Blood, Semen and Grunge
Where second 2x4 is immediately into a Black Sabbath riff - occasional thrash metal growls updating the template - it has been hammered out in the solid steel of years before, but third The House Jack Built has been grunged, even if the chug chug chug of that metal motif prevails, and it is this narrowed eclecticism of The Heavy that makes Metallica who they are and this description confined to its necessary platitudes.
1996’s Load has been loaded from the foundry that supplies all requisite ores, even if a Frampton talk box seems to get an anachronistic voice inside Jack’s house. Fourth Until It Sleeps is the ballad-into-thump-into-harmonies that is another of the Metallica trademarks, Hetfield’s by now established vocal distinction one more flyer in the Kite. Fifth King Nothing is headbang-ready: not too fast to cause concussion; not too slow to seem geriatric. It is the perfect pace. I know because I am doing it.
Sixth Hero of the Day is the slow, slow-burner, a song that allows Hetfield to sing’n’snap as he does with his vocal, whiplashing at word-endings, or alternatively elongating on a vowel sound – either way it is a part of his distinctive singing style. Seventh is half-way through the album’s set, and Bleeding Me is a return to a grunge sound, great guitar work running through the song, both rhythm and lead and especially at about 4 minutes into its 8 minutes where it has gradually climbed to its Metal plateau. Later, the wah-wah wails over machine-gun drums and cymbal crashes. Then it winds down to its grunge drawl.
The album continues in similar and it is a long album at just under 80 minutes. The gentler pace [a relative term] does make it a potential slog, depending on whether you are more into your thrash Metallica than this incarnation. There are divergences, like eleventh Mama Said, the acoustic number via Jethro Tull and a tinge of Country, and closer The Outlaw Torn at nearly 10 minutes is more of the grunging that has dominated and on this track it does seem like the band had run out of ideas but persevered out of some strange grunge-hypnosis, even though guitar wails and squeals do eventually liven things [and should have stopped there – but didn’t…..]. It does make the ‘blood and semen’ of the album cover, apparently real, the more rock’n’roll of the whole, though there are fine enough moments throughout. I’d have to listen again, but I think on reflection I prefer 97’s Reload, and I don’t imagine I am the only one.