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Metallica - Load CD (album) cover




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2.43 | 347 ratings

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2 stars Let's get something clear right away: my relative dislike of this and Reload is not for the stereotypical reasons. I can easily forgive the band members for getting their hair cut; if anything, it would be sad if a bunch of guys in their mid-30's didn't finally get rid of their long hair. I can forgive the band's switch in style to something resembling a weird cross between metal, classic rock and early 90's grunge; I'll admit that the genericism irritates me a bit, but it's not a death knell if the melodies and riffs are good. I can forgive James for hamming up and overemoting in almost every song on here; it's something I got used to eventually. I can even forgive Kirk for losing almost all invention and individuality in his soloing style; this and the next album show a ridiculous obsession with his wah-wah pedal, and the rest of the time he apes every stereotypical "rock star" cliche, but even that isn't crippling (and besides, it still comes in the context of good interplay, though much less spectacular than in the past).

But what I cannot and will not forgive is the FILLER. Between this and Reload, I'd say that there is an awesome 45-minute album buried within, and a rock solid 60-minute could be made as well. But there is over two-and-a-half hours of material between these two monsters, and far more of it falls into the "mediocre or worse" bin than not. Just think about it, though; these may be single-CD releases, but 15 years earlier they would have each been double LP's (and heck, you could have fit 5 early Beach Boys albums into the running time of these two CD's). Hey, do you think it's just a coincidence that, between the late 60's and the start of the CD age, 95% of all albums fell into the range of 35 to 45 minutes? There's a reason for that, people; it's hard enough to come up with sufficient quality material to fill that time range, and coming up with more was reserved for instances where, justifiably or not, the artist thought they could make a major artistic statement with a double album. Heck, even Metallica themselves basically stuck in that time range on their first three albums; it was only on ...Justice and TBA where the band had started to have (moderately) significant problems with excess. What the band was exactly thinking in releasing 4 LP's-worth of material in a two-year stretch (the kind of thing reserved in the old days for The Clash in '79-'80 or Frank Zappa in any given six-month period), especially when they had five years of rust built up, is something I'm rather blurry on.

Of the fourteen tracks on here, I'd say half are solid keepers. "Ain't My Bitch" is a worthy successor to the rockers on Metallica, with solid intensity and satisfyingly thick guitar sounds to support a decent vocal melody. "2x4" has a neat slightly discordant set of main riffs that make for a decent moderately bluesy rocker, and rounding out what would be side one of four is the mega-hit "Until it Sleeps," which happens to also be my favorite of the album by a good margin. Yes, the melody is slightly reminiscient of "Nothing Else Matters", but the song would be great if for no other reason than that its main feature is heavy surf guitar, and the fact that it has a lot of tension and a good deal of creepiness only helps things. "King Nothing" may be overlong (it's essentially a three- minute pop song stretched into 5:30), but it's got a winner of a bassline, and the "where's your crown King Nothing" parts are as hooky as a college student scheduled for an 8 am lecture, so it can stick around. The big hit "Hero of the Day" is a little dippy, but it's a pleasant enough heavy happy pop diversion, so I don't skip it. "Mama Said" is a fine downbeat acoustic anthem full of tasty steel guitar bits (I can see why metalheads would absolutely despise it), and the closing "The Outlaw Torn" manages to justify its length (nearly ten minutes) with a great feeling of desperation, not to mention the eerily nice quiet guitar bits that pop up in the middle that contribute to the tension of the slow, rumbling riffage that makes up the rest.

So that's seven tracks, and largely thanks to the length of the last one, it's about forty minutes of good material. And guess what, the rest absolutely sucks. Well, ok, I need to issue a caveat there; there aren't many individual moments that jump out that make me go "wow, this is terrible." No, my dislike of the rest is more of a gradual, nagging sense of boredom, a feeling that something interesting should have happened by now but hadn't. The only truly embarrassing moment is that part in "The House That Jack Built" which features the ugliest case of somebody trying to sing along with a guitar solo that I've ever heard, but there aren't any great moments in the song to counter that, and the rest of the songs are in one ear and out the other. The only song that really has potential to my ears is the bluesy rocker "Ronnie," but it doesn't move much beyond a decent riff.

In the end, Load, as a whole, isn't terrible, but its good moments are balanced almost 1-to-1 by mind-numbing boredom. I really get the feeling that the band hoped with a lot of these tracks that just doing things in a different style was enough to make the album interesting, and that they'd be able to get away with any criticisms with the counter of "you just need to let go of the past" or something like that. But man, I may like a lot of classic rock, but that doesn't mean I need to like Grand Funk Railroad, and I may like a lot of prog, but that doesn't mean I need to like Kansas. The weaker songs may be passable as background music, but I don't think that's what the band would have wanted said when they were making these songs.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |


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