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Metallica - Load CD (album) cover

LOAD

Metallica

 

Prog Related

2.38 | 241 ratings

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Nhorf
4 stars Metallica is the most controversial metal band ever. Universally adored during their early times, their reputation among the metal community was considerably shaken by, firstly, the creation of a music video for the classic “One” and, secondly, the release of the self titled record (“Metallica”, “Black Album”, whatever). By this time, there were two sections of the metal community thinking different things about the band; the thrashers were quite furious at them, accusing them to lead the thrash metal genre to ruin with the groovy self-titled; and the rest of the metalheads that enjoyed the “Black Album”, saying that they had to move on and try new things, in order to not stagnate. In fact, the self titled was generally well accepted by the metal community, thanks to its “crushing riffs and solos”.

Then, metal went downhill and Metallica took a pause of some years, in order to rest and prepare the new album, the (in)famous “Load”. By this time, grunge was taking over the music industry, thanks to the mainstream success of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. Everyone was expecting the new Metallica album to resurrect metal, and bring it again to the top.

I guess that the metal community felt betrayed when the music video of “Until it Sleeps” was leaked, along with pictures of the band without long hair (and with eye-liner and such). “They are sell-outs!”, even the ones that supported Metallica when the s/t was released were thinking like this. Lars Ulrich even said, one day, that Metallica was no longer a metal band; “we are a pop band now”said the drummer to the journalists.

And so, after “Load”, all the metalheads began to reject and dismiss Metallica. They lost the status of metal gods and the band's legacy (an enormous legacy, I must say) was neglected too. The metalheads divided themselves again; some began saying that early Metallica rocked and such (basically, that the first five albums rocked; however, nowadays, this faction divided itself yet again: now, there are some who say that just RtL and KeA are good albums, mainly because of Mustaine's intervention on them, and others that say that the first four records ruled and so on), and others began saying that “Metallica were never good” (what a lie) and that their impact on metal music is “insignificant” (LIE).

Metal fans are strange. If a metal band changes its sound, they immediately accuse them of selling out and such. If a metal band stays the same over the years, they immediately criticize it too. A bit unfair, isn't it? Metallica changed their sound and experimented with new things here, on “Load”, and, of course, the metalheads labeled them as sell-outs. Unfair, indeed. So, is “Load” atrocious, like many say? Is “Load” terrible? No, my friends, of course not. Metallica is a fantastic band, songwriting-wise; they can play anything they want to, and still keep the music catchy and solid. I bet you now are thinking that I'm a Metallica fanboy, but this is just the truth, friends.

“Load” is a bizarre record, mainly because of all the different elements it carries and blends. The heavy metal/hard rock that made the “Black Album” what it is, is mixed here with some country and blues elements, which, of course, turns this record into a delightful and varied musical piece. The guitars are no longer crunchy and heavy; they are tuned differently, so their sound is less aggressive but still tasteful.

Hetfield's riffs shine here, but not because they can crush bones; they shine because they are beautiful and groovy. Kirk is, again, using the wah-wah pedal too much, but that doesn't matter much to me; his solos are emotional and somewhat original. Newsted is finally audible, giving an extra groove to some songs, and Lars Ulrich delivers here a simple but effective work, overusing sometimes the “kick-snare- kick-snare” pattern, but, all in all, his performance is very, very good, dynamic and solid. He is very criticized, nowadays, by the metal community, mainly because of his so-called ability to “ruin songs with his horrible drumming” and of the problems with Napster. Anyways, he is pretty good here, in my opinion, especially on “The Outlaw Torn”, but I'll talk about that song later.

So, as I've already said, this record is very varied and that is shown by the songs. There are lots of highlights here, in fact. The majority of the tracks are mid-paced and, sometimes, very calm, which makes “Load” a record that you'll not want to listen everyday. “Ain't my Bitch” and “Wasting my Hate” are the heavier of the bunch, the first being a truly great song, very powerful, and the second being a pseudo-punk take, featuring some laughable lyrics that fit well with the music. Those tracks also show the incredible vocal approach of James Hetfield; he improved A LOT since the s/t, showing here a very nice vocal range and, most of all, his ability to sing emotionally, which is a thing that I value.

His emotional approach is highlighted by the incredible amount of ballads and “half-ballads” present on “Load”: they are “Until it Sleeps”, “Hero of the Day”, “Mama Said”, “Bleeding Me” and “The Outlaw Torn”. I think that all of them absolutely kick ass, except for “Until it Sleeps”, a song that I consider a bit weak compared to the others, but, hey, it's good, nevertheless. “Hero of the Day” features some nice double-bass parts, here and there, and fantastic guitar melodies. It's a very underrated song, in my opinion. The same thing for “Mama Said”, despite being a bit weaker. It's an authentic country take, with an anthemic and catchy chorus. Again, not a thing that I want to listen everyday.

And now the best part... the two epics, “The Outlaw Torn” and “Bleeding Me”. Well, the latter is an amazing, almost atmospheric song; it has two different sections, the first one is very calm, James Hetfield shines with his amazing vocal performance (“I'm digging my way...” - so beautiful), and the second decently heavy, containing a nice hard rock riff that leads us to the outro, which is very soft again. Honourable mention here to Lars Ulrich too, that, during this song, uses the almighty RIDE CYMBAL!! After just using the hi-hat during the self titled and “...And Justice For All”, he finally understood that using the ride cymbal is a good thing! Yay!

Well, about “The Outlaw Torn”... I don't have words to describe it. This song is so beautiful, oh my God, this track is one of the best epics Metallica ever made, yeah, it's right there, struggling with “... And Justice For All” and “Master of Puppets” for the prize. I will just say that its chorus is amazing, its bassline gorgeous and its outro stunning. AH, and it also contains an amazing solo. And a great main riff. And complex drumming. And...

Forget it. Concluding, despite all the good songs there are some fillers here (“The Torn Within”, “Poor Twisted Me”), but, fortunately, they don't ruin the whole listening experience. James Hetfield is the man of the record, thanks to his fantastic vocals, as he absolutely reached his peak here. Kirk delivers some good leads and solos and Lars one of his best performances.

One last word to the fantastic production, one of the reasons why this album is so good. Everything is audible and well mixed, and the record has a nice distinctive sound, thanks to it. The drumkit is the intrument that shines the most because of the production; the snare is not as powerful as on the self- titled but still sounds great and the hi-hat is pretty loud too. About the guitars, they carry a very rock- ish sound, which benefits the whole atmosphere of “Load”. As you can see, “Load” is also very long (clocking in at almost 80 minutes), so it requires multiple listens for you to understand its real greatness. That's another characteristic of this record.

So, open your ears and mind, forget about all the critics surrounding Metallica and enjoy this epic, beautiful, groovy, whatever, record. “Load” deserves to be heard carefully and as a whole, so that its atmosphere gets you. Absolutely recommended, but forget this piece if you are one of those that label Metallica as sell-outs. I wish this record, in the future, will get the praise it deserves. Again, open your mind, this isn't as bad as many say.

Best Moments of the CD: -the beginning of “2X4”. -the solo section of “The House Jack Built”. -the double bass parts of “Hero of the Day”. -“I'm digging my way...” -the first riff of Ronnie (which sounds a bit like Seek & Destroy). -Everything about “The Outlaw Torn”.

Nhorf | 4/5 |

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