After waiting more than five years between ‘Metallica’ and ‘Load,’ fans of Metallica only had to wait 18 months for ‘ReLoad.’ The reason is because the band wrote more than two dozen songs for ‘Load’ and thought about doing a double album. Instead, they put out ‘Load,’ then came back and finished the rest of the songs from that session, which became ‘ReLoad.’
Some were under the impression that the album was made up of leftovers or even remixes because of the title, but Metallica says they didn’t use all the best material on ‘Load.’ They consider ‘Load’ and ‘ReLoad’ to be interchangeable parts of a 27 song album that just weren’t released at the same time.
Drummer Lars Ulrich expressed that sentiment in the band’s fan club magazine ‘So What’ before ‘ReLoad’ was released: “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. They would be two records you would be able to put up against each other as strong, equal records from one songwriting and recording session.”
Elektra’s marketing department worked overtime in promoting ‘ReLoad.’ They played a free concert in Philadelphia called ‘The Million Decibel March’ that drew a lot of attention.
Released Nov. 18, 1997, just in time for the holiday buying season, ‘ReLoad’ continued Metallica’s streak of No. 1 albums. It ended up selling around 4 million copies in the U.S., about a million fewer than ‘Load.’ They would also win another Grammy in 1998 for Best Metal Performance. It would be the last studio album bassist Jason Newsted would appear on.
’ReLoad’ Track by Track
There are no sweeping intros on ‘ReLoad.’ Hetfield barks the opening line to ‘Fuel’ a capella, then the song (and album) is unleashed. Even though it wasn’t the most successful single on the album (peaking at No. 6), ‘Fuel’ is the most known track. Because of its title, it has been used as theme music for a lot of different auto races.
’The Memory Remains’
Just like the opener, ‘The Memory Remains’ begins a capella, something Metallica hasn’t done a lot. Most of their songs have ample and sometimes lengthy intros. This song is unique because for the first time a female vocalist is featured. After discussing candidates including Carly Simon and Patti Smith, they decided on Marianne Faithful. It was the second most successful single on ‘ReLoad,’ making it to No. 3 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
This was one of two songs (the other was ‘2 X 4‘ from ‘Load’) that Metallica previewed at a festival before the albums were released. That is the claim to fame for both of the songs, since neither were ever released as singles. The lyrics of ‘Devil’s Dance’ talk about how the devil uses temptation.
’The Unforgiven II’
Movies and even albums have sequels, and Metallica decided to write a sequel to ‘The Unforgiven’ from ‘The Black Album.’ ‘The Unforgiven II’ has a similar musical structure to the original, although it’s a little twangier. The videos followed similar themes as well. It would be the most successful single from ‘ReLoad,’ making it to No.1 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
’Better Than You'
For a song that won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance and was a top 10 single on the Mainstream Rock chart, ‘Better Than You’ is still pretty obscure, definitely the least known of any Metallica single. Part of the reason is that it hasn’t ever been played live, which is unusual considering it was released as a single.
Originally called ‘Fishtank,’ ‘Slither’ is another of the songs on ‘ReLoad’ that have never been performed live. The lyrics are pretty ambiguous, and could refer to the music industry, drugs, or being careful what you wish for, because you might get it.
’Carpe Diem Baby’
Known as ‘Skimpy’ when it was a demo, ‘Carpe Diem Baby’ is about seizing the day and making the most of every opportunity. (‘carpe diem’ means ‘seize the day’ in Latin). It was finally played live for the first time during one of Metallica’s 2011 30th anniversary concerts in San Francisco.
One of the first songs written for ‘Load’ and ‘ReLoad,’ ‘Bad Seed’ referred to the story of Adam and Eve and the danger of forbidden fruit. Musically it was influenced by a Kyuss song called ‘Big Bikes.’
’Where The Wild Things Are’
The title for ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ comes from the children’s book of the same name. It was the only song on ‘ReLoad’ co-written by bassist Jason Newsted, who would leave the band in 2001.
A groovy stomper, ‘Prince Charming’ is one of the angrier tracks on ‘ReLoad.’ It’s about somebody that was rejected by their mother. It might have some autobiographical elements, since Hetfield had a difficult childhood with his Christian Scientist mother dying of cancer without seeking medical treatment when he was a teenager.
’Low Man’s Lyric'
‘ReLoad’ is a very front-loaded album, with all the singles and better known songs at the beginning, following a similar template to ‘Load,’ although that album had a slightly stronger second half. The most unique song on the second half of ‘ReLoad’ is ‘Low Man’s Lyric,’ which incorporates instruments such as the violin and hurdy-gurdy (which was also used on ‘The Memory Remains’).
Known as ‘Lenny’ and ‘Sweat’ in demo form, ‘Attitude’ glorifies breaking the rules and being a rebel. It has a looser and more live vibe than the rest of the album. The live vibe part is ironic, since Metallica has never played ‘Attitude’ in concert.
After covering the mother angle on ‘Prince Charming,’ Hetfield turns his lyrical ire to the paternal side of the coin on ‘Fixxxer,’ which is about a person represented by a voodoo doll suffering pain from his father. Hetfield’s father abandoned the family when James was young. ‘Fixxxer’ is the longest song on ‘ReLoad,’ clocking in at 8 minutes 15 seconds. And, like six other songs from the album, it has never been played live.