Metallica - Reload (1997)Release ID: 42
If 1995's 'Load' didn't put you off Metallica, 'Reload' certainly won't win over any new converts, but that's not going to stop me from trying to defend this hugely underrated hard rock album.
It's understandable why these songs are often regarded as leftovers from its predecessor, since they're pretty much identical in sound, structure, tone and lyrical themes. But that doesn't necessarily make them bad. Which is why it's a shame so many people view with this album with utter contempt, as there's some seriously hard-rocking tunes here that might not hark back to the days of 1980's thrash metal, but certainly show a band who have grown and matured over the years.
With hard-hitting tracks such as 'Fuel', 'The Memory Remains', 'Devil's Dance', 'The Unforgiven II' and a number of vastly underrated gems in Metallica's discography such as 'Bad Seed', 'Better Than You' and 'Attitude', it's hard to imagine why people would so casually discard this album simply because it sounds different to the Metallica of ten years prior. However, I'll be the first to admit that 'Low Man's Lyric' is awful.
The band are probably at their most comfortable on this album when it comes to playing. Guitarist Kirk Hammett has become more than capable with his wah pedal while frontman James Hetfield has his growl nailed to perfection. Jason Newsted's bass isn't mired by his limited input, and drummer Lars Ulrich is... well... he's Lars Ulrich... 'nuff said.
If anything, the only real detriment is the duration. Clocking in at over 75 minutes, sometimes it can be quite tiring to listen to in one sitting. But otherwise, 'Reload' may be far from perfect, but it definitely gets a lot more slack that it deserves. Stop comparing it to past Metallica releases and enjoy it for the solid hard rock album that it is.
Part two of Metallica's regression into substandard, energy deficient hard rock.
After the huge disappointment that was Load, the news that Metallica would be releasing a second part entitled Reload didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm. The band had initially intended for Load to be a double album, but had decided in the studio that recording around thirty tracks at once was simply too demanding. They instead decided to release two separate albums one year apart, and Lars was adamant at the time that Reload should not be considered as a separate album at all, but merely the second half of Load. The idea of subjecting myself to more of the blues influenced hard rock that made Load so hard to swallow (sorry!) was about as exciting as viewing Lars and Kirk kissing in photos within the album sleeve, and I have to confess that I very intentionally steered well clear of Reload when it was released on November the 18th 1997. Hearing complaints that Reload held even less quality than Load and seeing it rated so horribly on sites like this one caused me no reason to regret that decision either, and James’ admission on the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster that the tracks on Reload were actually the ones Metallica considered too average to put on Load nailed that coffin closed for good...or so I thought. After reviewing Load a few weeks ago, curiosity started gnawing at me, and I finally resolved to give Reload the chance I denied it some thirteen years earlier.
I don’t know if going in with stupendously low expectations actually increased my enjoyment of Reload or whether it is actually not that bad, but I’ll state straight off that I don’t think Load Part II is really any worse than Part I. Don’t get me wrong, in comparison to the classic Metallica albums, Reload is entirely disastrous and has some particularly embarrassing moments for all involved. I have no urges to stand out on my veranda and proclaim to the world that Reload is a misunderstood gem that was simply mistreated due to some bandwagon jumping condemnation. But...after rating Load two and a half stars, I was fully convinced that Reload would sit somewhere significantly lower on the spectrum. After half a dozen listens I have to say that I’ve discovered just as many highs and lows on Reload than as on Load and will therefore rate it accordingly. The guys still show no intention of displaying their substantial talents and instead cruise in third or fourth gear for almost the entire seventy five minutes, seemingly playing for a southern American truckie bar audience as opposed to the long-haired, moshpit inhabiting crowd they owe their initial success to. The drug fuelled, abstract art loving, homosexually suggestive imagery was also retained, and even the cover art could be considered a sequel of sorts, with artist Serrano’s mixture of blood and piss following on from the blood and semen of Load.
So where are the positives? Well, as much as opener Fuel grates on my nerves and has me hoping no-one can actually hear me listening to it who might mistake me for a raving redneck, it at least gets the album off with a certain level of energy. The Unforgiven II might not be a patch on the original, containing that annoying southern twang that suddenly appeared in Metallica’s sound in recent times, but it’s not completely unpleasant. The real positives for me come mid-album, with Carpe Diem Baby overcoming that terrible name to be a surprisingly memorable and powerful track, and Where the Wild Things Are’s strangely touching and slightly progressive form completely taking me off guard. Eight minute closer Fixxxer is not too shabby either, making me think that with a little bit of tweaking, Metallica could have released an admittedly still disappointing, but not quite so staggeringly awful single album, made up of the better moments from Load and Reload. I might actually listen to an album containing Until it Sleeps, The Outlaw Torn, Carpe Diem Baby and Where the Wild Things Are, but I sure as hell won’t subject myself to over a hundred and fifty minutes of hugely inconsistent, second rate rock music just to get the occasional reminder of what this band was once capable of, particularly when it holds tracks as horrible as Cure, Ronnie, Better Than You and Low Man’s Lyric. At least I now know that I haven’t really been missing anything!