In 1996, 5 years after the release of the famous “Black Album” Metallica released their 6th L.P “Load”. The sound of Load was very different to their previous effort, and earlier work. It contained more of a hard rock sound, but still had the attitude of the metal records (mainly due to arguably some of James best vocal work). With the release of this record Metallica alienated more of their fan base and received accusations of ‘selling out’.
The band at the time:
James Hetfield - Guitars/Vocals/Prime songwriter.
Kirk Hammett - Lead Guitars
Jason Newstead - Bass Guitar
Lars Ulrich - Drums (also credited for a lot of the songs, but I think that’s due to arrangement rather than lyrics?).
Producer - Bob Rock
Ain’t My Bitch - A straight forward hard rocker. For fans hoping for another metal Metallica record, this would probably be a scary opener. Thick guitars and snarling vocals dominate this song. Some nice guitar work, with Lars pounding behind through out with lots of cymbal work. Follows a simple rock structured formula “intro/verse/chorus/verse… etc”. Interesting slide solo from Kirk though, which is completely new to the Metallica sound. Big ending with everything getting louder and harder. Fairly average opener really. 3.5/5
2 X 4 - Decent drum intro from Lars followed by a riff that will defiantly get you nodding you’re head. Carries on for a little bit with some wah wah guitar behind it, until James comes in with some strong vocals. Although there is this section with some really strange sounding vocals which happens all to often and gets annoying. Probably the best part of the song is Kirks solo. Near the end the opening riff that was pretty good is becoming slightly tiresome. Another hard rock song really. 3/5
The House Jack Built - A slow guitar riff brings this song in with some random cymbal work from Lars that continues under James vocals. Everything kind of changes and this song becomes a slow chugger which isn’t really anything special, but not poor. Nothing much to comment on though! However it does have another strange sounding solo. Fair effort. 3/5
Until It Sleeps - Amazing, unique and brilliantly dark. The best ways to describe this song. Although it follows a standard rock formula, it is one of the best, maybe, THE, best song of the album. It starts off with a deep, brooding bass line with a nice drum beat which is then followed by James excellent vocals and great lyrics, which are possibly about cancer. After his short lines of vocals, a chilling guitar part plays which adds great effect. The verses all follow that similar pattern. The choruses are heavier (not like metal, still hard rock really) with amazing vocals from James sprouting lines such as, ”so tear thee open/make you gone/no longer will you hurt anyone!”. The solo section is quiet and dark, with a good solo from Kirk, with the vocals slowing coming in building up saying “don’t want it” over and over. The final chorus is a huge blast of energy, and very powerful (notably due to the singing) until it dies down into the outro which is near enough the same as the verses. 5/5
King Nothing - From what I know, a lot of people have mixed feelings towards this song, but everyone always agrees on the great bass intro. Which slightly changes later on and becomes the songs lead riff. Some angry vocals and a great solo are probably the better parts of the song (along with the bass intro of course!) An average song through out though, similar to previous tracks (ain’t my bitch, the house -- 3/5.
Hero Of The Day - A fairly quiet song through out (has a ballady kind of feel to it), and begins with a clean riff that is played through the verses backed by the bass and drums. Chorus become slightly louder and some distortion is replaced on the guitars. Then strangely a heavier section follows the second chorus with a interesting, but great vocal effect. A simple guitar solo follows that, and goes into one more chorus before finishing on another heavy section which is longer than the first. Credit to Mr. Ulrich for the heavy drumming! 5/5
Bleeding Me - A great track. A strange guitar effect in the verse kind of sections (still sounds good though) with James singing “I’m digging my way/digging my way to something/digging my way to something better”. A slightly heavier interlude section follows with some great lead guitar work on top. Chorus is great, which has some guitar lead guitar work again (regular solo, followed by a clean, slide guitar). Lars brings it back into another heavy chorus. Has an epic feel to it, seems likes something off the black album. After that chorus everything strips down to a rhythm guitar playing a great riff alone. Everything comes back into this new section, with some angry vocals, that ultimately leads back into another chorus. Another guitar solo comes after that, but it has a wah effect on. Its longer than the ones before it, and impressive! Guitar solo leads to a final verse which shares the outro. Some softer vocals from James ends the track. Fans of older Metallica will probably like this song. 5/5
