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James Hetfield: I Followed the Vision of Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett on Metallica’s ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’

James Hetfield
Amy Harris for Loudwire

Ever since the release of Master of Puppets, every Metallica album has come with a high level of scrutiny. Regardless of what they’ve attempted sonically, there has been some sort of backlash to be dealt with, especially in the mid-’90s when the mainstream metal titans felt stylistically lost on the polarizing Load and Reload albums. In a new interview, James Hetfield explained he wasn’t entirely behind the direction of the albums, but compromised, following the lead of Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett.

“It is interesting, because we have created our own mainstream, is what I believe,” Hetfield told Clash after being asked if compromises are necessary in order to be accepted by the mainstream. He went on to note that Metallica’s members have been “extremely honest” with themselves and that compromise will always be part of a group “especially when you’ve got four guys in a band.”

It’s no secret that Hetfield and Ulrich are the two driving creative forces behind Metallica and the frontman conceded that when they disagree, a compromise is met. “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 that was a compromise,” he offered, continuing, “I said, ‘I’m going with Lars’ 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 be better.’” Unfortunately for Hetfield, the pair of albums “didn’t pan out as good” as he had hoped, but he affirmed, “there’s no regrets, because at the time it felt like the right thing to do.”

Returning to the topic of discussion regarding compromise and the mainstream, Metallica’s frontman feels the band has been “honest and open about what we want and what we don’t want,” meaning there’s been no grand conspiracy for mainstream dominance. “You know, this is our fucking party. (Laughs) You’re invited! Everyone’s invited! Be a part of the acceptance of this and the adventure and if it 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,” added Hetfield.

The band has been criticized for their mid-’90s era, from the quality of the albums to the seemingly heretical act of cutting their long hair, which Ulrich recently revealed was not a pre-meditated act done together as a unit. Meanwhile, Hetfield stated that if Cliff Burton had still been alive, that the bassist would have opposed the band’s direction on Load and Reload.

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