The Canon of Heavy Metal: What if Load & Reload Were One Album (Part II) — The Best Possible Answer?

After almost 25 years of mixing and matching Metallica’s mid-90s albums, can we use the evidence at hand to put the discussion to bed?

Note: This is Part II of a discussion of Load and Reload, as part of the 25th anniversary of Load’s release. For a primer on the history of the two records and a discussion on why some Metallica fans are obsessed with this question please see Part I.

Danny Bednar is Canada’s second best geographer of outer space, an amateur heavy metal musicologist, and part-time Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at Western University. He works a 9–5 at the Canadian Space Agency and is an author with Mango Publishers. All views are his own.

The Covers for Metallica’s Load and Reload (Andres Seranno/Blackened Records)

All of us in the ‘Metallica Family’ have our favorite 12 or 13 tracks from Load and Reload. Indeed, discussion boards (including the official Metallica forums) are full of such lists. But what about Metallica themselves?

Well we could just ask them, but Metallica fans know that it’s quite unlikely that the guys themselves would provide such a playlist to answer our queries. As I explained in Part I, whether its the mix their 1988 album …And Justice For All, the attempt at commercialism on the song Escape way back in 1984, or the lack of solos on the entire St. Anger album, the answer to “what if” questions from Metallica has always remained the same: “it felt right at the time”.

With that being the case, any hope of a ‘Metallica approved’ answer as to which songs would have made the cut back in 1996, if the band opted instead for a single album, is essentially out of the question (at least very unlikely).

Never fear, the last 25 years have provided many clues as to what might have happened if Metallica themselves had created their own single masterpiece album with the over 2.5 hours of material they wrote between 1995 and 1997.

While there are other such discussions, this effort will be focused only on an evidence-based effort to create an alternative reality where Metallica themselves, in 1996, opted for one album instead of two.

Let me be clear though. I’m happy they didn’t do this. I love both albums, they are quintessential to my upbringing and even if I had a Doc Brown modified DeLorean on hand, I wouldn’t change anything. But that’s not what being an amateur, wanna-be, heavy metal musicologist is all about. I’ve always wondered about the band’s own ideas ideas on the material, and I know I’m not alone.

So let’s look at available information and see if we can estimate, once and for all (?), what that mythical single album would have looked like had the boys been stricken, in 1996, with a sudden urge to edit themselves down to a single CD-length endeavor.

The back cover of Load’s vinyl re-release featuring the track listing and the Metallica ‘ninja star’ logo that dominated the period (Anton Corbijn/EM Ventures/Blackened Records).

Alternate Timeline

“all the basic tracks for Load and Reload were cut between May of ’95 and November of ’95…Most of them were developed between the Fall of ’95 and the Spring of ’96. We had a meeting in January of ’96 where we decided that Load was not going to be a double album: until that meeting, Load was to all intents and purposes a double album with 27 songs on it…at that point we’d been in the studio for 9 months and had been working on the songs for 16 months, so there was a potential burn-out at the end of hte tunnel. We (also) got the chance to do Lollapalooza and we wanted to do that. We realized that by doing that we would not have time to finish the 27 songs, so we took these 13–14 songs that were the furthest along. The other fact that played into separating the songs into two records, was that I was very adamant that we would have two records which would balance out with each other, not be an A record and a B record” (Ulrich in the bands fan club magazine So What, 1997).

The real timeline for the creation of both albums, which varies across a few interviews (as Lars’ recollections above diverge a bit from the band’s website), is generally as follows:

Late 1994 to Early 1995 — Load/Reload demos created in Lars’ basement

Early 1995 to Early 1996 — Studio recording of “basic tracks” for Load/Reload material

Early 1996 to Summer 1996 — Separate album decision, Load material is finalized, mastered and prepared for released, Metallica plays scattered promotional shows.

Summer 1996 to Summer 1997 — Load is released, Metallica play Lollapalooza and go on European and North American Pour Touring Me tour.

