Elektra Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


A confession: I’m writing this review on May 25, 2022. I was today years old when I finally listened to Reload, the 1997 effort from Metallica.

What seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a review for its companion album Load, in which I bemoaned the death of the band’s speed metal days. Recently, I listened to Load for the first time in several years, and my opinion of the album had not changed.

Reload, however, is a slight step in the correct direction. Mostly tossing aside the musical experiments, James Hetfield and crew took remaining tracks from the original recording sessions and released a more rock-oriented disc. And, in general, it works and sounds better, though it’s still ways away from their salad days.

Fans of Metallica will naturally call me out on this, stating that every band needs room to grow musically, and can’t be expected to keep releasing the same album over and over. In that sense, they’re correct – let’s be honest, if this had been just the latest rehash of Master Of Puppets, the chances are good that people would be complaining that Metallica was growing stagnant.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If Load was a more experimental disc for the band musically, Reload – with one or two exceptions – is a return to a hard rock edge. Tracks like “Fuel,” “Better Than You” and “Prince Charming” all offer plenty of proof that there was still plenty of gas in Metallica’s tanks (even if it turned out this was the final disc of original material that this iteration of the band would produce). And when you hear songs like “Attitude,” you can’t help but wonder why some of these didn’t make the cut the first time around. Oh, well… better late than never, I guess.

This is, by no means, saying that Reload is a return to form. Exhibit “A” is the disc’s leadoff single, “The Memory Remains,” featuring Marianne Faithfull providing her life-scarred vocals for texture. What symbolism her contribution was supposed to represent, I have no idea. Exhibit “B”: “The Unforgiven II,” a song that did not need a friggin’ sequel. Granted, it’s not a terrible song, but why we needed an alternate take on a six year old song is a mystery.

And then, there are the songs that sound as if they were true leftovers from Load. Both “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Low Man’s Lyric” just fall flat in terms of songwriting and performance. The former is kind of a shame, as it represents the only musical contribution from bassist Jason Newsted. And, while I liked the addition of hurdy-gurdy to “Low Man’s Lyric,” the overall song just does nothing for me as a listener.

Before the hate mail begins: I have absolutely no problem with Metallica performing slower, more introspective songs. But if a band – particularly one who made their name in the heavy metal genre – is going to tackle this, they need to make sure that the material is strong enough. In these cases, it just wasn’t.

I will say this much for Reload: while it’s by no means a great album in Metallica’s discography, it is far more listenable than Load, and contains more uptempo numbers that keep the energy up and the listener’s interest. Perhaps, if it had been given a different title, it might not have withered in the shadow of Load, and could have been recognized as a decent but flawed effort from Metallica. Makes me regret not listening to this one sooner.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B-



© 2022 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.