Released approximately five years after the international smash success, Metallica, Load saw the band embrace a collective sound and identity closer to traditional heavy metal and different from their thrash metal roots. As on previous releases, the fourteen songs that would eventually make up the album began as rough demos created by principal songwriters James Hetfield andLars Ulrich in Ulrich's basement recording studio, "The Dungeon." The band took over 30 demos into The Plant Studios in the spring of 1995 where they would work for approximately the next year. Once again, Metallica teamed up with famed producer Bob Rock, who had been at the helm during the recording process for Metallica.
The songwriting dispenses almost entirely with the thrash metal stylethat characterized the band's sound in the 1980s. In place of staccato riffs, Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett experimented with more blues-based tones and styles. Additionally, Ulrich adopted a minimalist approach to his drum recording, abandoning the speed and complex double bass patterns of previous albums. Most of this blues-based metal comes from of Ulrich's Deep Purple influences; onecan hear Ian Paice's style in the regular cymbal attacks and drum hits, as well as Ritchie Blackmore's blues licks from the Mark III era of Deep Purple.
Hetfield displayed a lyrical evolution as well, writing what many feel to be his most personal and introspective lyrics. "Until it Sleeps," the album's lead single, addressed his mother's losing battle with cancer, and "Mama Said" alsoexplores his relationship with her. All of this marked a departure from the political and social overtones of albums like ...And Justice for All and Master of Puppets. These changes of lyrics can likewise be compared to the creative differences between the lyrical content that Blackmore demanded of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, which Ronnie James Dio followed in Rainbow, but which the former two wereunaccustomed to, being more inclined to expressions of personality and emotion. At a 1992 San Diego concert Hammett and Ulrich performed a cover improvisation of "Mistreated" from 1974's Burn which blended imperceptibly with their future material on Load. This era of Purple provided a strong influence on Metallica's because it was, in Ulrich's words, a "baptism of fire" which led his toabandoning of tennis for drumming after his very first rock concert.
At 78:59 minutes, Load is Metallica's longest studio album. Initial pressings of the album were affixed with stickers that boasted its long playtime, simply reading "78:59." Consequently, "The Outlaw Torn" had to be shortened by about one minute to fit on the album. The full version was released on a single for "The Memory Remains" as"The Outlaw Torn (Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version)" with a running time of 10:48. An explanation was given on the single's back cover:
When we were doing the final sequencing of the 'LOAD' album, the record company told us that we couldn't go a second past 78:59, or your CD's wouldn't play without potentially skipping. With our 14 songs, we were running about 30 seconds over,and something had to give, so the cool-ass jam at the end of 'Outlaw' got chopped.
This was the only Metallica studio album on which the band's bassist (Jason Newsted for this album) did not have a writing credit. It was also their first album for all tracks to be down tuned to E♭ tuning. Metallica had, however, a few songs in tunings lower than E, "The God That Failed" on The Black Album whichwas in E♭ and D tuning for "The Thing That Should Not Be" from Master of Puppets and "Sad but True" (also from The Black Album). The Australian CD release of Load includes a bonus interview CD which is unavailable elsewhere.
 Visual style
The cover of the album is original artwork entitled "Semen and Blood III." It is one of three photographic studies by Andres Serrano created in...