James Hetfield Says Metallica’s ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ ‘Felt Forced’

Metallica‘s James Hetfield has reiterated his mixed feelings towards the band’s output in the mid-90s, calling the 1996 load and the 1997s Reload “forced.”

The singer and guitarist reflected on Metallica’s ever-changing career in a sweeping new band profile The New Yorker. “We have always been very organic. load and Reload felt different to me,” he said. “Felt forced.”

Hetfield is not alone in his assessment. load and Reload marked a major sonic shift for Metallica, incorporating elements of bluesy hard rock, southern rock and alternative into the quartet’s proven heavy metal thunder. The band members even cut their hair short and wore makeup on their backsides – a shame for some of their fans. Metallica’s musical development had already begun with their 1991 self-titled album (colloquially known as Black album). Although fans embraced that record for 16 million sales in the US, many considered load and Reload a bridge too far.

This is not the first time that Hetfield has discussed load and Reload in less than flattering terms. In 2017, he said Clash magazine that he followed the drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett‘s leads on both LPs, although he was not entirely on board with their vision.

“You’ve got two guys who are really driving it — Lars and myself — and when we don’t agree, there has to be a compromise,” Hetfield said. “But as far as doing something that doesn’t feel right, I’m sure there’s been a few times that’s happened— load and Reload era, for me, was one of them; the way it looked i wasn’t 100% on board but i’d say it was a compromise. I said, ‘I’m going with Lars’ and Kirk’s vision on this. You guys are extremely passionate about this, so I’m jumping in because if all four of us are into it, it’ll be better.’ So I did my best with it and it didn’t go as well as I hoped, but again, there are no regrets because at the time it felt like the right thing to do.”

Though load and Reload divided fans paled in comparison to Metallica’s next album, 2003’s controversy St. Anger. With its ringing, muted snare drum, nu-metal riffs, and total absence of guitar solos, the album remains the most polarizing entry in Metallica’s discography (except for 2011’s Lou Reed Cooperation, Lulu). However, Hetfield takes the mixed reaction in stride.

“Um, it’s honest,” he said The New Yorker. “You might not identify with it, or you might not like the sound of it. But that’s where we were, and that’s what we put out. It might take its time.” He added with a laugh, “Maybe not!”

Metallica Albums Ranked

There are moments of indecision when compiling this gallery of Metallica albums, ranked from worst to best. After all, we really could have had – for the first time ever – a three-way tie for the first time.

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