On a recent cross-country flight, the $4 movie was the Jurassic Park
sequel, The Lost World. For some perverse reason, I decided to
forgo the sound and just watch the flick as if it were an old silent movie. In
retrospect, I wish I'd had a copy of Metallica's steel-toed Re-Load,
because the often ominous, primordial hard rock that the band delivers
throughout most of the album would have provided the perfect soundtrack
for the stalking of humans by deadly Raptors.
Re-Load -- despite its title, which might make some think that these
are the leftovers that didn't cut it the first time around, when the group
settled on the Load song line-up -- is a hard rock masterpiece that
includes tracks that will likely be considered classics in a few years. Take
"Where the Wild Things Are," which has that nightmare dreamstate vibe
that made "Enter Sandman" so compelling. Or the offbeat first single, "The
Memory Remains," with a "na na na na na" vocal from Marianne Faithfull
that features a simple guitar riff boring through anything in its path, the
rhythm section careening along like drunken soldiers looking to mess with
I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what the hell most of these songs
are actually about. Frankly, I'm not sure I want to know. I mean when
you're cranking "Bad Seed" so loud the car stereo speakers are distorting
and the car feels like it's going to vibrate into pieces, the finer points that a
screaming James Hetfield is making by way of the lyrics somehow
seem beside the point.
When a lyric does rise above the rampage-like noise, it's something like
"There's a black cloud overhead/ That's me." Bad trip? You bet.
I figure it like this. You got four guys, usually wearing black, usually
glaring from their photos. You got molten guitar so nasty it threatens to
incinerate your speakers and anything else in the vicinity. You got drums so
live and in your face that if you close your eyes, you'll swear Lars Ulrich is
in the room with you. And you got Hetfield singing like he stomps on
innocent children for kicks. You really need to know what "Devil's Dance"
is about? Or "Slither"?
When Metallica aren't barreling along Dead Man's Curve in the rock
equivalent of an old Chevy pick-up with the license plates obscured by skull
and crossbones, scaring the living daylights out of ya on the album's
denouement, the eight minute, fourteen second "Fixxxer," they take a
couple of breathers and venture into ... country-rock and ballad territory.
"The Unforgiven II" could be covered by Waylon Jennings (one of
Hetfield's heroes), and "Low Man's Lyric" is one of those power ballads
the guys will want to skip, but the girls will play over and over and over.
Don't miss the pretty guitar courtesy of Kirk Hammett.
Consider those numbers "experiments," then dig into "Attitude," in which
Hetfield notes that "I sleep at the wheel." And before I forget it, that epic
"Fixxxer" takes another look at the classic we're-puppets-being-
manipulated-by-some-puppet-master theme. "Jab another pin, jab another
pin in me," screams Hetfield. Then, taking a time-honored the-rat-has-
turned-rebel stance: "No more pins in me, no more, no more pins in me."
Metallica have stubbornly walked their own path since they released Kill
'Em All nearly a decade and a half ago. By now, you either love 'em,
hate 'em, or don't think about 'em. But for those who have pledged
allegiance to the black flag, for those who have tattooed the secret logo onto
their forearms, who have slammed in the pit and have thrilled to Master
of Puppets, ... And Justice For All, Metallica and the
rest, Re-Load will not disappoint. And after all, really, how can ya
resist an album that includes a lyric like "So wash your face away with dirt/
It don't feel good until it hurts." Not I.