I always hate discussions that involve discussing Metallica's Load and Reload albums. Reload I've reviewed already, and if you read the review you'll see how much I love that album. I don't love Load the same way, but I really do hate the bad rap it gets. Most people foolishly started claiming that Metallica went alternative, and sold out even worse than they had on The Black Album, and that this was crap, and I don't know how many people became turned off because of this album.
Let me start by saying that those people have never really listened to this album, and have very little understanding of Heavy. They all get Metal, but forget that there is much better things out there than just Thrash, Death, Black, or whatever, screaming, boring same old cliche Metal you wish to use. However, it's also because of those bullshit bands, and the people that cling to those ideals that keep Led Zeppelin from wanting anything to do with being assosiated with Metal. But that's okay because Zeppelin was Heavy. Black Sabbath was Heavy, and by today's standards not Metal. Deep Purple, same thing going on there.
My point is that this album isn't Metal, in the worst stereotypical way. This album is Heavy. Every track, for the most part, roars out of the speakers. It just doesn't come out as a barrage of shrapnel. Instead it's a group of guys carrying a cluster fuck of blunt weapons that will bludgeon your auditory sense with heavy riffs and deep thoughts. It's Physical Graphitti and Masters Of Reality all rolled up into one.
The album kicks off with Ain't My Bitch, which is a fantastic way to kick off the album. It's a straight forward rocker that's got some depth, minor arrangements and really comes off as one hell of a blues song if you really pay attention. Strip out all the fancy guitar sounds, and break it down to it's core and you'll find a song that could have come out of the Mississippi Delta, or bad lands of Texas, and that's before the slide solo kicks in.
From fast paced straight ahead rock to thick and heavy bad boy boogie, that's the best way to describe 2X4. This one has such a menacing vibe and flavour to it. I do honestly love this track. It's Metallica's Dirty Deeds. "Yeah / I'm gonna make you, shake you, take you / I'm gonna be the one who breaks you / Put the screws into you , yeah my way / Yeah, come on, come on, come and make my day / Make my day / Yeah / Got some hell to pay you , I steal your thunder / The joy of violent movement, pulls you under / Ooh bite the bullet, well hard / Yea, but I bite harder, so go too far / Too far / Friction, fusion, retribution / I can't hear you... talk to me / I can't hear you... so talk to me / I can't hear you are you talkin' to me / I can't hear you are you talkin' to me / I can't hear you time to meet my lord / I can't hear you talk to 2x4 / I'm gonna make you, shake you, take you / I'm gonna be that one who breaks you / Put the screws into ya, my way / Hey come on, come on, come and make my day / Make my day / Friction, fusion, retribution / I can't hear you ... talk ta me / I can't hear you ... come talk to me / I can't hear you are you talking to me / I can't hear you while your talking to me / I can't hear you time to meet my lord / I can't hear you talk to 2x4 / Talk ta 2 by 4 / It don't take no more / Come on yeah / Come on, come on / Talk ta 2 plus 4 / Talk ta 2 plus 4 / Friction, fusion, retribution / I'm going to make you... talk to me / I'm going to take you... so talk to me / I can't hear you are you talking to me / I can't hear you you talking to me / I can't hear you time to meet my lord / I can't hear you talk to , talk ta 2x4".
The House Jack Built was a bit of a shocker when it first came out. This would have been Alternative in it's time. You can hear, feel and sense a lot of Alice In Chains in this track. It's not a song that I'm a fan of, but I can hear the merit of this track. I also am a sucker for guitar talkbox.
Until It Sleeps is one of those songs that's not for everyone, and not for your standard Metallica fan. This is for the ones that would rather hear Unforgiven instead of Nothing Else Matter, if you don't mind Unforgiven to start with. This was probably the biggest blasphamy that Metallica could have released as a radio single (most would say), but it was a pretty cool video.
King Nothing is, big and heavy and really is so enjoyable on so many levels. This was a favourite of mine to see and hear live. There is just so much groove and digability on this one that you can't help but want to get all big bad and funky while it plays. I also really love the simple lyrical depth to this one. "Wish I may / Wish I might / Have this I wish tonight / Are you satisfied? / Dig for gold / Dig for fame / You dig to make your name / Are you pacified? / All the wants you waste / All the things you've chased / Then it all crashes down / And you break your crown / And you point your finger but there's no one around / Just want one thing / Just to play the King / But the castle's crumbled and you're left with just a name / Where's your crown, King Nothing? / Where's your crown? / Hot and cold / Bought and sold / A heart as hard as gold / Yeah! Are you satisfied? / Wish I might, Wish I may / You wish your life away / Are you pacified? / All the wants you waste / All the things you've chased / Then it all crashes down / And you break your crown / And you point your finger, but there's no one around / Just want one thing / Just to play the King / But the castle's crumbled and you're left with just a name / Where's your crown, King Nothing? / Where's your crown? / Huh! / Wish I may, wish I might / Have this wish, I wish tonight / I want that star, I want it now / I want it all and I don't care how / Careful what you wish / Careful what you say / Careful what you wish you may regret it / Careful what you wish you just might get it / Then it all crashes down / And you break your crown / And you point your finger, but there's no one around / Just want one thing / Just to play the King / But the castle's crumbled and you're left with just a name / Where's your crown, King Nothing? / Where's your crown? / Oh, You're just nothing / Where's your crown King Nothing? / Oh, you're just nothing / Absolutely nothing / Off to never, never land".
