Released 22 years ago today, Metallica’s Load has genuinely been lumped in with Re-Load and St Anger in the Metallica albums we like to forget exist category but considering Load celebrates its birthday today, Worship Metal sat down – with minds cleared and previous opinions set to the wayside – and listened to the whole damn thing.
Here’s our verdict 22 years on….
For starters it’s actually easier to listen to Load when you already know that this is categorically not a thrash album and with the weight of expectation removed it was intriguing to take each track on it’s own merits as if listening to it for the first time.
“Ain’t My Bitch” is actually a pretty good opener, a natural progression from the Black Album’s looser, groovier material and its blues inspired riffing and Hetfield’s trademark roar provide ample head-banging opportunities. It sure ain’t the technical thrash attack found on …And Justice but it’s still defiantly Metallica and in hindsight, it rocks hard!
“2 X 4” continues with the elasticated riffing and it’s bouncy, straight forward rhythm keeps the blood pumping. At times, the mid-paced chug recalls the blues-rock of early Aerosmith and the grunge inspired introspection and drone-like backing vocals which had changed the face of metal just a few short years prior. So far, so surprisingly good!
“The House That Jack Built” still splits opinion. Kirk’s vocoder solo still infuriates and brings to mind nothing but Peter bloody Frampton but the melodies are somewhat infectious if not a little repetitive; kinda boring then but not without merit.
“Until It Sleeps” gives you a gentle slap instead of punching you square in the face and while its thundering chorus is as catchy as all hell this still has the tendency to send us to sleep (no pun intended).
The mid-paced repetition frustratingly continues but at least “King Nothing” recalls the stomp of “Sad But True” and “Enter Sandman”. The overall effect remains positive but what we needed next was a “Holier Than Thou” slug to the chest to keep the momentum going…..
…..and what we get is “Hero Of The Day”. It does contain a haunting melody and it does pick up the pace, briefly, towards the end but it’s still a little too wet behind the ears. Catchy? Yes. Worth listening to over and over again? Nope.
Losing the will to live now.
“Bleeding Me” goes for epic but Metallica ‘epic’ used to mean “Master Of Puppets” and “One” and this doesn’t even deserve to breath the same air as those all-time metal classics (thrash or otherwise). “Bleeding Me” is dramatic, it’s played with conviction but it just meanders along without truly engaging.
“Cure” at least re-establishes the snarling attitude of old but the mid-paced formula is wearing incredibly thin by song number 6….and we’re only half way through!
“Poor Twisted Me” takes a Country and Western approach to Metallica’s now de rigour groove-laden plodding and something about this one pulls Load back out of the mire. It’s still barely recognisable as the Metallica that had conquered the globe but its bluesy stomp lingers in the mind; barely making an impact in the past, “Poor Twisted Me” surprised in how well it has aged.
The shortest song on Load, “Wasting My Hate” brings some necessary aggression and bite back to the proceedings with Hatfield unleashing a satisfying growl(!) and Lars driving the song at a pretty ferocious pace – for this album anyway – marking it out as Load‘s most honest Rocker and another revelatory experience; “Wasting My Hate” is anything but a waste of time and has also aged incredibly well.
Damn you “Mama Said”! We want to say kind things about you as you’re obviously highly personal and sang with pure emotion but for f*cks sake you’re duller than a day out at the Dutch Tile Museum – it’s a real place and apparently boasts “one of the largest collections of Dutch wall tiles and tile panels” – that’s pretty dull!
“Thorn Within” fortunately gets things back on track. Still in mid-tempo territory, at least some vestiges of Bay Area crunch emerge and the highly controlled nature of the song is finally in its favour.
“Ronnie” is yet another ode to the Blues and Country and is throwaway at best; filler in the first place, filler 19 years on.
“The Outlaw Torn” opens with the heaviest riff on the album. A welcome return to the chugging rhythms of old and Jason Newsted’s solid (audible!) bass underpins a moody and menacing piece that clocks in at just under 10 minutes. A strong closing track that could probably do with some of the excess fat being trimmed in favour of a shorter running time is nevertheless a mature and considered composition. Imagine a Load album with a few of the weaker filler tracks removed (we suggest kissing goodbye to “Cure”, “Mama Said” & “Ronnie”) and “The Outlaw Torn” would be a fittingly mercurial end to a solid Metal album.
The question remains (as do the memories): Did Metallica have to move on and distance themselves from the thrash scene? Without Cliff Burton, the answer is undoubtedly yes and was sadly inevitable.
Is Load a great album? No.
Do we hate it? No.
It still divides opinion but it’s certainly not the complete and utter catastrophe it’s often labelled as – that title shall always be reserved for St Anger – so we say give Load another spin.
It’s riches – and there are quite a few – may start to reveal themselves if you treat it as the straight up hard rock/heavy metal it was blatantly intended to be.