First off, interestingly enough, while I love Reload, I’ve never really gotten into its predecessor. Sure, Load has a couple of great tracks on it – King Nothing’s pretty rad, as is 2 X 4. But while both albums are blatant grabs at the kind of catchy biker rock made by Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains at the time, Load sounds more tentative and unsure of itself in the attempt. The songs on Load sound to me like a band that knows they're trying something different, and want you to bear with them for a second. The Until It Sleeps video is a good example of that, with its poorly thought-out depiction of Metallica as emperors of some kind of decaying glitter circus.
But Reload goes all-in, as though by breaking the seal on the last album, Metallica were now free to write what they really wanted to. It’s a record where every song sounds different, and where each one has a distinct and unusual feeling behind it (except maybe Better Than You). James’ croon is croonier, Kirk’s twang runs rampant. It feels like a ‘Fuck you’ to the backlash of Load, a belly laugh and middle finger in the face of everyone acting all shocked that the band were trying out new stuff. Metallica seem to know that they had to change at some point, and if you’re upset that Unforgiven II isn’t Creeping Death, well, that’s how time works, dude. Sorry, not sorry.