Load is the sixth studio album by the American heavy metal band Metallica, released on June 4, 1996 by Elektra Records in the United States and by Vertigo Records internationally. The album showed more of a hard rock side of Metallica than the band's typical thrash metal style, which alienated much of the band's fanbase. It also featured influences from genres such as Southern rock, blues rock, country rock and alternative rock. Drummer Lars Ulrich said about Load's more exploratory nature, "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". At 79 minutes, it is Metallica's longest studio album.
Load debuted and spent four consecutive weeks at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. Load sold 680,000 units in its first week, making it the biggest opening week for Metallica as well as the biggest debut of 1996. It was certified 5× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping five million copies in the United States. Four singles—"Until It Sleeps", "Hero of the Day", "Mama Said", and "King Nothing"—were released as part of the marketing campaign for the album.
|Studio album by Metallica|
|Released||June 4, 1996|
|Recorded||May 1, 1995 – February 1, 1996|
|Studio||The Plant Studios in Sausalito, California|
|Singles from Load|
Load, released approximately five years after the commercially successful album Metallica, saw the band shifting toward hard rock and away from their thrash metal roots. As on previous releases, the album's fourteen songs began as rough demos created by principal songwriters James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in Ulrich's basement recording studio, "The Dungeon". In early 1995, the band took over thirty demos into The Plant Studios, where they would work for approximately one year. Metallica worked 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 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, writing what many said were his most personal and introspective lyrics. "Until It Sleeps", the album's lead single, addressed his mother's unsuccessful 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 ...And Justice for All and Master of Puppets. Hammett, encouraged by producer Bob Rock, also played rhythm guitar on a Metallica album for the first time, having previously only played lead parts with Hetfield playing all the rhythm parts to achieve a tighter feel, in contrast to the looser feel they were looking for here.  Hammett continued playing rhythm until Death Magnetic when Hetfield once again played all the rhythm parts. 
At 79 minutes, Load is Metallica's longest studio album. With the CD length at 78:59, initial pressings of the album were affixed with stickers boasting of its long playtime, simply reading "78:59". "The Outlaw Torn" had to be shortened by about one minute to fit on the album; the full version of the track was released on the single "The Memory Remains" as "The Outlaw Torn (Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version)", with a running time of 10:48. An explanation on the single's back cover stated:
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.
Load was Metallica's first album on which all tracks were down-tuned to E♭ tuning. Hammett states:
I started tuning to E-flat for my riff tapes because I copied a lot of the Hendrix stuff. You know I used to try to figure out Jimi Hendrix solos, Stevie Ray Vaughan solos, Thin Lizzy solos and those three bands tune to E-flat. And so a lot of my riffs were in E-flat, and I guess when James would hear the riffs tuned in E-flat and he'd try to sing to 'em, I think he kind of liked it. He liked the break it kind of gave his voice. He didn't have to pitch that extra half step. And that's also why on both Load and Reload the primary tuning is E-flat rather than E.
Hetfield also felt that the change to Eb was a bonus, as it was easier to perform string bends in the riffs. 
The band had recorded songs on earlier albums in tunings lower than E; "The God That Failed" on Metallica which was in E♭, and the same album's "Sad but True" and "The Thing That Should Not Be" from Master of Puppets were in D tuning. The Australian CD release of Load includes a bonus interview CD that is unavailable elsewhere. 10 songs from the album have been played live including "King Nothing", "Until It Sleeps", "Ain't My Bitch", "Bleeding Me", "Wasting My Hate", "Hero of the Day", "The Outlaw Torn", "2 X 4", "Poor Twisted Me", "Mama Said". Songs that have not been played live in their entirety are "The House Jack Built", "Cure", "Thorn Within", and "Ronnie".
The cover of Load is an original artwork titled "Semen and Blood III". It is one of three photographic studies that Andres Serrano created in 1990 by mingling bovine blood and his own semen between two sheets of Plexiglas. The liner notes simply state "cover art by Andres Serrano" rather than listing the 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.
Load also marked the first appearance of a new Metallica logo that rounded off the stabbing edges of the band's earlier 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, and on related artwork. The album featured an expansive booklet containing photographs by Anton Corbijn. These photographs depict the band in various dress, including white A-shirts with suspenders, Cuban suits, and gothic. In the aforementioned 2009 interview, James Hetfield said:
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.
|Drowned in Sound||9/10|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Load received positive to mixed reviews from critics. Rolling Stone said, "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 enthused, "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 expressed reservations about Load's heaviness compared to its predecessors: "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 repetitive, uninteresting and poorly executed.
"Some of that stuff was pretty cool," remarked Lars Ulrich of the album and its sequel. "With Load, it was disappointing that some people's reaction to the music was biased by how they dealt with the pictures – the hair and all that crap [see Artwork, above]. People have come up to me years afterwards and said, 'I never gave the record a fair chance because I couldn't get beyond Jason Newsted wearing eyeliner.' But 'The Outlaw Torn', some of that shit is pretty fucking awesome."
All lyrics written by James Hetfield.
|1.||"Ain't My Bitch"||5:04|
|2.||"2 X 4"||5:28|
|3.||"The House Jack Built"||6:39|
|4.||"Until It Sleeps"||4:28|
|6.||"Hero of the Day"||4:22|
|9.||"Poor Twisted Me"||4:00|
|10.||"Wasting My Hate"||3:57|
|14.||"The Outlaw Torn"||9:49|
Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.
|Australian Albums Chart||1|
|Austrian Albums Chart||1|
|Belgian Albums Chart||1|
|Danish Albums Chart||1|
|Dutch Albums Chart||1|
|Finnish Albums Chart||1|
|French Albums Chart||1|
|German Albums Chart||1|
|New Zealand Albums Chart||1|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||1|
|Spanish Albums Chart||2|
|Swedish Albums Chart||1|
|Swiss Albums Chart||1|
|UK Album Charts||1|
|US Billboard 200||1|
|German Albums Chart||6|
|US Billboard 200||81|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000*|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||100,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||4× Platinum||400,000^|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||Platinum||50,000*|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||5× Platinum||5,000,000^|
|Europe (IFPI)||2× Platinum||2,000,000*|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
The band re-emerged with Load, a less metalish and more hard-rock album that downplayed the group's previous headbanging.