Metallica: 1996 – 2008

Haircuts!! White fluffy jackets!! Make up!! Martinis!!

Lm-lOAD (1996)
The Outlaw Torn
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Bleeding Me, Until It Sleeps, Hero Of The Day

So, how would Metallica follow up the multi-million selling ‘Metallica‘ album? More of the same? A return to thrash? Well…. no. Something different, actually. Prior to the album’s release, a number of interviews with various band members would frequently use words like ‘looser’, ‘greasier’ and ‘vibey’. So the change in sound and style was pretty much telegraphed from the outset. Yet, even with this knowledge, the change was quite remarkable. Gone were the razor riff of previous albums and in comes a more blues-based, groove orientated (dare I say it…) radio-friendly sound. Load has a special place in my metal heart and will be the focus of a future Hindsight article (you “lucky” people).

I found this album the hardest to choose my top track from. To me, there are so many awesome songs that choosing one was near-impossible. However, I finally opted for the album epic album closer ‘The Outlaw Torn’. For me, this embodies the album as a whole in one single song. It’s groove-orientated, sprawling and shot through with Hetfield’s new, deeper lyrics. Whilst still being heavy it’s power comes from the intensity of the riffs rather than the speed.

Much was made of the amount of music (in terms of running time) on the CD, pushing it almost the the capacity limit of the medium. The album version of this track fades out which was a compromise that Metallica made as the version they wanted to release featured a clean ending. They later released their intended version on ‘The Memory Remains‘ single. So here is the full version for ya.

And when I start to come undone…. Stitch me together….

m-rRELOAD (1997)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Where The Wild Things Are, The Unforgiven II, Carpe Diem Baby

So does my choice so a lack of originality given my choice for the previous album? Yeah, kinda. To be honest, my top track could have been any of the four mentioned just up there. For me the Reload album has a bunch of filler on it that robs it of gaining an ‘awesome’ status. Taking it’s cues from ‘The Outlaw Torn’, ‘Fixxxer’ is a behemoth of a track. Yet again showcasing how much development as a lyricist Hetfield had become (which was sadly undone by the following two studio albums, on the whole), it begins ominously and ends plaintively. Yes, it’s no ‘Master Of Puppets’ but then to try and top that song would be crazy. Load and Reload see Metallica stretching their wings a bit more, musically. Less interested in precision riffing and more into groove and stomp. It’s reflective of where their heads (and musical tastes were at at the time). Country, blues, grunge, southern rock all show up on these sister records. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide for yourself.

No live version of this song I’m afraid so here’s the album version.

Can you heal the broken worlds within….

m-giGARAGE INC. (1998)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Turn The Page, The Wait, Stone Cold Crazy

I did consider omitting this album as it’s a covers set, but I figured if I was gong to include their live album, then I could include this one too. Plus it’s got some KILLER tunes on it and is the last Metallica album that has a stellar production to it (crunchy guitars, sharp drums….).

Of the new songs on disc 1 (disc 2 featured previously released B-side covers and the $5.98 EP), there were some massively obvious choices. Diamond Head? CHECK! Mercyful Fate? CHECK! Misfits? CHECK! But there were also some curveballs too. Discharge was a surprise as was Bob Seger. But it was their version of Nick Cave’s ‘Loverman’ that stuck in my brain long after the CD finished. It seethes with menace and barely-kept-at-bay-violence. Hetfield’s vocal performance is a tour-de-force. It’s all the most oddball choice for a cover being that it comes from well outside the field of reference for Metallica (if you go by sterotypes). Even Bob Seger could be classed as rock but Nick Cave is something else….. something more visceral. As a result of this track and a Hetfield name-check, I sought out Murder Ballads by Nick Cave.

Mind. Blown.

