Rock and metal mega-producer Bob Rock would know a thing or two about Metallica's 90s era. He is, after all, the man they drafted in to help them evolve their sound into the stadium-friendly brand of heavy metal that'd make them the biggest band in the genre's entire history.
After blowing up to unprecedented levels with 1991's self-titled opus (AKA The Black Album) and its resulting tour cycle, the band reunited with Bob Rock for two divisive records that'd define the second half of that decade for them. Load, released in 1996, and follow-up album Reload, released in 1997, saw the Four Horsemen branch out more than ever before, with many fans delighting in brooding epics like Bleeding Me and The Outlow Torn, and others horrified at their dabbles with country, alt-rock and grunge.
In a new interview with Metal Hammer, Bob Rock reveals his thoughts on the Load and Reload era, and he firmly believes they showed a band unafraid to push themselves as far as possible.
"One of the most admirable things about the band is they really don't think in terms of people's reactions," he explains. "They just do what they feel is right for them. They don't take into account what people think. When they go in a direction and they make a commitment to doing something, they just do it. And they don't hold back."
Rock notes that following the immense success of The Black Album, which has sold over 16 million copies in the US alone at this point, Metallica "felt a certain amount of wanting to stretch out."
"I just think they just saw that culture was changing," he adds. "And the rules of metal are very confining. The drum sound has to be a certain way, you can't do harmonies. I mean, that's just no fun."
Interestingly, despite Metallica's famed penchant for blazing their own trail, Rock insists that the band never had any initial intentions to branch out as far as they did on Load and Reload.
"There was no conceptual decision that they would go somewhere different," the producer says, though he does admit that the band working with each other in the same room during the writing sessions for the album had a profound impact on the creative process.
"It freed them up from concentrating on what made them who they are. They realised that they could stretch the boundaries and that's what Load and Reload was."
Read Metal Hammer's look inside the Load and Reload albums in the latest issue, out now.