|Released||4th June 1996|
|Recorded||May 1995 – February 1996 at The Plant Studios in Sausalito, The United States|
|Number of tracks||14|
|Label|| Elektra Records (USA)|
|Formats||LP, Cassette, CD, ITunes|
|Genre||Hard Rock, Alternative Metal, Post Grunge|
| Previous Album|| Next Album|
Load was released on June 4, 1996 through Elektra Records, it sold 680,000 units in its first week (making it the biggest opening week for Metallica) and the biggest debut of 1996. Load debuted (and spent four consecutive weeks) at #1 on Billboard 200. The album has sold over five million copies in United States and is certified 5x platinum by the RIAA. Four singles were released in part of the marketing campaign of the album: "Until It Sleeps", "Hero of the Day", "Mama Said", and "King Nothing".
The album garnered backlash from a portion of the band's fan base because of a shift in tone from the group's previous efforts (Load features a bluesier sound than the band's previous outings).
- "This album and what we're doing with it – that, to me, is what Metallica are all about: exploring different things. The minute you stop exploring, then just sit down and fucking die." - Lars Ulrich
Released approximately five years after the commercially successful Metallica, Load saw the band embrace a collective sound and identity closer to traditional heavy metal and different from their thrash metal roots. As on previous releases, the fourteen songs that would eventually make up the album began as rough demos created by principal songwriters James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in Ulrich's basement recording studio, "The Dungeon". The band took over 30 demos into The Plant Studios in the spring of 1995 where they would work for approximately the next year. Once again, Metallica teamed up with producer Bob Rock, who had been at the helm during the recording process for Metallica.
The songwriting dispenses almost entirely with the thrash metal style that characterized the band's sound in the 1980s. In place of staccato riffs, Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett experimented with more blues-based tones and styles. Additionally, Ulrich adopted a minimalist approach to his drum recording, abandoning the speed and complex double bass patterns of previous albums, and using simpler techniques and playing styles.
Hetfield displayed a lyrical evolution as well, writing what many feel to be his most personal and introspective lyrics. "Until It Sleeps", the album's lead single, addressed his mother's losing battle with cancer, and "Mama Said" also explores his relationship with her. All of this marked a departure from the political and social overtones of albums like ...and Justice for All and Master of Puppets.
At 78:59 minutes, Load is Metallica's longest studio album. Initial pressings of the album were affixed with stickers that boasted its long playtime, simply reading "78:59." Consequently, "The Outlaw Torn" had to be shortened by about one minute to fit on the album. The full version was released on the single for "The Memory Remains" as "The Outlaw Torn (Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version)" with a running time of 10:48. An explanation was given on the single's back cover: When we were doing the final sequencing of the 'Load' album, the record company told us that we couldn't go a second past 78:59, or your CD's wouldn't play without potentially skipping. With our 14 songs, we were running about 30 seconds over, and something had to give, so the cool-ass jam at the end of 'Outlaw' got chopped. It was their first album for all tracks to be down tuned to E♭ tuning. Metallica had, however, a few songs in tunings lower than E on previous albums such as "The God That Failed" on Metallica which was in E♭ and D tuning for "Sad But True" (also from Metallica) and "The Thing That Should Not Be" from Master of Puppets. The Australian CD release of Load includes a bonus interview CD which is unavailable elsewhere.
The cover of the album is original artwork entitled "Semen and Blood III". It is one of three photographic studies by Andres Serrano created in 1990 by mingling bovine blood and the artist's own semen between two sheets of Plexiglas. The liner notes simply state "Cover art by Andres Serrano" rather than listing the actual title of the work. In a 2009 interview with Classic Rock magazine, Hetfield expressed his dislike of the album cover and its inspiration:
- "Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid shit that they felt they needed to do."
The source used for the front cover of the album is taken from the music video of Godflesh's "Crush My Soul", which Serrano directed. In a later interview with Hammett, when asked where the band got the idea of the cover, he tells the interviewer that he saw the video on his television set and he thought that the video is how it came about, though the band did not give any credit to Godflesh. Justin Broadrick, the frontman of Godflesh, said, "There's no copyright on Serrano. We'll be the first to admit that. But we planted the seed, and unfortunately we're not getting the credit, obviously." Hammett once gave Broadrick a custom Fender Stratocaster after his was stolen on a tour, and has commended the band by stating that they are the "heaviest band in existence".
Load also marked the first appearance of a new Metallica logo, rounding off the stabbing edges of the first and last letters of the band's earlier 1980s logo, greatly simplifying its appearance. The M from the original logo was used to make a shuriken-like symbol known as the "ninja star" which was used as an alternate logo on this and future albums as well as other related artwork.
