After promising for months during pre-release interviews that “Reload” would not be simply leftover material from “Load” (although the songs were written during the same sessions), the album eventually dropped to a misinformed public. “Reload” sounds like absolutely nothing else EXCEPT material that wasn’t good enough for inclusion on the already spotty “Load” album. The opening track, “Fuel”, was one of the album’s biggest hits and current live faves, but both lyrically and musically it finds Metallica sinking further and further into dimwitted neanderthal rock. The James Hetfield that used to pen such masterpieces as “Fade to Black” and “Blackened” is now reduced to such tripe as “Gimme fuel/Gimme fire/Gimme that which I desire/Oooh!” (how could that possibly have passed the drawing board stage?) Even though the song does boast what’s indisputably one of the catchier riffs on the album, it’s bar band simplicity and the blockheaded lyrics mar it beyond favor.Of the other singles released from “Reload”, “The Memory Remains” sounds like Metallica merely going through the motions, despite the fact that they’ve only been playing in this style for one album now. The “la la la” vocals by Marianne Faithfull are a horrendous misstep; I defy fans of the song to deny that they wouldn’t prefer a version without Faithfull’s contributions. As for the other big “hit”, “The Unforgiven II” is nothing more than a crass attempt to cash in on the success of a far superior song. Metallica are shrewd businessmen and realize that most people tend to prefer the first material they encounter by a band, which is why you see so many of the positive reviews for the latter albums obviously written by teenagers and other youth – the younger they are, the less likely they are to have heard the original “Unforgiven”, and once they’ve decided the sequel is a good song they’re unlikely to admit to a hasty judgment later and downgrade their opinion of the sequel. At best you tend to get a “they’re both cool in their own way” response. Finally, one of my main complaints with “Reload” (and a prime indication of why it seems like a rush job) is that the solos on the album sound like they were all recorded during one long, self indulgent jam session, then chopped up indiscriminately and inserted into the finished tracks at random. There’s not a single solo that sounds like it was handwritten for a particular song, and by about 3 songs into the set you already develop a “been there done that” immunity to Kirk Hammett’s remaining efforts. “Reload” is the only album to date that I would rank decidedly below even “St Anger”, and should probably be the last stop on a neophyte’s list of Metallica albums.