It's time someone stood up for this much-maligned Metallica masterpiece (Alliteration!).

Metallica's sixth album Load is a divisive collection among many fans. Some are mad that they cut their hair, that they got too artsy, or that the band sold out to appeal to the grunge audience.

I say NO. Load is an amazing achievement and needs to be held in as high regard as Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All.

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Metallica's Load Album is One of Their Best

I should start by saying that my relationship with Metallica's Load album may color my defense. The album came out in June 1996. This was also the summer I met my ex-girlfriend, who is now my wife. One of the things we instantly bonded over was Load. The night we met we drove around for hours talking and listing to it over and over.

The album is special to me. But, I also truly think it is a classic Metallica album. It's one of the four greats (Puppets, Justice, Black, Load). But also remember, you can still love whichever albums you want no matter what I say. Even Lulu is someone's favorite album (I know, gross).

Making Metallica's Album Load Came After Years on Tour

When Metallica recorded Load, they had just come off a long well-earned vacation after being on tour for, like, four years straight.

The band had also grown up quite a bit. Each of them had experienced life's tragedies and triumphs. The band went their separate ways for a while. Discovering new hobbies besides thrashing, drinking, and touring. They expanded their worlds and that comes out in the music. The band that recorded Load had grown up.

Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of rage on Load. But it's rage fed by seeing the world as it is. Experiencing pain and disappointment. Its rage tempered with anger, sadness, and lust.

Musically the collection is a departure from the Metallica of the 1980s. But not all that much of a departure from the sound of The Black Album. Think about tracks like "Sad but True," "Nothing Else Matters," and "My Friend Misery."

The Sound on Metallica's Album Load Continues the Band's Evolution

In contrast to the speed metal tone of the band's first three albums; on Load, the drums are spartan but pounding, the songs medium-paced, and the guitars a genre-bending exploration of sound.

Overall the album is influenced by the new rock sounds that had evolved in the decade since Master of Puppets came out.

The minimalist 90s punk and metal sound of bands like Alice in Chains infused Metallica with fresh creative energy. The same way that the punk metal sounds of Motorhead and Misfits influenced 80s Metallica.

Metallica's Load: Track by Track

The album starts with the head-banging explosion of "Ain't My Bitch." A song that says 'Mind your business, your whining is not important."

Next "2 X 4" is a visceral exploration of the failure of reason and the fall into violence. The pull of the instinctual drive for vengeance.

This one-two punch sets the table for a solid 79 minutes of metal.

"Until it Sleeps," the album's first single, is such a perfect love song. I had to be talked out of playing it at our wedding. It is raw, pure emotion. The kind you only feel when you meet someone you crave, the person that completes your soul. The only person that can fix you, while you fix them.

Another reason Load is a revelation is that you can hear the bass! They finally seemed to acknowledge that Jason Newsted was in the band. And that helps create a solid sonic experience.

"King Nothing" is a strong mediation on power for power's sake, how it ultimately means nothing.

"Hero of the Day" is one of Metallica's most beautiful songs. On its face, the tune is about not putting your faith in the disposable hero of the moment. But, it also follows in the basic themes of the album, modern decay and the frenzy it spawns in one trying to live their life.

"Bleeding Me" is a mid-tempo song that I can see why some old-timey fans would turn their noses up at it. It does have a Stone Temple Pilots, post-grunge feel to it, especially the beginning. But the eight-minute track brings in the smashing drums and guitars to make a song more reminiscent of "Wherever I May Roam" than "Interstate Love Song."

"Cure" starts with a naked drum beat into guitar and a filtred intro from James. The song also has a cool double track on the vocals that I really like.

The rhythm guitar on "Poor Twisted Me" is a joy. It's another solid album track that follows the album's thesis.

"Wasting My Hate" starts with what at first feels like a little bit of levity. But it quickly unmasks itself as a head-banging classic about rolling your eyes and moving on from those that try to infect you with their BS.

"Mama Said" is a tune in the same vein as "Nothing Else Matters" it's as close to a ballad as Metallic gets. The country blues-influenced song explores the relationship between parents and children as they both age, grow and change.

Nobody gets out of this life without getting their hands dirty, and "Thorn Within" dives into this abyss. We all have darkness in our past, and the pain of denied forgiveness eats at one's soul.

In 1996, Metallica continued to feel the disillusionment of America's youth. The song "Ronnie" is about violence by children on children and feels almost quaint in today's horrific reality.

The album ends with the epic tune "The Outlaw Torn." The bass is in the foreground of this song which delves into the pain of longing for voids that will never be filled.

Load is One Of Metallica's Best Albums

Haters like to say this is where Metallica lost it. They cut their hair and tried to sound like Nirvana.

Nope. This is where a group of artists reached their full potential. You hear the influence of the 80s underground and the stadium rock of the 70s. These aren't songs from angry boys shouting FU to 'the man.' These are songs about being human. Having emotions and existing in a world where you aren't sure if the world wants you to exist at all.

Feeling and exploring the pain and anger, then wrestling them into submission is the point. Becoming stronger by seeing the world as it is, is the message. This is complex and immersive. And it F@#%ing ROCKS!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ben Kuhns is just some guy on the internet. He is a wannabe writer, and his wife thinks he's funny. He writes for Results-Townsquare Media in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


Metallica Albums Ranked

There are moments of indecision when compiling this list. After all, we really could have had – for the first time ever – a three-way tie for first.

Gallery Credit: UCR Staff


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