What critics said about Metallica’s ‘Reload’ when it came out

1996 was a big, complicated year for Metallica.

The release of their sixth studio album, load, came with a lot of criticism from fans and critics alike. Their main window on the massive tour Lollapalooza Tour was met with displeasure as many Lolla supporters felt that Metallica was too mainstream for the festival. And the band members’ hairstyles suddenly became the talk of the rock community.

“The part I like best is that we get hated again,” James Hetfield told David Fricke in Metallica’s cover story in the issue of 27 June 1996 by Rolling stones. “I kind of miss it. People like us too much now.”

Hearing your bandmate make a comment about being hated, Lars Ulrich did not seem phased in the continuing conversation regarding load.

“This record and what we’re doing with it – that, to me, is what Metallica is about: exploring different things. The moment you stop exploring, just sit down and die the hell out of it.”

IN Metallica: The Book for $24.95, Ben Apatoff succinctly acknowledged, “Metallica is famous for not compromising or taking shit,” and because of that, the band continued its explorations in 1997 when they released their seventh full-length record, Reload.

While many fans expected this to be a disappointing collection of songs that weren’t good enough for loadthe band was adamant that it would stand on its own.

“People will immediately hear that all these songs were written and developed at the same time as the stuff you were listening to load last year,” Ulrich admitted in a 1997 interview on the TV show, Channel [V]’s Speakeasy. “[But the songs haven’t] has been lying and we will come back to it. It’s stuff we knew we wanted to develop … It’s a double album spread over two separate records, spread over a year and a half.”

Hetfield added in the same interview, “I think these songs are more extreme … when we started recording load, we initially went for the easier to record songs…then we ran out of time. These songs are a little wilder, slower, heavier, faster.”

When Reload came out, Metallica had been making music together for 16 years. Now, 25 years after the release of the album – and more than four decades into their career – we take a look back at what critics and journalists had to say when Reload get on the street.

  • “Metallica Sound Like It Still Cares”

    Miami Herald, Nov. 14, 1997

    Howard Cohen, a staff writer with Miami Heraldseemed to agree with Hetfield’s stance on the songs that included Reloadan album he called “heavier, faster and strengthened by the aggressive”Fuel“and the cut”Fixxxer.”” While Cohen didn’t mince words and admit it Reload sounded familiar, he concluded his review by saying, “Metallica sounds like it still cares. As a result, fans will too.”

    George De Sota/Redferns

    George De Sota/Redferns
  • “The music is pounding hard”

    Boston Globe, Nov. 16, 1997

    Jim Sullivan’s cover of Metallica Reload gained wide spread in Boston Sunday Globe; it didn’t hurt that Sullivan had the chance to chat with Jason Newsted about the album. “These are in no way B-sides or the B-section or anything like that,” Newsted reiterated to Sullivan about the songs on Reload. Throughout the conversation, Sullivan seemed to have nothing but praise to share about the album: “The music hits hard and Hetfield still enjoys slipping down a dark path … As time goes on, Metallica adapts … Metallica – always adept at difficult arrangements and tempo changes – has mastered melody.”

  • “Metallica sounds like it’s going to be Aerosmith”

    New York Times, Nov. 18, 1997

    In a “critic’s choice” column” i New York TimesJon Pareles reviewed releases by Celine Dion, Finley Quay and Metallica. The latter received some … well, we’ll just call it backhanded praise. “Metallica sound like a skilled, brilliantly produced second-tier heavy metal band reliving the 1970s with heavier guitars and more anti-social instincts.” Pareles concluded his thoughts by calling the album “standard blues-rock played with professional muscle,” ultimately making the claim that “Metallica sounds like it’s going to be Aerosmith.”

  • “A step in the right direction”

    Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 18, 1997

    While Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s pop music critic Dave Ferman argued Reload was “a step in the right direction” after load, he guided readers toward his ultimate claim: “The truth may simply be that Metallica’s best days are over, and that from now on we’ll have to settle for hit-and-miss efforts like this one.” Unfortunately, Ferman did not allow the 16 years that led up Reload influencing his prediction for the band’s future, one that no one will ever describe as hit-and-miss, at least not with a straight face.

    Ron Galella Collection, Getty Images

    Ron Galella Collection, Getty Images
  • “Apocalyptic Metal Sound”

    Rolling stones, Nov. 20, 1997

    Lorraine Ali assured readers of that Reload rocks and wanted them to know that whatever departures may be found on the album, “it’s firmly rooted in the group’s apocalyptic metal sound.” Nonetheless, Rolling stones gave the record only three stars (out of five), although Ali seemed a bit more hopeful for the future than some of her peers: “load and Reload is merely a stepping stone in the ongoing Metallica legacy.”

  • “Consider yourself shaken”

    Weekly entertainment, Nov. 21, 1997

    Weekly entertainment have always kept their reviews short and sweet, and in 1997 that stayed true to their thoughts on Reload. Dan Snierson received a respectable “B” grade, admitting that the album showed that the band had lost some of the “stomach-churning power” that fans had come to expect; “Still, consider yourself shaken.”

  • “Hetfield still doesn’t care”

    Guitar worldDecember 1997

    In the December 1997 issue of Guitar worldJon Wiederhorn joined the band in their studio to chat about Reload. Speaking about one of Hetfield’s guitars, Ulrich laughed and said, “He used to beat the crap out of that thing when we were on tour for Kill them all. That’s when he just didn’t care.” Wiederhorn quickly acknowledged, “In many ways, Hetfield still doesn’t care … while load embraced boogie-blues licks, exuberant rock rhythms and swirling melodic hooks, Reload is more experimental.” Weiderhorn wanted fans to know that no matter how experimental it sounded, “Metallica haven’t lost their penchant for crunchy distortion and surging power; they just dressed it up with more textural and dissonant embellishments.”

    Gie Knaeps, Getty Images

    Gie Knaeps, Getty Images
  • “The beginning of the end of a very great band”

    The morning call, Dec. 13, 1997

    Gary R. Blockus was not a fan load or Reloadand he made sure that the readers of Allentown, Pa.’s The morning call knew it. “Reload is a stroke too much in the wrong direction, sticks out like a clean, straight line in a Renoir … Reload may signal the beginning of the end of a very great band that survived and thrived even after expert Axman’s exit Dave Mustaine in the early days.” Blockus heard nothing of note on the album except for “Low Man’s Lyric.” As most fans knew then and know now, Reload was far from the beginning of Metallica’s end.

    Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images

    Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images

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