Album Review : Metallica - Reload (1997)
Metallica will be forever hailed for the dark and sophisticated vision of thrash metal they brought to the masses in the eighties. The band never stopped making music afterwards, but their legacy became...uh, complicated? Their album Load was an aggressive rebranding and an uninspired foray into muscular alternative rock, save for three or four great songs. Well, the following year, Metallica released Reload... which is more of the same. It's like they had six or seven good songs top and improvised two hours of crap filler to make sure they could market two albums out of whatever this was supposed to be.
Reload, like its predecessor, starts rather strong with the catchy and mindless Fuel. It was a little disheartening back then to hear Metallica sing about cars like a bunch of douchebags, but Fuel is musically well put together. There's a strong, recognizable riff, a catchy chorus an there's thing clever man/machine allegory going on. It's the bare bones of a successful Metallica song. Their once profound and empowering lyrics were pretty much a thing of the past by the Reload era, but their songwriting expertise was never to be questioned when they were inspired and they... kind of were, on Fuel. It's just not the powerful experience it once was.
The follow-up song The Memory Remains is, perhaps my second favorite song of the whole Load/Reload era, after King Nothing. Once again, the lyrics are simplistic, but the powerful melody, the memorable chord progression and the haunting use of Marianne Faithful got the point across better than its lyrics ever could. I don't hate The Unforgiven II either, which has the deepest, most intricate lyrics of the Load/Reload era. It's not the most original song idea, sure. But it comes from a genuine place and... and... I liked it better than the first? I believe the first Unforgiven is pretty overrated, like most power ballads Metallica's ever written.
So, what exactly did I dislike about Reload, then? Everything else. I don't like to use the phrase "turned on their fans", but it's hard to imagine they wrote songs like Better Than You or Attitude as anything else than elaborate fuck yous to their critics. And their critics were mostly, you know, people who loved the shit out of their earlier work. The rest is just so uninspired and generic. They all start with a spin off the same bullshit sludgy, mid-tempo alternative rock riff, deliver lyrics about snakes (there's two snakes allegories on the record) or how fucking badass and driven they are, and they last forever. Seriously, the last three songs are seven, five and fucking eight minutes long.
Few people know how fucking boring and terrible the non-singles from Reload are, because it was release in the dying days of the CD era and people bought albums only to listen to the singles back then, self-included. When you spent 20 bucks on getting a record, you didn't want to deal with any of the bullshit on it, even if it made for most of its running time. If this Load/Reload retrospective made me understand anything, it's that Metallica's fans turned on them not necessarily because they changed their sound, but because they stopped making music with passion. And people who love you will always be the first to call you out when you start bullshitting them.