The album featured an expansive booklet which contained extensive photography by Anton Corbijn, best known for his work with U2 and Depeche Mode. These photos depicted the band in various dress including white A-shirts with suspenders, Cuban suits, and gothic. In the aforementioned 2009 interview, James Hetfield discussed his discomfort with the band's deliberate reinvention through fashion as seen in the Load booklet:
- "Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole 'We need to reinvent ourselves' topic was up. Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn't make much sense. I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn't get into it. The whole, 'Okay, now in this photoshoot we're going to be '70s glam rockers.' Like, what? I would say half — at least half — the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling."
The booklet only contained select lyrics from each song in contrast to Metallica's previous studio albums which included complete song lyrics. Additionally, the interior artwork revolved around images of inkblots, a theme which would carry over to ReLoad and the covers for the singles released from the two albums.
- Rolling Stone (7/11-25/1996, p. 85) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...with Load, the foursome dams the bombast and chugs half-speed ahead, settling into a wholly magnetizing groove that bridges old-school biker rock and the doomier side of post-grunge '90s rock."
- Entertainment Weekly (6/7/96, pp. 56–57) - "...captures the band's earnest pursuit of its Sisyphean mission: to create hard rock that reaches grown-ups and basement-dwelling teenagers." - Rating: B
- Q magazine (7/96, p. 119) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "These boys set up their tents in the darkest place of all, in the naked horror of their own heads... Metallica make existential metal and they've never needed the props... Metallica are still awesome... What is new is streamlined attack, the focus and, yes, the tunes."
- Melody Maker (6/8/96, p. 49) - "A Metallica album is traditionally an exhausting event. It should rock you to exhaustion, leave you brutalised and drained. This one is no exception. It is, however, the first Metallica album to make me wonder at any point, 'What the fuck was that?' It's as if the jackboot grinding the human face were to take occasional breaks for a pedicure."
- Musician (8/96, p. 85) - "The smoother, broader sound that distinguished... 1991's Metallica is even more apparent here, as is the tendency to write accessible tunes... The exploration of new sounds does nothing but good for the guitar duo of [James] Hetfield and Kirk Hammett."
- New York Times (6/2/96, Sec.2, p. 28) - "On Load, Metallica has altered its music, learning new skills. Hetfield has committed himself to melodies, carrying tunes where he used to bark, and he no longer sounds sheepish when he sings quietly."
- NME (6/1/96, p. 44) - 7 (out of 10) - "...like triumphant warriors returning into a world changed beyond all recognition... Metallica emphatically prove they are still unsurpassed in their self-created genre of stadium nihilism."
|1.||Ain't My Bitch||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||5:06|
|2.||2x4||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett||5:30|
|3.||The House Jack Built||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett||6:41|
|4.||Until It Sleeps||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||4:31|
|5.||King Nothing||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett||5:30|
|6.||Hero of the Day||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett||4:23|
|7.||Bleeding Me||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett||8:20|
|8.||Cure||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||4:56|
|9.||Poor Twisted Me||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||4:02|
|10.||Wasting My Hate||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett||3:59|
|11.||Mama Said||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||5:23|
|12.||Thorn Within||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet||5:53|
|13.||Ronnie||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||5:19|
|14.||The Outlaw Torn||James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich||9:48|
Australian Bonus Interview Disc
- Was Load a Difficult Album to Put Together?
- It Has Been 5 Years Since The 'Black' Album, Why Has It Taken So Long to Come Up With Load?
- With the 5 Year Gap Between Albums Did You Lose any Songs You Had Written in the Meantime?
- When Did You Start Recording Load?
- Why Did You Choose to Work with Bob Rock Again?
- How Did Tte Album Start to Take Shape While You Were Recording?
- Having Had Such a Huge Success with The 'Black' Album, Did the Band Feel They Should Stick to the Same Formula in Writing the Songs for Load?
- Do You Ever Face Blank Periods When You're Writing Songs for Your Albums?
- Load Has a Very Live Feel to It, Was This a Conscious Decision by the Band?
- Did Load Take Long Time to Write?
- What Can You Tell Us About the Song 'Cure'?
- Can You Tell Us About the Track 'The Outlaw Torn'?
- Can You Tell Us About the Song 'Until It Sleeps'?
- How Did You Feel When the Album Was Finished?
- Why Did the Band Choose Load As the Title for the New Album?
- How Do You Feel About the Forthcoming Tour?
- How Do the Band Cope with Being on the Road These Days?
- As Each Album Seems to Get Bigger and Bigger, Do You Ever Hanker for the Days When Life Was Simpler?
- James Hetfield – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
- Lars Ulrich – drums
- Kirk Hammett – lead guitar
- Jason Newsted – bass
- Bob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich – producers
- Brian Dobbs, Randy Staub – engineers
- Brian Dobbs, Jason Goldstein, Kent Matcke – assistant engineers
- Randy Staub, Mike Fraser – mixing
- Matt Curry, Mike Rew – mixing assistants
- George Marino – mastering
- Paul DeCarli – digital editing
- Mike Gillies, Chris Vrenna – digital editing assistants
- Chris Vrenna – programming
- Andie Airfix – design
- Andres Serrano – cover design
- Anton Corbijn – photography