After the massive success of their self titled album, Metallica were one of the biggest bands in the world. Selling millions of records and selling out massive stadiums all over the globe. With an ever growing audience to please. Metallica did what so many bands unfortunately do when they reach a certain level. They watered down everything that made them big in the first place, and made the totally safe and boring, Load.
Despite its title playing for edginess, Aint My Bitch is predictable, mundane and feels like it’s built from discarded riffs not good enough to make the cut on their last album. It does have a cool slide guitar solo though, which isn’t a sound you hear too much in metal. Rolling into 2 X 4, Load is only two songs in and already feels like it’s the result of a band simply going through the motions. It’s cookie cutter stuff that feels tossed off at best. Almost like this record was a contractual obligation, not a labour of love or in any creatively fulfilling.
Things only get worse with the plodding and totally inessential The House That jack Built. Even James Hetfield’s vocals sound less like the real thing and more like someone doing an over the top impression of James Hetfield. And the voice box aided guitar solo has to have been the first take. There’s no way it was practiced to get to such a level of half assedness.
All of those songs only seem worse when King Nothing appears. Because King Nothing actually has a bit of life and edge to it. Jason Newstead’s rolling bass riff is a really cool base for the song to build on, with Kirk Hammet and Hetfield getting to be a little adventurous in their guitar work as well. It also has a certain lushness to it that hints at the fantastic team up Metallica would have a few years later with the San Francisco Philharmonic, S&M.
Then there’s Hero of the Day. Technically, I should hate this song. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the crowd pleasing, middle of the road safety that I don’t like about Load, but for some reason, it works here for me. The guitars are light and simple for much of the song, and Hetfield’s lyrics are as on the nose as ever. But there’s a sincerity to this song that I think is lacking from so much of this record.
And just when I thought I had a handle on Load’s bullshit, Metallica go ahead and drop the steaming turd that is Cure. Possibly the worst song the band ever recorded, it’s awkward, long, aimless and just plain bad. It’s so bad, even the AC/DC, ZZ Top rip off that is Poor Twisted Me sounds kind of OK.
Load is almost an hour and 20 minutes long. And it makes sure you feel every agonizing second of it. With 14 tracks, it’s bloated and has a whole more filler than killer. Metallica had their thing down to a science by this stage in their career, and ultimately, that’s what makes Load so inessential. The formulaic precision means it has none of the edge or danger that made their early years so exciting.