Summer 1997 to Winter 1997 — Songs for Reload are completed in studio, mastered and released

We don’t know exactly which songs were worked with last in the real timeline. So, it can be fuzzy to know when the band could have had a good enough idea, in our alternate timeline, to look at all 27 and say “these are the ones we like best”. We do have hints via demos and documentary footage from the time that Reload tracks Low Man’s Lyric, Fixxxer, and The Memory Remains, among others, existed, in some form, as early as 1995. According to Chris Ingham, in Metallica: The Stories Behind the Songs, Metallica had all of the songs recorded in demo from by the summer of 1995. But in reality a Reload song like Attitude may have only taken shape in Simmer 1997.

So, lets make this an alternate reality where instead of getting out of the studio for a full World tour in the second half of 1996 and early 1997, Metallica only step out briefly to do Lollapalooza, then return in Fall 96 to finalize Load (now made up material from both prime-universe Load and Reload). Got it? Essentially, in this alternate timeline, Reload disappears and Load swallows it’s favored parts, existing temporally in-between the prime-universe release dates of the two albums.

All we’re doing is bending space-time to create an alternate timeline, what could go wrong… (Universal Pictures/Blackened Records)

Settling the Debate (?): What if Metallica Themselves Had Cut It Down to One Album in 1996?

So, how do we figure out what are the favored parts of each album? The first major metric will be which songs were chosen as singles. Metallica is a hands-on band, and while they may take label and producer input when selecting singles, even at their most commercially friendly, they are fiercely protective of their content and how it is released. With singles automatically included, readers who are Metallica diehards already know eight songs that will be on the list (sorry!).

The second metric will be which songs have been played live most. For this we will have the help of Metallica’s official site Metallica.com and their immensely helpful Songs and Lyrics section which includes live performance data. In keeping with the ‘it felt right at the time’ mantra of the band, we will also privilege songs that were played live immediately after release versus those that found setlist life in subsequent years. This helps provide more sense of what ‘1996 Metallica’ thought of the material.

Barring we can ask Metallica directly, these are the best proxies for identifying the band’s opinion of their own material and just how the filtration process would have played out 25 years ago. Barring some intrepid journalist corners them with the question, track lists in hand, its safe to assume this may be the closest we’ll get to knowing what the mythical dragon of a single mid-nineties Metallica CD would have looked like.

So lets go. For each track included there will be a brief breakdown and some live performance stats to flesh out the metrics for its inclusion. We’ll ignore track order for now and just go by their existing order on Load and Reload respectively.

The back cover of Reload on CD, featuring the track listing and concert images that make up the entirety of the inside booklet (Anton Corbijn/EM Ventures/Blackened Records).

Load ‘97

  1. Ain’t My Bitch (5:04)

A moderate tempo cruncher that kicks off Load, a truly heavy track to welcome Metallica fans back after 5 years of studio album silence. Overall, a nice addition of heaviness to an album called ‘not heavy enough’ by detractors. Kirk Hammett’s new and improved style of even more wah is bolstered by a slide solo. Ain’t My Bitch reveals to listeners, straight from the get go, the first person lyrics that will dominate Load and Reload. A marked change in direction from the mostly third party-inspired, mythical, stories of songs off past albums.

Inclusion Metrics: Never released as a single, it nonetheless deserves to be included for its presence on the Poor Touring Me tour that supported Load and was the source of the band’s live concert home video Cunning Stunts. It’s the third most played song live from Load (174 performances), and it’s choice for the immediate supporting tours indicate it was in favor with the band. Additionally, its presence as Track 1 is worth consideration. A vote of confidence from the band that they trusted this tune to welcome new and returning listeners.

2. Until it Sleeps (4:28)

Rarely, if ever, referred to as a ballad, Until it Sleep is a sort-of-ballad that mimics parts of the traditional Metalliballads (Fade To Black, Sanitarium, and One), just without the second movement grandeur of those tracks. A personal lyrical message from Hetfield regarding his mother’s cancer, it is far beyond anything that came before in terms of emotional depth. Also features the creepy/cool/weird and even ‘controversial’, make-up laden, Christianity-commenting, video.

