Following 1996's Load, a divisive album in Metallica 's catalog, the metal titans unleashed another batch of songs supposedly culled from the same sessions, calling it Reload and releasing it a year later, on Nov. 18, 1997.

Barely a year before, the underdog thrash-metal pioneers-turned-world’s biggest mainstream metal band had released Load, which pushed the sonic reinvention undertaken by 1991’s commercial breakthrough Black Album to new heights of cross-genre experimenting -- simultaneously delighting and dismaying different factions of Metallica fans for various reasons.

But no matter how you feel about Load, the passage of time has since revealed that its songs -- as risk-taking and unfamiliar as they are at times -- undoubtedly exemplify the almost superhuman attention to detail and songcraft aspired to by both the band and producer Bob Rock.

That's not the case with Reload, which -- despite the unsurprising but unfounded claims to the contrary by the band, producer and label -- was most likely cobbled together from leftover Load material and polished off in time for the 1997 gift-giving holiday season.

Still, Reload's unusually efficient recording process and relative uniformity of sound (song after song of bruising heavy rock can be found in "Slither," "Prince Charming," "The Unforgiven II," etc.), while short on hooks, are mighty strong on riffs.

In a way, it's the most refreshingly spontaneous and least self-conscious album Metallica ever made.

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