Worst Metallica Albums
The worst Metallica albums were recorded after the band achieved mainstream success with their self-titled 1991 release, since dubbed "The Black Album." With records like 1984's "Ride the Lightning" and 1986's "Master of Puppets," Metallica created the blueprint for thrash metal, a sub-genre of heavy metal known for brash displays of technical precision and breakneck musical speeds. Following their rise to popularity in 1991, the band embarked on a successful international 3-year tour, establishing themselves as the premier global heavy rock band.
Re-emerging in 1996, Metallica released the much-anticipated "Load," a strong but spotty effort that saw the band firmly stepping away from the genre it had pioneered during the '80's. Though commended by peers and critics alike for attempting to experiment with its trademark sound, the ensuing albums recorded by the band from 1996-2003 lack the creative spark and groundbreaking musicianship that make the band's first decade of releases indispensable for fans of rock and heavy metal. The four controversial Metallica records from this period are:
- "Load." Following the unprecedented worldwide success of "The Black Album," the band collectively decide to chop off their long, thrashed-out hair and further explore a bluesy-rock format. While excellent songs like "Until It Sleeps" and "Bleeding Me" deserve their rightful place in the band's catalog, the majority of the album is a haven for lackluster ideas. Songs like "Cure," "Poor Twisted Me," and "Ronnie" meander in the same dull cesspool of recycled guitar riffs and bland melodies. 5 or 6 gems hide within the album's framework, including the weepy country-ballad "Mama Said," but the rest simply don't make the cut.
"Re-Load." Though more experimental--and rewarding--than its predecessor, "Load," only a handful of songs truly capture the magic of Metallica. "Fuel," "The Memory Remains," and "Fixxxer" showcase a band at the peak of their musical powers, while drab twangy numbers like "Slither" and "Prince Charming" would have been better left on the chopping block. Culling the best songs from "Load" and "Re-Load" and placing them on a single release could have yielded stronger results.
- "S&M." Legendary composer Michael Kamen and Metallica paired up for a two-night stint with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; the result was this mess of an album. The combination of a full orchestra backing the band on songs like "Nothing Else Matters" and "No Leaf Clover" is an epic experience. Unfortunately, heavier numbers like "The Thing That Should Not Be," "Battery," and "Enter Sandman" are diminished in power, sounding like cover-band gimmicks rather than the touchstones of modern rock and metal they are. Worth a listen, but certainly not a purchase.
- "St. Anger." The group returned to their thrash-metal roots with 2008's "Death Magnetic." While not the blistering metal machine of their youth, Metallica silenced critics and long-time detractors by releasing a record equal to 1988's landmark "...And Justice For All" in speed and complexity. Though tarnished by a string of off-kilter releases from 1996-2003, Metallica remain one of the most important American bands of the last 30 years.