Inclusion Metrics: Debut single from the new album, its clear the band were comfortable with this as indicative of their new direction. Second most performed song live from the album (242) and included on both Cunning Stunts and the 1999 concert film/album with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, S&M. Common awards show and TV appearance tune at the time and even dusted off for 1999 Billboard Music Awards to promote then-upcoming S&M CD release.

3. King Nothing (5:30)

Partly sharing an E minor home key with its spiritual, and structural, predecessor Enter Sandman, King Nothing is another heavy track in the same mid-tempo (you’re gonna hear “mid-tempo a lot) kind of way as the global phenomena that came before it. One of the tracks regularly singled out in “____________ is good but the rest of the stuff on that album sucks!” arguments from Load/Reload haters. Just how much King Nothing is a doppelganger of Enter Sandman was the subject of a wonderful video by Mike the Music Snob, which also acts as fun accessible entry into some basic music theory. Another single, it has a relatively generic video of the boys playing in snow and James doing weird rap things with his hands. Was to be performed at the MTV Europe Awards, but legend goes the boys were told rather rudely not to swear, and so went a different direction…playing the Misfits’ ‘Last Caress’ and Anti Nowhere League’sSo What’.

Inclusion Metrics: Released as Load’s final single, it is the most performed song from Load (356). Appears on Cunning Stunts, but omitted for big showcases on S&M or IMAX concert films Through the Never and S&M2. Has seen live performances on recent tours and other than Fuel, may be the most well known track from the two albums.

4. Hero of the Day (4:22)

The album’s ballad? Not quite…but the only Metallica song that stays in a major key throughout. Hero of the Day is structured around one of the oldest riffs James had laying around before the 1995 recording sessions began. Among the heaviest choruses across the two albums, it builds to a crescendo that probably features one of Hetfield’s biggest vocal challenges since “going soft” on Nothing Else Matters. Speaking of going soft, a subtle cello is nestled within the mix, which, MetalliGeek Andriy Vasylenko points out, is part of the relatively large number of layered and hidden tracks on Bob Rock era Metallica recordings.

Inclusion Metric: Released as Load’s second single it features Metallica’s most pop-culture savvy video (a rare endeavor into pop culture commentary from them). Down the list as sixth of ten (nine really as Mama Said has only been performed by James at charity and TV events) songs performed live from Load, but included on Cunning Stunts and for major spotlight on S&M. Holding the fourth spot on the album conventionally used for epic ballads of the past (Fade to Black, Sanitarium, One, Unforgiven), Metallica clearly felt strongly about this tune.

5. Bleeding Me (8:18)

A song much more similar in structure to conventional ballads, Bleeding Me has the clean intro, distorted choruses, and the epic finale Metallica fans expect from the form. Nestled in the mix is an electric organ that adds to the ambience of this track which could easily fit in on Reload. The song closes out Side 1 of the album…. at least on the dying medium that was cassette at the time. Given the vinyl revival, it can now also be referred to the close of the first record of Load and undoubtedly the mid-way marker. Fun fact, the track may or may not include bongos…as Ulrich responded ‘yes there are bongos in Bleeding Me” in a fan Q&A. Problem is, the guys tended to joke around with their answers lot in fan club Q&As, and the bongos aren’t immediately apparent to many listeners. Perhaps a new article is needed, “25 Years Later: Are There Bongos on Bleeding Me?”

Inclusion Metrics: Not technically released as a single, it did receive scattered radio play in the late 90s. More tellingly, it was included for a definitive version on S&M. Debate may rise, but it holds fourth spot on the list of most performed live songs from Load (161) and is a fan favorite amongst a certain vintage of Metallica fans (not that fan favoritism is a metric, sorry). Surprisingly included for the Woodstock 99 setlist in front of a hostile (though not to Metallica) crowd. Has seen sporadic setlist life since the turn of the Millennium. Surprisingly (?) left off S&M 2, but is regularly included on acoustic charity sets, including the official 2019 Helping Hands concert released on vinyl. Speaking of Helping Hands…

6. Wasting My Hate (3:57)

For long-time, fans wondered where this track had disappeared to, then there was a collective sigh of relief when it was unexpectedly included in the pandemic lockdown concert for the band’s All Within My Hands charity in November of 2020. A fast(er) tempo song that brings back the rage of Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, it lacks any galloping or thrash beats to be justifiably called a thrashy song. Nonetheless, something for “oldschool” haters to add to their “that one isn’t bad” list. The fastest song on Load, and perhaps behind only Fuel for fastest across both albums, the track was apparently inspired by a story relayed to James by one of his idols, Waylon Jennings.

Inclusion Metric: Performed regularly on Poor Touring Me gigs immediately following the release of Load, it was shelved for all but a few special appearances between 1997 and 2020 (played once each in 2004 and 2011). The fifth most performed song from Load (101), it is included because of its appearance on the tour immediately supporting Load, indicating that, at the time, it was a favorite of the band (even if only to perform live) and would have likely made the cut for a single CD. Nonetheless, a track that may be, just perhaps, open to debate.

7. Mama Said (5:20)

Mama Said is, musically speaking, the Nothing Else Matters of Load. It is equally shocking sonically when compared to the band’s previous efforts (including Nothing Else Matters) and is a deeply personal song from James. What it definitely does not share in common with Nothing Else Matters is that most people have never heard it. That being said, I suspect there are a healthy amount of Mama Said fans in the Metallica Family. Far more personal than Nothing Else Matters, the song seemingly has Hetfield (who indeed “left home at an early age”) lamenting the lost opportunity to reconcile with his mother before her death. A first hearing of front-and center mixed steely G chord strummed in the chorus, with undeniable country twang, has probably never been matched in terms of shock value from the band. Little did we know, deep within the mix, concealed by the twang of it all, was a forbearer to the St. Anger snare.

Inclusion Metric: It was released as as single. There’s a video for it. James loves Waylon Jennings and old school country/southern rock, and in 1996, with alcohol-blurred inter-personal relations, and no Phil Towle around, ‘Papa Het’ got what ‘Papa Het’ wanted. Though, accounts are also that he never intended this as a Metallica song, just a personal doodle. Even if there was reluctance from other band members, it likely wasn’t fellow shot-caller Ulrich, who at the time was obsessed with Oasis and their gigantic hit Wonderwall. According to the band’s website, the song has only ever been performed live twice, both in November 1995, when James played it for TV programs in the U.K. and Sweden respectively. However, we do know Hetfield has played it solo at various charity events. Going back to the decisions that may have been in 1996, we can imagine the logic. The last time James wore his heart on his sleeve in a ballad…it connected with millions of fans, why wouldn’t it again?

8. Fuel (4:30)

Is it fair to call this a thrash song played at .75 speed (maybe .5)? Fuel is one of the most famous not-Enter Sandman songs ever created by Metallica. Featuring, arguably, the catchiest solo across the two albums, As an album opener, Fuel, and its iconic intro, doesn’t quite set the sonic table for the rest of Reload. Nonetheless, the song is a beloved blend of both sides of Metallica and its flame-thrower live performances are a highlight for all generations of the Metallica Family in attendance at any given concert.

Inclusion Metrics: By far the most peformed song from either album, clocking in at 513 performances. That puts Fuel about 150 ahead of any other Load/Reload song and into classics territory. As of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was tied for 20th most performed song by the band, impressive given the song came out 16 years into their career. But live performances aren’t the only thing in Fuel’s corner, it was of course released as a single and was a regular selection for awards shows, and promotional TV appearances at the time. It also gains an additional boost for being an album opener and being included on the Pour Touring Me setlist before it had been releasd.

