When Metallica fans purchased the Load album in 1996, they were probably shocked seeing what the band looked like in the liner notes.
They went from scruffy rockers to short-haired, makeup-wearing, leather-clad rock stars. And it turns out frontman James Hetfield wasn’t a fan of the short hair and makeup, either.
Hetfield told Team Rock that not only did he not like Metallica’s look, but late bassist Cliff Burton would have agreed with him and fought the record company about how the band should appear.
“I would certainly think that the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ [era], I would have had an ally that was very against it all – the reinvention or the U2 version of Metallica,” said Hetfield, adding he wasn’t comfortable during the Load–Reload era but liked the music. “There’s some great, great songs on there.”
Indeed. Despite how the band looked and their more hard rock vs. thrash sound, some of Metallica’s best tracks including “Bleeding Me”, “Outlaw Torn”, and “Thorn Within” are on those albums.
Hetfield added if Burton were still alive back then (he died in a bus crash in 1986), things probably would have been different with how the band sounded.
“Well, I certainly would have thought there would have been some resistance, for sure,” said Hetfield, who also hated both the Load and Reload covers. “I think Cliff would have probably interjected some different stuff, getting his bass heard and some more musically challenging things, probably.”
“But my opinion is that all of the imagery and stuff like that was not necessary. And the amount of songs that were written was… it diluted the potency of the poison of Metallica. And I think Cliff would have agreed with that,” Hetfield noted.
Certainly, many Metallica fans jumped off the bandwagon in anger when Load was released, but at the same time, they captured new fans with their look and grungier sound.
With their 10th studio album, Hardwired … To Self Destruct set for release on Nov. 18, it sounds like James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo are getting back to their earlier roots from the mid 1980s, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.