Reviews for Metallica's Load
It’s tough evading the clichéd arguments, and so I will give in and try to address them in this review. Did Metallica sell out with Load? Did Metallica end their streak of five classics in a row with Load? Did Metallica become a mediocre fraction of their old selves with Load? These are questions we’ve all heard before, and they’re questions that overshadow the most meaningful one of all:
Is Load a good album in itself and without comparison to anything else Metallica has ever done?
My answer to this is a resounding yes, and I sit here wondering why so many listeners have failed to recognize the album’s respectability, bravery, and balls. First of all, Metallica did not sell out with Load. As a matter of fact, Load is Metallica’s most atypical album from a musical standpoint. From start to finish the band experiments like never before, throwing in slices of blues rock here and segments of progressive rock there. Each song stands on its own because of the individuality factor; the record is not as jointed as their holy trinity (RTL, MOP, and AJFA) because it isn’t meant to be, and it wouldn’t work that way.
It’s also important to note that Metallica did not end their streak of great albums with Load, because that streak ended with The Black Album. Personally, I’ve always thought that TBA was Metallica’s most underthought and uninspired output, and I’ve never understood the acclaim it has garnered. Load was a clean slate for the band to write on because they’d already created their most commercial offering and there was no reason to revisit that style.
The bottom line is that with Load, Metallica didn’t delve into mediocrity; they saved themselves from its depths. The album is not perfect (it’s far from it), but it’s an engaging, enjoyable experience. The combination of elements, the diversity of mood, and the energy present throughout is addictive and sometimes masterful. It radiates with that uncanny inspiration most artists only achieve in their formative years, and as a paradox of sorts is incomparably mature.
“Bleeding Me” and “The Outlaw Torn”, the two best songs on the album, owe more to progressive rock than to raw thrash, and they’re better for it. Both are right up there with “…And Justice for All” as some of the best progressive metal songs ever, and they’re also some of the most uncompromising pieces of weaponry in the Metallica arsenal. These tracks are a tribute to the band’s willingness to change, a tribute to their musical aspirations and their endless pit of knowledge to draw from.
The supporting songs are excellent, with the riff-oriented “Ain’t My Bitch” and “Wasting My Hate”, James Hetfield’s surprisingly solid vocal showcases “Until It Sleeps” and “King Nothing”, the off-kilter “The House That Jack Built” and “Ronnie”, and the blatantly mainstream “Hero of the Day” and “Mama Said”. The bottom line is that no matter the feel or aim, most of the material present is relating in quality.
Still, there’s some lackluster material to be found: “2x4” is disgraceful; “Cure” isn’t as good as it could’ve been; “Poor Twisted Me” is unbearably boring and “Thorn Within” is a tad weak. It doesn’t help Load’s cause that these songs take up a ton of time and often create mediocre stretches that could defer first time listeners. After a couple of spins however, it becomes obvious that the good is so much more abundant than the bad.
In my experience, I’ve learned there are several reasons for distaste. The prim