There’s a devil crawling along your floor….

m-smS&M (1998)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: No Leaf Clover, The Call Of Ktulu, The Thing That Should Not Be

Bit of a mixed bag, this album. There were some missed opportunities in the song selection (Unforgiven, Orion, Ride The Lightning) and some songs that really shouldn’t have made it onto the setlist (Of Wolf & Man, Fuel, Nothing Else Matters). But overall, it’s a decent experiment. The orchestration from Michael Kamen manages to balance both mimicing the guitar lines with creating new additions to the existing songs. The re-arrangement of ‘Hero of the Day’ is inspired, allowing it much more breathing space, ‘Devil’s Dance’ has an added twisted edge and ‘Bleeding Me’s sounds even more epic if that’s even possible. The 2 new tracks are pretty good. ‘- Human’ is a plodder that must have made Newsted happy and ‘No Leaf Clover’ fits in perfectly with Load/reload era sound. Interestingly, Newsted was not a fan of the vocal high note in the chorus.

‘Battery’ could have been a car crash of a song to be honest. But it’s a raucous, smile-inducing dash through a live staple. The guitar intro is given some gravitas with a stunning interpretation from Kamen and the SFSO, the main riff absolutely crushes when it enters. Kamen wisely decided not to simply follow the guitar line but to add flourishes and stabs that add textures rather than simply piling everything on top of each other. And it was also the first official release of the infamous stage Hetfield battle-cry….

Are you alive?!? How does it feel, to be ALIVE!?!?! Show me….

m-saST. ANGER (2003)
The Unnamed Feeling
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: All Within My Hands, Shoot Me Again, Some Kind Of Monster

I like St Anger as an album. There, I said it. I can understand the criticisms (overly long songs, terrible snare sound, banal lyrics etc etc) but this record will forever be entwined with the external activities and struggles the ‘band’ went through. Perhaps this is where my biggest Metallica blind spot is, but this album, for me, is a celebration. It is the sound of a band that has struggled to the point of extinction and has fought back from the edge to return with venom and an attitude.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some bumps in this road to recovery. Some of the vocal “stylings” in ‘Invisble Kid’ makes me want to laugh and vomit. At the same time. ‘Purify’ is the closest that the band have come to waste of an album spot since ‘Attitude’ and by God they needed to do some editing of the songs. I’m pretty sure that most of the songs could have done without revisiting the main riff for another 2 minutes at the end of the song.

So my choice for top track is the one that I feel is the most coherent. Pretty sure that I’ve read somewhere that Hetfield alone, was responsible for the lyrics (as opposed to the lyrics by committee template of the rest of the album) and it shows. Musically it’s the most streamlined (yet it still clocks in at over 7 minutes….). It feels like the song shifts and moves and whilst there is a repetition of riffs it somehow doesn’t feel as repetitive as other songs on the album. Although I could have done without the way the “Get the fuck out of here…” part is delivered, vocally.

I’ve found safety in this loneliness….

The Day That Never Comes
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: That Was Just Your Life, All Nightmare Long, The Judas Kiss

And so to the most recent (!!) studio album, not counting Lulu as that was a collaboration. Much was made of the arrival of Rick Rubin to the producer’s chair and a much-touted mindset of going back to the “classic” era of Master Of Puppets. So does this album benefit fro these two key things? Well… yes and no.

How much blame can be laid at the feet of Rubin and his engineer Greg Fidelman for the sound quality of the album is debatable. Ultimately it’s Metallica’s name on the cover and it (Should be) their say that carries the most weight. But Lars has said that he and James made a conscious decision to “hang back a little” in terms of overseeing the production and mix of the album. There’s some fantastic songs on this album, but the production really robs it of being a great record. Sidenote: The only version of the album I listen to now is the Moderus III.2 mix.

Lead single and perhaps the most blueprint of the album’s songs ‘The Day That Never Comes’ is my absolute favourite some on this album. It has all the Metallica hallmarks found in Fade To Black and One, nods to NWOBHM with it’s gallopy end riffing and some top notch lyrics from Hetfield. Yeah, it’s derivative but if you’re going to copy, copy from the best.

I’ll splatter color on this gray….

So that’s the end of  the first entry in the Compendium series.

Up next…… Iron Maiden.


2 thoughts on “Metallica: 1996 – 2008

    • It’s a good album overall. It’s nice that they chose songs that weren’t obvious. Tracks like The Unforgiven and Fade To Black were considered, but ultimately not chosen. The Outlaw Torn also sounds stunning; thicker. more menacing and more gravitas. Looking forward to your review!

      Liked by 1 person

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