But Load and Reload absolutely do not deserve the scorn that greeted them when they were released in 1996 and 1997 respectively, and continues in certain sectors these days. In fact, there are some shining gems buried amid their 27 tracks, and anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that is just showing off.
In the brand new issue of Metal Hammer, we take a deep dive into the making of those albums with the help of producer Bob Rock, who tells us: "One of the most admirable things about the band is they really don't think in terms of people's reactions. They just do what they feel is right for them.”
He’s not wrong. And whether you love Load and Reload or not, there’s an indisputably killer 10-track record spread across the two albums – something proven when we asked you out there in internetland to vote for the greatest songs on the two records.
Well, the votes are in, we've counted them up and we've come up with the perfect mid-90s Metallica album made from the best of Load and Reload. Spoiler alert: Ronnie didn’t make it…
A pedal-to-the-metal gearhead anthem hollered out with relish by James Hetfield. A textbook Metallica album opener.
Until It Sleeps
The bridge between the Black Album and the Load/Reload-era – concrete-encased gothic metal with despair in its soul.
An ebbing, flowing journey through James’ psyche. That monolithic central riff is edged with psychedelia. Massive chorus too.
Lead-heavy riff, snarling vocals, killer hook: Metallica may have slowed down on King Nothing, but they lose none of their power.
The Memory Remains
Marianne Faithfull adds wordless yet world-weary vocals to this dissection of fading Hollywood glamour.
The Unforgiven II
The Black Album’s stately ballad gets a stirring sequel. Weeping, country-style guitars add an unexpected dimension.
Reload’s forgotten closer and a lost Metallica treasure: a harrowing tale of child abuse given a monumentally crushing soundtrack.
Hero of the Day
James mines family trauma for epic semi-ballad. The closest Metallica have ever come to writing a ‘pop’ song.
Low Man’s Lyric
A Metallica song like no other – woozy, weird and powered by, of all things, a hurdy gurdy.
The Outlaw Torn
Load’s exhilarating, near-10 minute finale: a masterclass in escalating dynamics. The most epic Metallica album closer of them all.
Read our deep dive into Metallica’s Load and Reload album in the brand new issue of Metal Hammer. Order it online here and have it delivered straight to your door.