So it's less than two months before the release of the METALLICA's "St. Anger" opus and I am up to my usual…pulling CDs from the band's past catalogue and getting ready for the day. Generally, Tuesdays are release day here in Canada so if you are like me, that's a sacred day that includes a trip to the store of choice for thy weekly purchases. I remember when METALLICA releases were a big deal to me. Fuck man, the stores here opened Monday at midnight so they could move product and we attended like it was a live show for Christ's sakes.
I had noticed a while back that no one at TMO had cared to review the new era METALLICA CDs. I found it a bit funny they had been overlooked but maybe it was just a matter of taking mama's advice for years: "if you don't have anything nice to say…". Yeah right, I've read one or two of The Rev's reviews. So I look at it as much-needed therapy or confession which I have verbalized one or four times before but maybe in the printed form, I can finally let go.
I recall the day when I bought an import LP called "Kill 'Em All" by an unknown band METALLICA. I laid on my bed listening to the riffs and lyrics and was utterly flabbergasted. I had heard nothing like this before. I was just blown away by everything on that LP. They soon became my favourite band and it wasn't long before I had most people my age and older freaking out at pit parties when they heard "Whiplash" from a car stereo by the bonfire. So METALLICA provided the medium and like a good little disciple, I spread the word to everyone who would listen and a few that wouldn't (I still do this…ask my wife). I continued my work throughout the 80's.v So why is this important in a review on "Load". Well, let me tell you. This was a band that made a point of being there for their fans and never missed an opportunity to reinforce that belief. They went as far as to say they would never even make a video to promote their shit. Then one day, it began to unravel…it started with the "One" video which they justified somehow and we bought into it…videos were cool and we wanted to see our band. Then the self-titled album in the early 90's arrived complete with shortened commercial songs and even some ballads…uh oh. That album was commercially huge and the METALLICA boys became Mac Daddies rolling in the dough.
But it truly is not with the "Black" album that I ever had a problem. Yeah it was different from their last few but it was a level of evolution I could have lived with (losing the ballads would have suited me fine but whatever). It was the step in evolution that followed that I, like many others despised. Gone were the guitar-and-riff-driven, angry songs of the past. Instead we got a METALLICA Rock album that was very vocal-driven and loaded with mediocrity. What happened to the days when James thought he could not sing and just got up there and got it done. I yearn for more of those days.
"Load". Bad title, bad cover. Can you believe the artwork and band photos? METALLICA had become a group of fancy boys. I was alarmed when I seen all this but it's about the music right? Well the songs in general are ok. They are so far from the style we know as METALLICA that it is shocking. There's very little thrashing and the riffs for the most part are a little awkward. James took vocal training I guess and it shows, he sounds nothing like his angry former self and he still can't sing too well. He is saved only because his voice is so damn cool.
I remember digging quite a few tracks on this CD…before I really had the time to evaluate the CD properly and think things through. Writing this review, years later, also gives me the ability to evaluate how this CD has held up with time. So the standout rockers are "Ain't My Bitch", "2 x 4", "Wasting My Hate" and my favourite "King Nothing". I also like the heavy "The House Jack Built" and more commercial "Hero Of The Day". Much of the rest is filler for me or songs that could have become so much more had METALLICA cared to take the time. Overall this release does not hold up well…I find I get bored and remove it from my player quite quickly. That just never happened with METALLICA in the 80's.
So the production is ok but any producer that can be responsible for such a change in such an important band can only get the thumbs down from me. I expected as much from Bob Rock's track record of having bands find their inner commercial self. In the end though, I blame METALLICA for getting him involved. Guess who's doing "St. Anger"…fuck!
So how do I score this? I don't really hate the album and I don't like a lot of it. I still have that wish-it-never-happened feeling when I think about it. I could certainly add some points had it been a Hetfield side project but under the mighty METALLICA moniker it will have to suffer my wrath a little as I have suffered since it came about. (Online May 21, 2003)