Load (album)

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Metallica - Load cover.jpg
Studio album by Metallica
Released June 4, 1996
Recorded May 1, 1995 – February 1, 1996
Studio The Plant Studios in Sausalito, California
Genre Heavy metal
Length 78:59
Label Elektra, Vertigo
Producer Bob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Metallica chronology
Singles from Load
  1. "Until It Sleeps"
    Released: May 21, 1996[1]
  2. "Hero of the Day"
    Released: September 9, 1996[2]
  3. "Mama Said"
    Released: November 25, 1996[3]
  4. "King Nothing"
    Released: January 7, 1997[4]

Load is the sixth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on June 4, 1996 by Elektra Records. It sold 680,000 units in its first week (making it the biggest opening week for Metallica) and the biggest debut of 1996.[5] Load debuted (and spent four consecutive weeks) at #1 on Billboard 200. It was certified 5× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping five million copies in the United States. Four singles were released in part of the marketing campaign of the album: "Until It Sleeps", "Hero of the Day", "Mama Said", and "King Nothing". The album garnered backlash from a portion of the band's fan base because of a shift in tone from the group's previous heavy metal and thrash metal efforts, featuring a bluesier sound than the band's previous outings and country and western influences. According to drummer Lars Ulrich: "This album and what we're doing with it – that, to me, is what Metallica are all about: exploring different things. The minute you stop exploring, then just sit down and fucking die."

Musical style[edit]

Released approximately five years after the commercially successful Metallica, Load saw the band embrace a collective sound and identity closer to traditional heavy metal and different from their thrash metal roots. As on previous releases, the fourteen songs that would eventually make up the album began as rough demos created by principal songwriters James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in Ulrich's basement recording studio, "The Dungeon". The band took over 30 demos into The Plant Studios in the spring of 1995 where they would work for approximately the next year. Once again, Metallica teamed up with producer Bob Rock, who had been at the helm during the recording process for Metallica.

The songwriting dispenses almost entirely with the thrash metal style that characterized the band's sound in the 1980s. In place of staccato riffs, Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett experimented with more blues rock-based tones and styles. Additionally, Ulrich adopted a minimalist approach to his drum recording, abandoning the speed and complex double bass drumming patterns of previous albums, and using simpler techniques and playing styles. Hetfield displayed a lyrical evolution as well, writing what many feel to be his most personal and introspective lyrics. "Until It Sleeps", the album's lead single, addressed his mother's losing battle with cancer, and "Mama Said" also explores his relationship with her. All of this marked a departure from the political and social overtones of albums like ...And Justice for All and Master of Puppets.

At 78:59 minutes, Load is Metallica's longest studio album. Initial pressings of the album were affixed with stickers that boasted its long playtime, simply reading "78:59." Consequently, "The Outlaw Torn" had to be shortened by about one minute to fit on the album. The full version was released on the single for "The Memory Remains" as "The Outlaw Torn (Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version)" with a running time of 10:48. An explanation was given on the single's back cover:

When we were doing the final sequencing of the 'LOAD' album, the record company told us that we couldn't go a second past 78:59, or your CD's wouldn't play without potentially skipping. With our 14 songs, we were running about 30 seconds over, and something had to give, so the cool-ass jam at the end of 'Outlaw' got chopped.

It was their first album for all tracks to be down tuned to E♭ tuning. Metallica had, however, a few songs in tunings lower than E on previous albums such as "The God That Failed" on Metallica which was in E♭ and D tuning for "Sad but True" (also from Metallica) and "The Thing That Should Not Be" from Master of Puppets. The Australian CD release of Load includes a bonus interview CD which is unavailable elsewhere.[6]

Album art[edit]

The cover of the album is original artwork entitled "Semen and Blood III". It is one of three photographic studies by Andres Serrano created in 1990 by mingling bovine blood and the artist's own semen between two sheets of Plexiglas.[7] The liner notes simply state "cover art by Andres Serrano" rather than listing the actual title of the work. In a 2009 interview with Classic Rock, Hetfield expressed his dislike of the album cover and its inspiration:

Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid crap that they felt they needed to do.[8]

In an interview with Hammett, when asked where the band got the idea of the cover, he tells the interviewer that he saw the video for Godflesh's song "Crush My Soul," which was directed by Serrano, and he thought that was the origin of the idea, though the band did not give any credit to Godflesh. Justin Broadrick, the frontman of Godflesh, said, "There's no copyright on Serrano. We'll be the first to admit that. But we planted the seed, and unfortunately we're not getting the credit, obviously." Hammett once gave Broadrick a custom Fender Stratocaster after his was stolen on a tour, and has commended the band by stating that they are the "heaviest band in existence".

Load also marked the first appearance of a new Metallica logo, rounding off the stabbing edges of the first and last letters of the band's earlier 1980s logo, greatly simplifying its appearance. The M from the original logo was used to make a shuriken-like symbol known as the "ninja star" which was used as an alternate logo on this and future albums as well as other related artwork. The album featured an expansive booklet which contained extensive photography by Anton Corbijn, best known for his work with U2 and Depeche Mode. These photos depicted the band in various dress including white A-shirts with suspenders, Cuban suits, and gothic. In the aforementioned 2009 interview, James Hetfield discussed his discomfort with the band's deliberate reinvention through fashion as seen in the Load booklet.

Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole 'We need to reinvent ourselves' topic was up. Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn't make much sense. I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn't get into it. The whole, 'Okay, now in this photoshoot we're going to be '70s glam rockers.' Like, what? I would say half — at least half — the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling.[8]

The booklet only contained select lyrics from each song in contrast to Metallica's previous studio albums which included complete song lyrics. Additionally, the interior artwork revolved around images of inkblots, a theme which would carry over to Reload and the covers for the singles released from the two albums.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[9]
Robert Christgau C+[10]
Drowned in Sound 9/10[11]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[12]
Entertainment Weekly B[13]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[14]
NME 7/10[15]
Q 4/5 stars[15]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[17]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars[18]

The album was well received by music critics. Rolling Stone said "...with Load, the foursome dams the bombast and chugs half-speed ahead, settling into a wholly magnetizing groove that bridges old-school biker rock and the doomier side of post-grunge '90s rock." Q said "these boys set up their tents in the darkest place of all, in the naked horror of their own heads....Metallica make existential metal and they've never needed the props....Metallica are still awesome....What is new is streamlined attack, the focus and, yes, the tunes."

Melody Maker had reservations about the heavyness compared to prior Metallica albums: "A Metallica album is traditionally an exhausting event. It should rock you to exhaustion, leave you brutalised and drained. This one is no exception. It is, however, the first Metallica album to make me wonder at any point, 'What the fuck was that?' It's as if the jackboot grinding the human face were to take occasional breaks for a pedicure." AllMusic considered Load to be an unsurprisingly repetitive, watered down and unfocused album.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by James Hetfield

No. Title Music Length
1. "Ain't My Bitch"   James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich 5:04
2. "2 X 4"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Kirk Hammett 5:28
3. "The House Jack Built"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 6:38
4. "Until It Sleeps"   Hetfield, Ulrich 4:28
5. "King Nothing"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 5:29
6. "Hero of the Day"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 4:21
7. "Bleeding Me"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 8:18
8. "Cure"   Hetfield, Ulrich 4:54
9. "Poor Twisted Me"   Hetfield, Ulrich 4:00
10. "Wasting My Hate"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 3:57
11. "Mama Said"   Hetfield, Ulrich 5:20
12. "Thorn Within"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 5:51
13. "Ronnie"   Hetfield, Ulrich 5:17
14. "The Outlaw Torn"   Hetfield, Ulrich 9:48
Total length:


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[19]




Chart (1996) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[20] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[20] 1
Belgian Albums Chart[20] 1
Dutch Albums Chart[20] 1
Finnish Albums Chart[20] 1
French Albums Chart[20] 1
German Albums Chart[20] 1
New Zealand Albums Chart[20] 1
Norwegian Albums Chart[20] 1
Swedish Albums Chart[20] 1
Swiss Albums Chart[20] 1
UK Album Charts 1
US Billboard 200 1

End of decade charts[edit]

Chart (1990–1999) Position
US Billboard 200[21] 81
Preceded by
The Score by Fugees
Billboard 200 number-one album
June 22, 1996 – July 19, 1996
Succeeded by
It Was Written by Nas
Preceded by
Older by George Michael
UK number one album
June 16, 1996 – June 22, 1996
Succeeded by
18 til I Die by Bryan Adams
Preceded by
Down on the Upside by Soundgarden
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
June 16, 1996 – June 29, 1996
Succeeded by
Hourly, Daily by You Am I


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[22] 4× Platinum 400,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[23] Platinum 94,384[23]
Germany (BVMI)[24] Platinum 500,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[25] Platinum 50,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[26] Platinum 100,000*
Sweden (GLF)[27] Platinum 40,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[29] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^
Uruguay (CUD)[30] Gold 3,000x
Europe (IFPI)[31] 3× Platinum 3,000,000*

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Until it Sleeps". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Hero of the Day". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Mama Said". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ "King Nothing". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  5. ^ Snow, Shauna (November 21, 1996). "Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press". Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ "Encyclopedia Metallica - Load, 2CD". Encycmet.com. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  7. ^ "Semen & Blood II". Artnet.com. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  8. ^ a b Metallica's James Hetfield Said He Was Very Uncomfortable With The Band' Image For "Load" EddieTrunk.com (June 3, 2009). Retrieved on 3-05-10.
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Metallica: Load". AllMusic. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Metallica: Load". Robert Christgau. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  11. ^ Lancaster, Nick. "Metallica: Load". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5 (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 725. ISBN 0-19-531373-9. 
  13. ^ Browne, David. "Metallica; Load". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  14. ^ Masuo, Sandy (June 2, 1996). "Album Review: Metallica: Load". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Metallica - Load CD Album". Q. CD Universe. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  16. ^ Fricke, David (December 4, 1996). "Metallica: Load". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  17. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian David (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. p. 538. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  18. ^ Schroer, Brendan (March 11, 2013). "Metallica: Load". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  19. ^ Load liner notes. Vertigo Records. 1996. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Metallica – Load" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 27, 2015. 
  21. ^ Mayfield, Geoff (December 25, 1999). 1999 The Year in Music Totally '90s: Diary of a Decade - The listing of Top Pop Albums of the '90s & Hot 100 Singles of the '90s. Billboard. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Metallica – Load". Music Canada. 
  23. ^ a b The first web page presents the sales figures, the second presents the certification limits:
  24. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Metallica; 'Load')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  25. ^ "Norwegian album certifications – Metallica – Load" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. 
  26. ^ "Polish album certifications – Metallica – Load" (in Polish). Polish Producers of Audio and Video (ZPAV). 
  27. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. 
  28. ^ "British album certifications – Metallica – Load". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Load in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  29. ^ "American album certifications – Metallica – Load". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  30. ^ "Priemos – 2000" (in Spanish). Cámara Uruguaya del Disco. 
  31. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 1996". International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. 

External links[edit]