I live Hero Of The Day performed live. I loved the way the the stadium use to glow orange from all the lighters. I don't really care one way or the other about the song on the album. It's an enjoyable track, but I feel it can be skipped during basic play. I've covered this in the past, in a previous review. "Let me start with Hero Of The Day. The Metal side of me goes, 'What's this Alternative shit!?' The Hard Rock side of me goes, 'This is a bit too mellow for me.' The Classic Rock side of me goes, 'This isn't too bad. Not great, but okay.' The side of me that listens to everything else goes, 'Ummm, hmmmm.'"
The first half of the album finishes with Bleeding Me. Musically the song is slow and a little drawn out at times. However, this is one of those songs that's all about the singing for me. I love the way James opens up on this one and let's the beast out. I really think that Bob Rock should have poked the beast a little harder and force Hetfield to howl during some parts, but overall the production on this track alone sucks me in everytime. There's a part of me that feels the vocal performance on this track is very much like Alice Cooper's on Ballad Of Dwight Fry.
To this day I'm not sure how I feel about Cure. This is another Heavy track, rooted in Blues, but other than that I find it to be nothing more than just a solid album filler.
So, Cure was pretty much a warm up for the more Bluesy and kick ass Poor Twisted Me. This is one of those songs that is multiversatile, genre crossing, and border busting. You don't have to touch the arrangements, or even a single note, just the guitars being used, and this song could be on a Blues album, or Country and I'm talking the killer old school stuff, like Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. Then there's the more obvious stuff too.
Okay, there are some songs you really enjoy from an album, and some songs that you fall in love with and they help take you through the gates of Hell, take over the fields of fire and make Satan your personal bitch. Wasting My Hate is that track for me. Were it not for the song that finishes off this album, this would have been my favourite song on this album. To this day I still don't understand why it wasn't a radio single. I'm just very, very, very thankful that when I saw Metallica on the Load tour I was at one of the few shows where they played it live.
Yes, I really do like Mama Said. Yes, I understand that it's pretty much a Country song. Yes, I don't give two fucking shits. Yes, this song is a million times better, sweeter, and more heartfelt than Nothing Else Matters. And yes, I think the entire band are complete assholes for not playing this song live instead. Yes, I understand that most people will think I have no clue what I'm saying, and am talking out of my ass, but those people have never really listened to this song.
Thorn Within is another track that is a good solid, and really heavy, album filler. That seems a little unfair to say, because it really is a well done song, but it's one of those songs that only very specific people will claim to be a favourite.
Most people I know can't stand Ronnie. I can't stand having to defend this song to them. Let me start with this is some basic bad ass Blues. I can hear ZZ Top all over this track. I'm talking the early days stuff, like Just Got Paid or Brown Sugar. Then there's the lyrics. "Story starts, quiet town / Small town boy, big time frown / Never talks, never plays / Different path, lost his way / Dead streets are red, red I'm afraid / No confetti, no parade / Nothing happens in this boring place / But oh my god, how that all did change / Now they all pray / Blood stains wash away / He said "lost my way" / This bloody day / Lost my way / I heard him, he said "lost my way" / This bloody day / Lost my way / All things wash away / But blood stained the sun red today / I always said, somethin' wrong / With little strange Ronnie Long / Never laughed, never smiled / Talked alone, for miles and miles and miles / Gallow calls, son I say / Keep your smile, and laugh all day / Think once again, in this boring place / For little boys, how they soon change / Now they all pray / Blood stains wash away / He said "lost my way" / This bloody day / Lost my way / Yeah, I heard him, he said "lost my way" / This bloody day / Lost my way / All things wash away / But blood stained the sun red today / Yeah, well all the green things died / When Ronnie moved to this place / He said, "Don't you dare ask why / I'm cursed to wear this face" / Now we all know why children called him / Ronnie Frown / When he pulled that gun from his pocket / And they'd all fall down down down / He said "lost my way" / This bloody day / Lost my way / Yeah, I heard him, he screamed "lost my way" / This bloody day / Lost my way / All things wash away / But blood stained the sun red today". I would almost swear that this song is actually about Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower series, but for legal reasons they opted to change the name. In fact at one point my buddy Drew and I had a theory that this entire album may be, in fact, inspired by the character and the series. Let's call it a real clever concept album, hidden in plain sight.
The album finishes with one of my top five favourite Metallica songs, it may even be top three. The Outlaw Torn is one of the biggest, most bad ass epics I have ever heard. The groove on this track is so thick that it would make a porn star blush, and so heavy that a stampeding herd of elephants would stop in their tracks. Let me start with Lars Ulrich and the fact that this might honestly be the best drumming he has ever done. Sure it's not Bay Area Thrasher fast, but it's John Bonham When The Leeve Breaks thunderous. Jason Newstead's bass is just infectious with the way it slithers through out the core of the track. James Hetfield gives one of the most soulful performances of his life. Then to top it off Kirk Hammet busts out one of the most insane, out of control, full throttle solos that sounds more like Angus Young live, than it does Kirk. That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface as far as I'm concerned either. The only downside to this song is that the album is so full they had to fade out at the end, because they couldn't leave in the bitching jam due to manufacturing restrictions. I have the full version on a single.
One of the best parts about this album is Bob Rock's prodution. Seriously this album sounds amazing and is so well put together, and not in a way that sounds over produced either. He brings a full rich sound to a band that really benifitted from it in my perspective, and after re-listening to this album, it makes me think that maybe he should have done Beyond Magnetic.
7/10 - content
10/10 - production
7/10 - personal bias