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The kings of speed metal have never been keen on being labeled, and LOAD, which follows up the 1991 mega-hit METALLICA, is a surprising pastiche of sonic fury. Metallica still rocks hard. James Hetfield's lyrics are still full of venom and anger, and the music still could scare small children. But the band is ready to show off other sides of its craft. "Hero Of The Day" sounds like an R.E.M. song, albeit a heavy one, with its tender beginning and ending confluence of harmonized vocals and catchy guitar riffs. A dose of the blues can be heard in the slow-burning "Bleeding Me," and a downright country twang pervades "Mama Said."
Still, this is a metal album, and there are headbanging riffs o'plenty. LOAD may seem like a departure from the Metallica "norm," but it's actually what the band has been doing all along: writing well-crafted songs without a regard for what others think. The only difference is that the one-time denizens of the underground now have the world's rapt attention.
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