9. The Memory Remains (4:39)

A mostly radio-friendly single for Metallica…with perhaps the exception of the creepy guest vocal performance. The track has some groove to it, symbolized by James’ typical shoulder swinging motions during performances and the When the Levee Breaks beat Lars uses for the verses. The Memory Remains features the ultra-rare instance of someone not in Metallica performing on a studio track. That honor goes to English folk icon Marianne Faithful who provides haunting vocals post-chorus and at the end the song. Harkening back to their classic 1983 ballad Fade to Black, the song drops lyrical references and even repeats one of Fade’s key riffs. Live, the song gains new life, with the Metallica family filling in for Faithfull.

Inclusion Metrics: While Load is more often considered the stronger album with more ‘classics’, it is Reload that has the two most performed songs from either album. Memory Remains ranks second after Fuel and has earned high-profile spots on both S&M albums. Also, it was the debut lead-single from Reload and came out a week before the album. It was even chosen as a single ahead of the mighty Fuel, which wouldn’t get the promotional push for another 7 months.

Video for Metallica feat. Marianne Faithfull — The Memory Remains (Blackened Records)

10. Devil’s Dance (5:19)

The first four albums of Metallica’s career weren’t necessarily brimming with direct references to the signature doomy-gloomy riff metal of their Black Sabbath heroes. The reason of course was that the thrash that Metallica helped invent was at least one, if not two, periods of heavy metal evolution removed from Sabbath’s genre-solidifying early albums. Load and Reload, however, are filled with instances that reveal many more of the influences Metallica grew up with outside of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) bands that directly influenced their first thrash period. Now, Sabbathian gets thrown around a lot in music writing, probably about as much as “Wagernian” (which really needs to be used only by the Wagner experts), but if you’ll permit me just a few more instances, I, like others have, will suggest that Devils Dance is the most Sabbathy of Metallica’s Sabbthy songs. Devil’s Dance isn’t quite a doom-metal song, but its certainly got the vibe.

Inclusion Criteria: Never released as a single, it’s spot rests perilously on its live performances proximal to Reload’s release and inclusion on the original S&M. It has been performed 44 times live, that puts it fourth on Reload, but really, after Fuel (515) and Memory Remains (293) all the other Reload tracks are fighting for setlist scraps. It hasn’t appeared live since 2008 but was a regular(ish) live song on the 97–98 Reload promotional tour (Poor Re-Touring Me). However, additional points could be argued for being selected way back in the Summer of ‘95 as one of the two ‘new songs’ to be played on Escape From The Studio shows. Inclusion-wise, it lands in a grey area, perhaps Japanese version exclusive song or single B-side type territory. Either way, its far ahead of most tracks on Reload in considering 1996 Metallica’s hypothetical decisions.

11. The Unforgiven II (6:36)

Sequel songs are kind of gimmicky, and up until this point Metallica was not much of a gimmicky band. That would change in the following years with a covers album, an album with a symphony orchestra, and a song for a movie soundtrack. All well-done artistic endeavors that paid-off, but gimmicky nonetheless (I see you ‘I Disappear’ haters, c’mon relax). A completely different track to it’s predecessor, Unforgiven II has a country twang and reverts to the conventional light verse/heavy chorus structure that the original flipped upside down. The chord progression remains roughly the same as original but is now tuned a half-step down. A few melodic phrases are re-used throughout, especially in the finale, and James’ lyrics create multiple references to the original, advancing the story with punny wit…too. The track was written in early 1995 and could have been included on Load, but was the only ’95 track intentionally kept for Reload in order to provide more room between the original and the sequel.

Inclusion Criteria: This one gets in on being a single. But if it wasn’t a single, things would be interesting regarding it’s inclusion. It should be included in such alterative timeline, right? As we arrive back in 1995 in our DeLorean we might say that since there is an Unforgiven III (on 2008’s Death Magnetic) there kind of needs to be an Unforgiven II…but 96 Metallica didn’t know that! The perils of time travel. Live, this sequel, and second single off the album, has still only seen the stage 6 times.

