Metallica - ReLoad (1997) - A stripped down southern rock roller coaster ride - 83% (07/11/14)
Even though the experimental rock album "ReLoad" consists of leftovers from the controversial and inconsistent "Load" release, I actually prefer this record to the predecessor. This album may be a lot of hit and miss but it has an uncompromising and liberating rock'n roll spirit that suits the band much better than the extremely forced commercial groove metal release "Metallica" and the failed southern rock output "Load" that could never meet the elevated expectations related to the brand name Metallica. From the beginning on, it was clear that this album was sort of a bonus record and more of a compilation than an actual attempt to hit the charts even if it ended up peaking the hit lists all around the world. Without any commercial or stylistical boundaries, this album sounds energizing, experimental and honestly grounded. Especially the vocals are performed with a fresh dose of passion and the passionate hard rock guitar sounds adds a new face to the band. This is what makes this record's charm. If you are looking for a thrash metal record, you're at the wrong address but if you like different rock subgenres and want to hear a band that actually does what it really wants, you could appreciate this album.
It's obvious that an album filled with thirteen tracks and a running time of more than seventy-six minutes includes a few fillers. These songs are either groove metal tracks or southern hard rock tunes. The monotonous "Devil's Dance" has a few catchy hooks but is musically forgettable and sounds like slow paced groove metal. The riffs sound uninspired, the bass guitar doesn't sound distinctive enough and the drumming is so simplistic one gets the impression that Lars Ulrich is playing with a broken arm and a broken leg. In my opinion, this is by far the worst song on the album. "Bad Seed" sounds quite similar but has more speed, angrier vocals and a few vocal samples that add some diversity and all these elements keep the track from failing. It's nothing extraordinary but a cool tune to listen to from time to time. "Prince Charming" is also among the songs situated somewhere between filler material and average tracks. The hard rock guitar sounds and the motivated vocals save an otherwise boring song. Among the more southern or hard rock driven songs, "Attitude" is probably the most energizing and speediest track. Once again, it's nothing exceptional and more of a filler but it works perfectly in the context of the album. Among the four least impressive songs, it's clearly the best.
The other songs are quite eclectic and experimental and it's a matter of personal taste if you like this kind of music or not. Apart of the endlessly plodding and somewhat headless closer "Fixxxer", I do like all of them. My personal standouts are first of all the catchy rocker and yet mysteriously spiritual "The Memory Remains" with its unusual and unique backing and guest vocals. Up next is "The Unforgiven II" which is by far the best part of the trilogy in my opinion. It's inspired by country music or a western soundtrack and has really unique atmosphere. The versatile, masculine and emotionally driven vocals are really epic in my opinion. The dark, hypnotizing and almost gothic-driven "Where the Wild Things Are" is really dragging me into a floating atmosphere and can be described as hidden gem and unexpected grower. It's the kind of eerie song I would have rather expected from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but the track has a clear concept, a lot of soul and doesn't sound like anything one has heard from Metallica before or ever after. My last personal highlight is the controversially discussed "Low Man's Lyrics". I adore the decent and original use of violin and especially hurdy gurdy on this laid back ballad. Once again, the vocals are really outstanding as Hetfield varies from fragile and melodic parts to angrier and rawer passages. The song is not only epic and an emotional roller coaster ride like "The Unforgiven II" but also includes simple but great melodies and introspective lyrics. Both ballads are in my opinion among the best the band ever made and are much more unique than other songs of the same kind.
In the end, I like this record's stripped down, honest and yet eclectic approach and I never get bored of it. Many metal bands experimented back in the days and tried to reinvent themselves. Metallica's attempt at doing so sounds much more convincing to me than anything released by Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer at the same time for example. I can though also understand that metal fans have problems to open up to such a long and at times plodding release. If the band had released the very best songs of this album with the few great cuts from "Load" as one experimental southern rock release with a clear guiding line, I guess its perception would be better nowadays. I think that this album is somewhat underestimated for what it is. Maybe it's time for some fans to give this album a new try after all these years of denial. Personally, I really adore two-thirds of the album while the four fillers and the closing oddball are still really acceptable tunes on average which explains my favorable final rating.« Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) - How the mighty have fallen - 65% (05/11/14)Metallica - Load (1996) - Bore Inc.: Oddballs in a wasted space - 33% (08/11/14) »
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