20 Years Ago: Metallica Unveil New Look in ‘Until It Sleeps’ Video
For the first 15 years of their career, Metallica's image was typical for a heavy metal band: long hair with lots of leather and denim. But they dramatically changed things in the run-up to the release of 1996's Load. On May 23, 1996, they premiered the video for "Until It Sleeps," the first time the public saw all four band members with short hair.
In the five years between the Black Album and Load, metal had lost a lot of its commercial clout to alternative rock. The new look -- combined with the grotesque and surreal "Until It Sleeps" video and a song that was closer to Soundgarden than Master of Puppets -- was seen by many in the metal community as a betrayal on a Bob-Dylan-goes-electric level.
The backlash was a shock to drummer Lars Ulrich. "I was surprised at how much reaction it got," he told the Chicago Tribune. "I mean, what could be more useless than arguing about our bass player's hair length? ... But I suppose I should have seen it coming. Metallica to a lot of people is metal, and there is a code, a lifestyle, an us-verses-them attitude that you have to observe to keep in everyone's good graces."
But for Ulrich it was a simple case of simply acknowledging his age. "I'm 33 now," he said. "What might have applied when I was 19, I can't be responsible for that kind of thing anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love the music. But that sort of 19-year-old let's-[mess]-things-up attitude, I can't pretend to have that anymore. To me, the saddest thing is seeing some of these 35-year-old guys going onstage in their leather studs pretending to still be rebels. I'd like to say to them, `Wake up!'"
"It doesn't f---ing matter is, I guess, we're trying to say," James Hetfield explained. "You don't have to look a certain way to like that kind of music. I mean, it does happen. ... There are looks that people like to associate with, but ... it's just hair. It's no big f---ing deal."
While Hetfield has kept his hair short in the years since Load, he wasn't entirely thrilled with every aspect of Metallica's mid-'90s transformation. "Lars and Kirk [Hammett] drove on those records," James Hetfield told Team Rock in 2009. "The whole we-need-to-reinvent-ourselves topic was up. Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn’t make much sense. I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn’t get into it. The whole 'Okay, now in this photo shoot we’re going to be '70s glam rockers.' Like, what? I would say half – at least half – the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling."
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