12. Better Than You (5:22)

One of the most radio-friendly songs the band ever wrote…it ironically is never played on the radio. The song has the kind of plodding crunch of Sad But True but is slightly faster and features an underrated solo by Mr. Hammett. A particularity simple song, there are really no more than 3 riffs across its playtime. The tune is a rare instance of a Metallica song trying to grab you with an earworm hook (“better than you gah, gah gah gah) rather than musical inventiveness or complexity. Also noteworthy for the particularly upbeat vocal presentation in the verses by Hetfield, a bit of an outlier in his delivery across the Metallica discography.

Inclusion Criteria: The Grammys and Metallica go way back, all the way back to 1989 when flutey folk-rock act Jethro Tull beat them out in the inaugural year of the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” category. Amongst Metallica fans that would be the first story that comes to mind when asked about the band’s history with the Grammys. The second would likely be the fun trivia fact that underdog, never played live, Better Than You won Best Metal Performance in 1999 (third place in Grammy infamy would be the the dead mic fuck-up from the band’s performance with Lady Gaga). Better Than You was released as the last single of the Load/Reload era. By the time it was awarded the trophy in February of ‘99, the band had already released a covers album (Garage Inc) and were prepping to record their collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (S&M). Gets in on being a single.

13. Low Man’s Lyric (7:36)

Two straight-up ballads on one CD would have been a lot, but in this era, Metallica were more than willing to take risks. A Reload song that goes all the way back to the 1995 demos, Low Man’s Lyric is a slightly more depressing song, sonically, than Mama Said (despite it not sharing the same lyrical weight). Noteworthy for the presence of a hurdy gurdy, it is another instance of a guest musician on Reload. The droning hurdy gurdy line was provided by David Miles, or as Hetfield referred to him on TV appearances “the hurdy gurdy guy”. The first studio track on a Metallica album not to clearly feature some section of the song with distorted guitar (it’s close but I’m quite sure those chords on the bridge are just heavily reverbed). It’s layered and panning electric and acoustic guitars make the song truly a joy to listen through headphones, highlighting that both Load and Reload are wonderfully mixed. Also features the return of Lars ‘the Tambourine Guy’ Ulrich from Nothing Else Matters.

Inclusion Metrics: Not a single, but prominent on the Poor Re-Touring Me setlist in support of Reload. Performed 65 times in total, including on national TV and Radio broadcasts, such as a live spot on Virgin Radio four days before the album dropped. Even with Load backlash fresh, Metallica, and James specifically, was not shying away from featuring their ‘softer’ songs in primetime spots. Hasn’t seen setlist daylight since 1998, the song is prime for a comeback anytime, especially given the increasing amount of acoustic shows making up Metallica’s increasing charity activities.

Honorable Mention— The Outlaw Torn (10:48)

As we’re about to see, our alternate timeline Load ’97 is now full (it’s at 71:00, the real Load was capped at 78:59 which was the maximum capacity of a CD in 1996). However, long time fans might be wondering where a certain Load album closer has gone off too. Outlaw Torn cannot fit onto the hypothetical Load ’97, but it still deserves mention and perhaps goading by us time travelers to the 1996 version of the band to either cut the extended jam session that ends the song or use it as a B-Side to one of the singles (something Metallica typically reserves for covers). As we’ll see, it’s the only remaining track that really deserves consideration for the final 7:59 left on the CD (ironically, the 8:00 mark is pretty much exactly where the extended jam session starts….).

As for the song itself, in the real timeline, it was the track that had to bite the bullet in order for Load to fit on a CD. For this purpose, Outlaw Torn had some of its original jam-session ending snipped (it was originally 10:48 in length, but was cut to a breezy 9:52). A track quite symphonic in structure (even if only having three movements), it has a surprisingly optimistic four note interval that hooks its main riff. The track harkens back to Metallica’s 70s influences, bands like Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, and Led Zeppelin who often had 8+ minute songs that lumbered towards bluesy jams. The full jam session was restored for the Memory Remains single “b-side”.

