The artwork created for METALLICA‘s 1996 album “Load” and its companion release, 1997’s “Reload”, was a source of controversy among the band’s fans. “Load” featured a photo called “Semen And Blood III”, which consisted of cow blood and artist Andres Serrano‘s own semen between two plates of Plexiglas, while the cover of “Reload” was adorned with a similar Serrano photo titled “Piss And Blood XXVI”.
In a new interview with Metal Hammer, Serrano was asked what the reaction was from METALLICA‘s fanbase and the band to the “Load” and “Reload” covers. He said: “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 [Ulrich, drums] and Kirk [Hammett, guitar] were happy with it but James [Hetfield, guitar/vocals] was not. I think James is still fuming.”
Hetfield expressed his dislike for the “Load” cover in a 2009 interview with Classic Rock magazine. At the time, he touched upon the artwork while discussing METALLICA‘s so-called “wilderness” years, in the mid-to-latter 1990s, during which drug use and disagreements over the group’s image and sound nearly drove them apart. Hetfield said he was particularly uncomfortable with the change in the group’s image around the release of “Load”. Hetfield explained: “The whole ‘We need to reinvent ourselves’ topic was up. Image isn’t an evil thing to me, but if the image isn’t you, it doesn’t make much sense.”
Hetfield said that he thought Ulrich and Hammett were “after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter-ego. I couldn’t get into it. I would say at least half the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The cover went against what I was feeling. Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. I think the cover of ‘Load’ was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with all this crazy stupid shit.”
Three years ago, Ulrich was asked to single out his favorite METALLICA album cover in an interview with Maxim. While the band has featured iconic images on the covers of LPs like “Master Of Puppets” and “…And Justice For All”, the drummer had a different choice.
Ulrich answered: “I’m not much for favorites… the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ albums with the amazing pieces by Andres Serrano. They will always hold a special place in my heart. I love him as an artist. I love the imagery. I love the fact that we saw Serrano through as the cover art for those two records. Those are probably my two favorites.”
Ulrich became something of an art collector in the early 2000s and told The Pulse Of Radio a while back that his fascination for fine art went back to his childhood. “You know, I grew up in a household full of music and art and somewhere up through, I don’t know, late ’80s, early ’90s, I just started rediscovering a lot of those roots,” he said. “And what happened was it kind of became a sanctuary for me away from METALLICA. It really was my thing away from the rest of the METALLICA guys and it just became just a great passion.”