Metallica - Reload
1997. Ten years prior, Metallica were midway through their ascent to one of music's most impressive and consistent entities. Somewhere along their path, the infamous shifting of sound and style left many of us...well, this has all been said before, I've frankly heard enough of it so why add to the pile? Where Load was unexpected but still not a terrible record, Reload was both expected and terrible. While some laud it for "hits" like "Fuel" and "The Memory Remains", about 90% of the record is pure uninspired crap, without so much as a second thought towards the expectations of quality and inspired material the band had sent a precedent for.
Those two popular tracks, by the way, are unfortunately the first two you hear, which admittedly raise expectations a bit for the remainder of the album. "Fuel" isn't bad, but it has come to symbolize (to me at least, and it makes sense) the band's departure from quality towards quanity; basically, the more popular we become, the more of this radio-ready nonsense we can get away with. "The Memory Remains" is actually one of my favorite Metallica tracks, and a big reason why this album isn't ranked lower. Something about the sections featuring Marianne Faithfull really move me, a rare instance of Metallica taking a dive off the deep end and having it work for them. The remaining 11 songs? No. Not one of them truly matters. "Devil's Dance" had it's moment of fame on the impressive "S&M" collection that would come years later. "The Unforgiven II" isn't too bad, but it does more to taint than continue the legacy of one of their all-time best tracks. And after that, I've almost no opinion to speak of. None of the rest of the record so much as registers on my radar, it is bland and uninspired filler of the highest order. "Low Man's Lyric" sticks out juuuuuust enough, but it is a painful reminder of how good this band once was at writing haunting, meaningful ballad-esque epics.
This was the point where I think most people lost hope. Personally, I know they've managed better since, but Reload is by far the most unsatisfactory, uninspired and relentlessly shitty record Metallica have offered us. I can appreciate stepping outside of self-created boxes as much as anyone else, but nobody can tell me with a straight face that Metallica were better for it at this point in time. Perhaps they were better as people for it, but does that frankly matter to me or anyone else? Their production had waned in quality so much that the band's well-being would have been better suited to putting garbage like this on demo tapes to satisfy the band's need to produce music, not sold and in turn tarnishing a reputation that had already taken a turn for the worse prior.
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