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Metallica - ReLoad
Published by kinzz
Author review
Replay value
Average 80%

5 most read reviews
Metallica - ReLoad

The five or so years that passed between Metallica’s 1991 self-titled smash album (common referred to as “The Black Album”) and it’s follow-up, 1996’s introspective, experimental, and sometimes maligned (undeservingly I might add) Load were very prolific for the band’s chief songwriters, guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. In fact, they were so prolific that Metallica wound up with more material than could possibly fit on a single-disc album such as Load, which with fourteen tracks and using virtually every second of space on the disc, was already long itself. In 1997, Metallica released ReLoad, a thirteen track album containing leftover tracks from the Load sessions. How good are these leftovers? Read on and see.

As a gift to people who buy albums just to listen to the singles (which is stupid, by the way), the first four tracks just so happen to be the four singles. Fuel is a fast-paced (but don’t expect a return to Metallica’s speed metal days) song that features an infectious guitar hook. However, that hook lasts for a very small proportion of the song, and the rest of the music fails to hold my attention for the song’s four and a half minute duration. That plus the lyrics about cars, adrenaline rushes, and life in the fast lane just don’t grab my attention. I usually find myself skipping this song. The Memory Remains, with its resonating, towering, distorted guitars and lyrics about a fading Hollywood star, is much more effective, in my opinion. In addition, sixties icon Marianne Faithfull lends her vocals to the song, adding a wonderful sharp edge to Hetfield’s gravely vocals. Devil’s Dance is heavy metal that gets down and dirty, beginning with a lumbering bass beat and featuring rapid-fire riffs while Hetfield sings lyrics about a universal theme: temptation. My only problem is it suffers from the same problem that “Sad But True” does, which is they reach what seems like their logical end, but then keep going as if Metallica is trying to drag them out for another minute or two.

Metallica catches a lot of heat for The Unforgiven II, the sequel to a hit from The Black Album. I personally feel this animosity is undeserved. The truth is, despite some similarities with the original like identical introductions and a few reproduced lines, “The Unforgiven II” is lyrically a well-written song about finding companionship despite pain and alienation, set to an eerie and dingy musical accompaniment that includes a great solo from lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. A sample of those well-written lyrics:
“Lay beside me,
Tell me what they've done,
Speak the words I wanna hear,
To make my demons run,
The door is locked now,
But it's open if you're true,
If you can understand the me,
Then I can understand the you.”

Slither catches a lot of flak, too, and in this case, it’s much more deserving. Ulrich stated in an interview that the deciding factor for which songs appeared on Load and which appeared on ReLoad was the lyrical development, with the ones developed the farthest appearing on Load. With “Slither,” this dichotomy shows. The lyrics are pretty repetitive and seemingly random, although I am partial to the line “There ain’t no heroes here.” In addition, the song’s main rhythm sounds very much like that of “Cure” from Load, which didn’t exactly have the most exciting rhythm to begin with.

Metallica returns to the social and political commentary that dominated their early days with Where the Wild Things Are, a song about how youthful naivet� and idealism are exploited and corrupted by the outside world, with an anti-war message thrown in for good measure. The song’s sound alternates between surreal and heavy, powered by Hetfield’s sometimes low, airy, and sigh-like and sometimes gravely and sneering vocals and music that features a loud and heavy drum-based rhythm at times and a dreamy guitar at others.

Fixxxer is without a doubt my favorite song on ReLoad. It’s one of those songs in which the lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentation, and the production come together perfectly. The anger, defiance, and bewilderment pour from Hetfield’s vocals, especially during the chorus and the third verse. The instrumentation is towering and heavy, further amplifying the emotional volatility and making even those with the shortest of attention spans stay alert for the songs long duration. And last and certainly not least are the lyrics, which asks if the Christian God is really a healer or just a voodoo witch that sticks powerless dolls (re: people) with pins, thus recalling “The God That Failed” from The Black Album. A sample of the lyrics:
“But tell me can you heal what father's done,
Or fix this hole in a mother's son,
Can you heal the broken worlds within,
Can you strip away so we may start again,
Tell me, can you heal what father's done,
Or cut this rope and let us run,
Just when all seems fine and I'm pain free,
Jab another pin,
Jab another pin in me.”

I’ve gone back and forth on what I think about ReLoad as a whole, as evidenced by some of the working titles I have used for this review: “There really ain’t no heroes here,” “Load’s Average Looking Younger Sister, and the final title “Thanksgiving Dinner Leftovers” (I’ll explain the metaphor shortly). I have been involved in a one-person debate on where this album falls on a scale of below average to above average.

You might find this surprising considering I have gushed over five songs and give two more four or five stars. Well, there are two problems that afflict the album as a whole or at least large parts of it. First, on some songs, it seems like Metallica is going for a sound that imitates a live show, forsaking production polishing and effects. Personally, I like a more polished sound and feeling the jam sound sounds a little half-a**ed and samey. Second is even though there some good songs here, all but one of them are ones I would not listen to regularly. They are the type of good that wears off after a few listens, although it does come back with time. The reason the veneer wears off so easily is because, with the exception of “Fixxxer,” they lack of an emotional power that stands the test of time. Unlike some of Metallica’s greatest songs (ie. “Nothing Else Matters,” “Fade to Black,” and “The Unforgiven”) the songs on ReLoad are not the type where you get goosebumps while listening.

But in the end, ReLoad is like leftovers from a Thanksgiving dinner. Load was the Thanksgiving dinner, a time when we interrupt our normal diet of pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese takeout (which some are not willing to do) to try something different. Thanksgiving is also a time when people get creative, with varying results at times. After the dinner is over, you end up with leftovers. That would be ReLoad. Leftovers can be a little cold and a little dry and often lacking the really good stuff, which has already been eaten. And the fact of the matter is you can only take so much cold turkey and gravy. But while it’s there, it’s good and you should be glad you have it.

In other words, I recommend ReLoad and give it a somewhat reluctant four stars.

1. Fuel ***
2. The Memory Remains ****
3. Devil's Dance ****
4. The Unforgiven II ****
5. Better Than You **
6. Slither **1/2
7. Carpe Diem Baby ***1/2
8. Bad Seed ****
9. Where the Wild Things Are *****
10. Prince Charming **
11. Low Man's Lyric *****
12. Attitude **
13. Fixxxer *****

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