReLoad were both mixed bags for their established fans from the 80's. While some of the songs were heavy enough to be, "Acceptable," to their fans, at least 3 of the songs on each album weren't. "Mama Said," was almost Alternative Country in style, and that one sure set their fans off.
But what about the quality of the songwriting? Forget the style, how good were the songs?
They were good. Some were near great. There was enough good material between the two Load albums to come up with one great Metallica album, even setting aside good songs that didin't fit in with the, "Acceptable," Metallica style (the aforementioned, "Mama Said," being one example of a good song that would be left off the Fan Friendly album).
Even the most cynical Metallica fan wouldn't have had trouble accepting this as the new Metallica album in 1996...
1. Ain't My Bitch
2. 2 X 4
3. King Nothing
5. Wasting My Hate
6. Thorn Within
8. Devil's Dance
9. Better Than You
11. Prince Charming
Had that been Load it would have a much different reputation with fans today. Even so, the songs left off that version of the album were all at least halfway decent (if not fairly good), even if not in the expected or accepted Metallica style.
It's easy to hear which songs don't quite fit in with the rest of the Metallica catalog in retrospect. At the time they fit in with what was happening musically, and it was understandable that James and Lars had become bored with the same old thing that they had already been doing for almost fifteen years at that point. They needed a change.
And while Metallica hasn't put out a truly great album since And Justice For All, they have put out a handful of good albums (and one awful one in the form of St. Anger - and as LuLu wasn't really a, "Metallica," album the less said about that disaster the better) since 1991.
Most band that are able to survive more than a decade will put out at least one album that divides their fanbase (turning about half of said fanbase off), Metallica has just been better at that than most bands.
Still, they did manage to put out a new album that was hailed as a true return to form stylistically in the form of Death Magnetic. Too bad the mastering job on that one was butchered...