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James Hetfield Says ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ Were Compromises That Didn’t Work Out

James Hetfield of Metallica
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

Metallica frontman James Hetfield has admitted he “wasn’t 100 percent on” with the band’s 1996 album Load and its 1997 follow-up Reload, describing them as acts of compromise within the band that didn’t work out.

But he’s insisted he doesn’t regret his decision to support the direction drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett wanted to take.

The twin albums found the band drifting further away from their complex metal sound into more straight-ahead rock tempos — and more superficially, trading in their jeans, t-shirts and mullets for more fashion-conscious clothes and haircuts.

“There always has to be some kind of compromise – especially when you’ve got four guys in the band,” Hetfield told Clash in a new interview. “You’ve got two guys that are really driving the thing – Lars and myself – and when we don’t agree, there has to be a compromise.

“But as far as doing something that doesn’t feel right, I’m sure there’s been a few times that it’s happened. The Load and Reload era, for me, was one of those. The way that was looking, I wasn’t 100 percent on with it, but I would say that was a compromise.

“I said, ‘I’m going with Lars’s and Kirk’s vision on this. You guys are extremely passionate about this, so I’ll jump on board, because if the four of us are into it, it’s going to better.’ So I did my best with it, and it didn’t pan out as good as I was hoping. But again, there’s no regrets, because at the time it felt like the right thing to do.”

Hetfield was speaking in response to the question of whether Metallica had made compromises with the aim of becoming a mainstream act. Noting that “we have created our own mainstream, is what I believe,” he returned to the point and added: “[E]ven thinking that I need to compromise a little bit for the integrity of the band to go forward, I’d do that. But as far as the mainstream goes, I think we’ve been so honest and open about what we want and what we don’t want. You know, this is our f—ing party. You’re invited! Everyone’s invited!

“Be a part of the acceptance of this, and the adventure, and if starts to get personal and you don’t like it, you can jump off at any point – because there’s always, hopefully, going to be someone who enjoys that enthusiasm about creation, and there will always be a seat for that person.”

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