Metallica has always had a problem with releasing albums that are just too long. It wasn’t as much of a problem when Master of Puppets and …And Justice for All were padded with a score of ambitious riffs, but it became a serious cause of concern when Load and ReLoad came out in the mid-90s. The Loads certainly aren’t the sellout records that old-timers and revisionists claim them to be, but even those of us who like the Corrosion of Conformity meets Alice in Chains style have to admit that the two albums have a lot of filler between them.
Thus, I would like to prove how Load and ReLoad could’ve been condensed to a single disc of eight songs to serve as a worthier followup to the illustrious Black Album. This culling won’t take the place of Ride the Lightning as the be-all, end-all Metallica album since the shift to metallic blues rock still would’ve resulted in some controversy, but a much shorter presentation of the style likely would’ve made it a much easier pill to swallow twenty years ago.
- “Ain’t My Bitch”
My gut instinct tells me to put “Fuel” as the hypothetical opener but I have some personal bias against that particular track. It’s an enjoyable song and probably would’ve been successful as a standalone single, but the song’s structure comes off as clunky and the vocals are a little too on the goofy side. “Ain’t My Bitch” may have a goofball tinge (just look at the damned title) but it offers a much steadier tempo and more attitude in James Hetfield’s vocals. It doesn’t have the buildup of “Battery” or “Enter Sandman,” but it’s a nice driving song that starts things off nicely.
- “2 X 4”
As with the album proper, the second track on this playlist is the groovy as hell “2 X 4.” I’ve always liked the bluesy swing on this song and love how the main riff is basically a “Hole in the Sky” rewrite. I even dare wager that it’d be a stoner metal staple if it had been recorded in a drop tuning and sung by Pepper Keenan. Any doom band with the balls to cover any of the songs on here has my eternal respect.
- “King Nothing”
The upbeat momentum continues for “King Nothing,” the song that would likely be this version of Load’s lead single. While the track could be seen a slight retread of “Enter Sandman,” the main riff is catchy as hell and the chorus does provide some good buildup along with the excellent bass intro.
- “Bleeding Me”
In the grand tradition of “Fade to Black,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” and “One,” the A-side of this Load ends with a sprawling long player. While “Bleeding Me” certainly isn’t as theatrical as those staples and never transitions from its slow tempo to all-out thrash metal, you can’t deny the track’s catharsis and the power behind its plodding buildup. The original Load does seem to have this intention, but putting an A-side closer four songs in instead of seven would make a respectable nod to the classic Metallica album structure.
- “Devil’s Dance”
While ReLoad is basically a glorified shelter for all the songs that didn’t make it onto Load, the album did distinguish itself by boasting the darker, heavier songs from those recording sessions. The slinky bass thumps and intertwining guitar riffs on the sinister “Devil’s Dance” would ensure a similar direction for the B-side of this album. And any song that reminds me of the White Zombie track that plays during the peyote scene from Beavis and Butthead Do America is okay by me.
- “Carpe Diem Baby”
I wouldn’t hold it against you if you’ve never listened to this song on the basis of its cringeworthy title. It was definitely hard for me to look past it, but once you hear that infectious main riff, it’ll come through as one of the most severely overlooked songs in the Metallica catalogue. “Bad Seed” would also be a pretty good song to have in place of this one, but “Carpe Diem Baby” gets brownie points for not featuring a riff that blatantly rips off Alice in Chains’ “Rain When I Die.”
- “Hero of the Day”
It’s only fair to include a token ballad on here (gotta have another single after all) and “Hero of the Day” is probably the strongest one of the batch. Its melancholic tone and heavy crescendos in combination with its second-to-last place in the track listing give it a vibe similar to “My Friend of Misery” or even “Orion.” The part of me that enjoys watching train wrecks is tempted to put “Mama Said” in this spot, but that would’ve been best as the introductory song to Hetfield’s pending outlaw country solo album. I swear he has one in him somewhere…
- “The Outlaw Torn (Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version)”
If “The Outlaw Torn” isn’t my favorite Metallica song ever written, then it’s at least in the top ten. Its ten minute runtime is justified by emotional vocal and guitar performances set to a plodding ‘wild west by way of Dio-era Sabbath’ rhythm. Load had the right idea in making this song the epic closer but having it be the eighth track as opposed to the fourteenth is much more appealing for those who’d rather not wait seventy minutes to hear the best thing on the album. I’d also put in the unedited version of the song that was included on the single version of “The Memory Remains.” After all, an extra minute with Kirk Hammett’s wah pedal won’t kill ya…
But with this said, I know every Metallica song has fans and multiple versions of this list that could be made. Feel free to comment with your suggestions or alternate ideas. Just remember that I don’t think a song is bad just because it isn’t included on this track list. Unless that song is “Poor Twisted Me.” “Poor Twisted Me” is a shit song and everybody knows it.