Cure - Starts with a straight forward drum beat that is later joined by a short but effect riff played around it. James then enters with a deep, spoken line which continues as like a bass line to his regular vocals, which are singing the same lines on top. Builds up into a kind of heavier chorus. Second verse everything is pretty similar but there is a simple, but again effective bass line that plays beneath everything. Second chorus is longer and has some good lead guitar work. Lyrics aren’t too great in this song, “everyone got to have the sickness/cause everyone seems to need the cure”. Then there’s a solo, and its good stuff. Fairly short though. After another chorus everything drops down to just the bass and drums, and what’s this?! Kind of sounds like slap bass. Don’t get to excited it’s not that great, but it works in this song. Everything builds up to a final chorus. Better than some of the hard rock songs on this album, so--3.5/5
Poor Twisted Me - A distance kind of guitar riff starts this song off that slowly builds up until the drums come in and everything is louder. This song kind of slowly drags itself along, its nothing very exciting, so there’s nothing major to note on. I like the bass work from Jason in the verses though, the slides sound good. James has some lightly distorted vocals. Lars gives it his best, sounds good. A fairly average song. 3/5
Wasting My Hate - I think what makes this song seems better is (if you’re listening to the album through out anyway) its a lot more lively than P/T/M. Heavier and the first original Metallica material to not contain a solo. Some pretty angry lyrics at times from James which is expected, due to the name of the song. Still not metal, but a good hard rocker. 4/5
Mama Said - Now if you are disappointed by what you have heard so far, and hoping for some metal, stay far away from this song. It has a very much country feel to it. However, this is an excellent song. The strongest part of the track is James vocals, they are sung amazingly well. In memory of his mother who died when he was 16. Quite verses with James and his acoustic guitar play along side louder chorus that have a slide guitar, drums and bass. The mid-section is also great too, very passionate vocals. Due to the video, every time I picture this song in my head, I see someone driving through a desert listening to this. After the final chorus, James belts out his vocals singing “never I asked of you/but never I gave/but you gave me your emptiness/which I take to my grave”. 5/5
Thorn Within - A heavier number (sorry, still no metal), but has some decent riffs. About a minute and half in and the vocals come in with a clean guitar riff backed by a quieter distorted one. This song doesn’t follow the standard rock structure which is a good point. A kind of bluesy guitar solo is played around the half way mark. Some good lyrics through out. Gets heavier near the end with some nice drumming from Lars. 4/5
Ronnie - Easily the worst song on the album, and maybe one of the worse Metallica songs too. Reminds me of Skynyrd in a way. Opening riff is played too much, and I find it pretty annoying. 1/5
The Outlaw Torn - Along with Bleeding Me, closest thing to the black album on this record is this track. It is EPIC. The intro is a slow build up of a heavy rhythm section and a wah wah lead playing at the end of each bar until it explodes into a heavier section before dropping back into a bass lead verse. The guitars make a few odd appearances while James sings in a sinister manner. After a few loud heavy choruses and quiet verses, it follows into a similar version of the verse but with James using something that sounds like feedback fading in and out on his guitar. This is followed up by one of the best wah solos Hammett has ever produced, it adds so much more effect and energy to the song. Which leads back into another heavy chorus, that goes back into another intro, which is similar to the verses! The songs end ups on that feedback sound James was using before the wah solo but it is followed up by a lightly distorted solo that works really well with everything eventually fading out. What an amazing ending! 5/5
Load overall is an average record, very different to all of Metallica previous work (which I respect them for). If you’re a fan of pre-black album era, stay away from this record, there are elements of metal but mostly this album is just a hard rock all the way through. The sound is much more commercial as well, it follows a lot of standard rock formulas “intro, verse, chorus, verse”, which we all know.
A lot of the work is new, interesting an unique to Metallicas sound. Slide guitar solos, different guitar work (reminds me of Guns n Roses in a way), shorter songs, better lyrics (in my opinion, but come on, look at kill ‘em all!), and overall a new sound, mainly due to production.
However, there are obvious flaws. A lot of songs sound the same, or similar I.E King Nothing or Ain’t My Bitch. Which does can get annoying if you’re listening to it through out. Also, this is a long album (appox. the same length as Tools “Lateralus”). Also, as I’ve mentioned a lot of times, Metallicas new sound to older fans would be a huge negative to the album.
Some recommended songs:
Until It Sleeps
The Outlaw Torn
But obviously it all depends on your musical tastes.
This album deserves at least a 4 out of 5.