B-Side Inclusion Metrics: Hyped by Lars as a grand epic upon Load’s release, the track never saw live play until the two concerts just before the first S&M album was filmed/recorded in 1999. The track had mostly random appearances since, including one orphaned performance on the St. Anger tour. It was dusted off again for S&M 2 (also getting a dress rehearsal on the show just before the filmed S&M 2 concerts). The track’s celebration by Lars upon its release, and its inclusion as one of only two tracks from Load/Reload to be showcased on both S&Ms earns its spot as an honourable mention. Debate is justified, it can potentially be included in place of Low Man’s Lyric, Devil’s Dance, or Wasting My Hate. Ultimately however, aside from S&M, Outlaw Torn has seen very limited live play. Only 12 times total, with 5 of these taking place a decade after it’s release. It was only performed four times on the tour promoting Reload. Sorry Outlaw.

Results

What we’re left with is actually quite serendipitous. Load ’97 is made up of 7 tracks off of Load (Side 1) and 6 tracks off of Reload (Side 2). I had originally considered devising a track order, but the balance that emerged when just keeping the tracks in their place looks reasonable. Each opener (Ain’t My Bitch/Fuel) remains an opener for their respective side, and, though odd, each side is balanced-out by ending with a ballad (what do you know, Lars was right, the albums are balanced!). As for what we’ve lost, again, the only track that I think deserves consideration to be included as something that would have survived a tightened 1996 Metalli-filter (based on metrics or otherwise) is The Outlaw Torn. The rest are pretty comfortably in a different league (a good league, but just a lower league).

Data for Load and Reload via Metallica.com (Danny Bednar)

It May Be What the Evidence Tells Us, But It’s Not What Felt Right At The Time

So this is it. The best secondary estimation we can make as to what an alternate timeline 1996 Metallica would have chosen for a single album. Of course, the ultimate answers lay with James, Lars, Kirk, and Jason, but again, don’t hold your breath.

At 71 minutes, the alternate timeline Load ’97 constructed here would still be a lot of music to digest, but perhaps more densely packed with “killer” for casuals and diehards alike to respond favorably to.

The alternate timeline track listing for Load ’97. he results, and perils, of messing with altering what is already done via time travel. Evidently, I am not a graphic artist (Anton Corbijn/Blackened Records/Danny Bednar)

While many of us have always taken for granted that the two track lists could be mixed and matched, listening to each over and over for the past month has revealed quite distinct tonal and acoustic vibes for each album. The more I researched and wrote this article, the more I began to see each album quite distinctly from the other. We’ve always known Load was the boogie-woogie album and Reload was the darker one, maybe we should start taking those distinctions more seriously.

Further, diehard or casual, we have to ask what we’ve lost, what Biff getting his hands on the sports almanac has done to the fabric of space time (full disclosure, I’m a Ronnie fan).

As for what 1995, 1996, and 1997 versions of Metallica did in reality, they crafted two superb metal albums of exactly what they wanted (as they always do). As a result they bent expectations and, ever since, have had many of us bending space-time in our minds in pursuit of satisfying “what ifs?”.

While Load ’97 is a interesting academic-y adventure in pop-musicology and fandom, for better or worse (I vote better) it never happened. In reality we have the luxury of two albums of Metallica studio material rather than one. Why?

Do I really have to say it again?…Because it felt right at the time.

Sources:

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Harper, S. (2017). Heavy is the Crown: Metallica Interviewed. Clash (online). Nov. 22, 2017.

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Metallica, (2021). Band Timeline. Metallica.com

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Vasylenko, A. (2021). 52 Cool Hidden Things in Metallica Songs. Youtube. May 31, 2021.

Wells, C. & Luck, E. (2017). Metal Up Your Podcast 26: Load. Youtube. June 12, 2017.

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Wells, C. & Luck, E. (2019). Metal Up Your Podcast 123: 1997, A Year In The Life of Metallica. Youtube. June 11, 2019.

Wells, C., Luck, E. & Moak, P. (2019). Metal Up Your Podcast 128, Unload w/ Paul Moak. Youtube. June 18, 2019.

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Space Geographer, PhD & Amateur Musicologist. Asst. Professor #Space2090 I Columns: The Geography of Space Exploration & The Canon of Heavy Metal I Views Mine I

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