Metallica have always been fond of Kickassery™. They try to continue this proud tradition here. “Gimme’ fuel, gimme’ fire, gimme’ all that I desire….” What a great place to start an album! Reload starts with a healthy dose of Kickassery™, with what is one of my favourite Metallica tracks. This one song is strong enough to support the rest of the album at least 15 minutes deep. Till then, it justifies the change in direction by Metallica. I imagine it’s an incredible rush to perform/listen to live. Even at the time of reviewing, I couldn’t help but turn off the lights, max the volume and head bang like crazy. With a laptop. It’s a powerful example of how purging rock music can be.
The slower but still eminent Kickassery™ continues with the genuinely addictive groove on Memory Remains. James Hetfield shines on this track, especially when singing “but the Memory Remains”. Not having a dedicated solo section on the song is a good idea; it keeps the groove going on and on. And on. As great as this is, do try out the S&M version (that’s the Symphony & Metallica live album, you dirty mind) of this. It’s pretty awesome.
Two songs into the album, the precarious direction chosen by Metallica seems to be paying off handsomely with Kickassery™ being dished out in varying degrees of tempo. But then some concerns start to crop up around midway. While Unforgiven II is a nice song, things start to get slightly uninvolving, and puzzling. For instance, the riff of Slither is so similar to Enter Sandman. Unintentional self-plagiarism or just some meta-reference?
And then the problem with this album hits me. While thick grooves are the order of the day (and the main aim of this album, apparently), with Lars Ulrich doing a rock steady 4/4 beat through most songs, they just don’t it for me. It’s a bit like having a cake that looks gorgeous slathered with chocolate with necklaces of vanilla cream, but which tastes like a mixture of boiled rice and water. Then, again something incredible happens. I started to tire of James Hetfield’s singing!! Could this be me? Am I listening to too much Metallica? This is inexcusable!!
The problem, I’m afraid, is that Reload is too one-dimensional. Kickassery™ can only take you so far. But mid-tempo riffing throughout an album isn’t a very stimulating thing to listen to all throughout an album. Kirk Hammett tries his best rhythm-n-lead Voodoo Chile impression on Carpe Diem Baby, which is err…ok. Low Man’s Lyric sounds like the title of a straight up thrasher, but is actually a melodic ballad that deftly straddles the line between oh-yeah-I-remember-that-song, and Low-Man’s-what? By this time, I was a bit tired of ReLoad. Sure, it started great, but as an album, it’s too mid-tempo throughout, and the grooves (sorry to say that again) start to sound labored midway through. That’s too early.
When Metallica first tried slower tempos and grooves (AARGH!!) in the Re/Load era, I told you they would have to justify the change by quality material that knocks our collective socks off. I was looking to support the change, but was disappointed by Load, and I’m afraid I can only recommend certain songs from ReLoad. Here goes: the first four tracks, Bad Seed and Low Man’s lyric. Was the massive criticism that Metallica faced justified in the light of these two albums? On the evidence, I’d say 60% yes. Scattered through the rest of the Metallica catalogue, the remaining tracks of ReLoad might have been passable, but concentrated on this album, they don’t sound right.