These days, Metallica‘s 1996 album Load and 1997’s Reload occupy an interesting space in the band’s history, with some critics (this one included) standing by the records’ weirdness and experimentation. But at the time of their release, the metal world shat on them en masse, along with Metallica’s short hair and sexy guyliner. Seemingly representative of the band’s shift in tone were the covers of Load and Reload, which were abstract pieces by artist Andres Serrano, which he made using blood, urine, and semen. Now, in a new interview, Serrano remembers the process — and also remembers just how much James Hetfield disliked them.
“Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid shit that they felt they needed to do.”
Now, speaking to Metal Hammer, Serrano explained that it was in fact Kirk and Lars who asked for his “painting,” titled ‘Semen and Blood III,’ for the cover of Load:
“It was Kirk and Lars who asked for the picture for Load. I met with them at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, and we arranged for them to use the image for the album, merchandise and all promotional purposes. I was flattered and honored they wanted it.”
When asked about his thoughts on Load and Reload, Serrano made it clear he was a big fan, saying:
“They’re amazing! I was not aware of the evolution Metallica’s sound had taken. But I know they felt there was a connection between the two albums. That’s why they wanted another image from the series for the follow-up album. Related but different. Everything comes from somewhere, and sometimes an audience may not realise there is a connection between one body of work and another but there could be. Only the artist knows for sure.
“I think the images were a hit. I read a review once where the Load album was named No.1 on a list of best album covers. We know Lars and Kirk were happy with it but James was not. I think James is still fuming!”
There you go. Check out my personal playlist of the best songs from those albums below: