Metallica frontman James Hetfield might not have appreciated criticism of his band's Load and Reload albums when they arrived in 1996 and '97, respectively, but in retrospect he can see why that period of the band's history was so polarizing for its fanbase.
After enduring riotous success from their 1991 self-titled masterpiece, a.k.a. The Black Album, Metallica resolved to further explore the alternative music movement on its subsequent albums.
Not only did the band debut a bold new sound with Load, the members backed it up with a stark new aesthetic. It all seemed so coordinated and polished, it was unlike anything the previous Metallica would do.
Speaking with The New Yorker in a new interview, Hetfield validated those critiques.
"We've always been very organic. Load and Reload felt different to me," Hetfield said. "Felt forced."
In prior interviews, Hetfield explained that he had his own misgivings about Load and Reload as the band was making those albums. He said he made a conscious decision to buy in to Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich's vision for those albums.
While Load and Reload aren't held in the highest esteem by Metallica faithful, few fans would argue that the albums were complete flops — songs from both LPs are regularly included in Metallica's live shows, like "Ain't My Bitch," "King Nothing," "Fuel" and "Unforgiven II."
But if Metallica ever truly fell into a creative valley, it was years after Reload on 2003's St. Anger. The album was widely decried at the time and remains a whipping post for metalheads.
Hetfield conveyed to The New Yorker that he's accepted St. Anger's unfortunate legacy; once you release it, you can't take it back.
"Eh, it's honest," he said. "You might not identify with it, or you don't like the sound. But that's where we were, and that's what we put out. It'll have its time, maybe. Maybe not! [laughs]"