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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

988. Metallica / Reload. 1997. 2/5

I wrote a review for Metallica’s previous album Load about four years ago. You can find it both here on Rate Your Music and on my blog Music From a Lifetime. It was a lengthy piece, where in essence I decried the complete revamping of the band’s sound and standing in the metal world to put out such a disappointing load of old bollocks. You could save yourself some time here by either reading that and applying it also to Reload or by just ignoring both. Because there is no joy here from the rubble of that release.

The fact that this album came out fairly soon after Load, and was titled Reload was a concern. Was it all written together? Whether it was or wasn’t, a mere 16 months passed between the release of the two, whereas five years had passed between Load and Metallica, and there had been talk of releasing the two as a double album. The danger then was always that given they decided against that idea and released them as separate albums the band had chosen the best songs they had written at the time and placed them on the first release, leaving the second choice tunes to be collated here on the second album. If that is indeed the case, it doesn’t say much for the whole writing sessions.
“Fuel” is the one song – the only song – that could hold its place on a Metallica album from the previous decade. Even then, it isn’t as fast and furious here as it is when it is played live, but it opens the album on the right foot, and no doubt there were millions of fans all over the world like me who, when they first put this album on, thought that this was the return of the band they knew, that the previous album was perhaps just an aberration.
But from “The Memory Remains” onwards, there is a real constant groove, and by that I mean it isn’t fast and it isn’t overtly heavy, it is more a pattern where the drums and guitar find their groove and sit with it. Does it sound good? There’s no doubt it is catchy in places, and James’ current vocals suit the style. But is it heavy? My word no. Or is it anything like the kind of stuff that we grew up with? My word no. “Devil’s Dance” takes a similar approach, really focusing on the downward pitch of the vocals to implicate a slow and steady line throughout.
“The Unforgiven II” is most definitely unforgiven. It is an abomination. I don’t care how much they loved the first transition of this song on Metallica. It had already been a running joke in our circle of friends that Metallica would do a sequel to their other brain numbingly boring song “Nothing Else Matters”, and call it “Something Else Matters”. How close were we with the arrival of this song? And this is truly a whole pile of rubbish. There is nothing here that inspires the senses, it really does just make you run screaming for the skip button. “Better Than You” would probably be okay if it had and speed at all, forcing its way through the averageness to be a heavier faster song. Alas no such luck.
“Slither”. Is it a groove? Is it a crawl? I don’t know but it is just a borefest. “Carpe Diem Baby” honestly lulls you off to sleep, such is the lack of inspiration and the soothing flow of guitar and vocals. Yes, soothing flow. Doesn’t sound like a metal record does it? Sounds like an easy listening collection. “Bad Seed” is much like “Better Than You” in that with a burst of energy perhaps it would be better than it turns out to be. “Where the Wild Things Are” is most definitely NOT where the wild things are, because we have a really dull, boring and lifeless rhythm riff throughout the whole song with whatever vocal technique James wants to use here. And it goes on forever! It’s just not an aesthetically pleasing song in any way shape or form.
“Prince Charming” is pretty much the most upbeat song on the album. Not that that is saying much, but after the meandering snoozefest that has come before it, at least you start to wake up once this song comes on. However, “Low Man’s Lyric” fights hard with “The Unforgiven II” for worst song on the album. Honestly, is this what we’ve been reduced to, judging worst songs on a Metallica album instead of how do we choose a favourite? This is rubbish of the highest order. “Attitude” tries to convince us that the band still has it. ‘Born into attitude’ is what James sings to us, but who are they kidding? There’s no grunt here, no high paced drums or guitar, just lyrics over a mid-tempo song without any aggro or bent. Seriously, are they trying to have us buy into this? It’s a groove, not a thrash. It’s not even really heavy, it’s a standard hard rock song that AC/DC could do better. “Fixxxer” closes out this collection of songs in much the same way as the rest of the album. Too long, too slow, reflective not reactive.

This is unrecognisable as a Metallica album. Truly, play it back-to-back with any of their first four albums, and you could only make the assumption that this is two completely different bands. And the length of time between those two eras isn’t that damn long. This came out in 1997, just eleven years after Master of Puppets, and nine years after ...And Justice for All. It is a huge leap between genres in such a relatively short space of time. But this was the way metal was heading in America at the time. Thank goodness for Europe, which was embracing speed and power in their metal rather than head down the track of stripped back Southern influence bluesy groove alternative grunge music. It’s a far cry from the pantheon of metal to the depths that this album dives to. Perhaps even more tragically, the bottom for Metallica’s music (but certainly not popularity) had perhaps not even been reached yet.

Rating:   "Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire"   Which isn't this.  2/5

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