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Released five years after Metallica’s famous “Black” album, Load remains proof that the legendary Bay Area band was capable of much more than thrash signatures and charged metal. Coming at a time when hard rock was in the process of reorganizing, the 1996 set led the way and announced to the world that Metallica wasn’t content to rest on its laurels. By slowing down the tempos, decreasing the aggression, and upping the depth of its grooves, the quartet channels its English and Southern rock influences in spectacular fashion. Load mines the shorter, blues-oriented approaches pioneered by Led Zeppelin, Cream, Lynryd Skynyrd, and Deep Purple, expanding on these classic parameters by retaining some of the ferocious bite Metallica injected into its formative early works. Having sold more than five million copies in the U.S. alone and topping the Billboard album charts for four consecutive weeks, the album confirmed that Metallica’s evolution happened without any inherent loss to its basic appeal. Guitarist Kirk Hammett is allowed more room to explore tonalities, and rhythms serve the songs in concise fashion, making the record Metallica’s purest rock effort. “Ain’t My Bitch,” “King Nothing,” “Hero of the Day,” and “Until It Sleeps” all received considerable airplay and remain concert and radio staples to this day.

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