In a brand interview with Clash, METALLICA frontman James Hetfield was asked if the band had to make certain compromises along the way in order to be accepted by the mainstream. He responded: "It is interesting, because we have created our own mainstream, is what I believe. We've been extremely honest with ourselves, including the compromising part.
"There always has to be some kind of compromise — especially when you've got four guys in a band," he continued. "You've got two guys that are really driving the thing — Lars [Ulrich, drums] and myself — and when we don't agree, there has to be a compromise. But as far as doing something that doesn't feel right, I'm sure there's been a few times that it's happened — the 'Load' and 'Reload' era, for me, was one of those; the way that was looking, I wasn't 100 percent on with it, but I would say that that was a compromise. I said, 'I'm going with Lars's and Kirk's [Hammett, guitar] vision on this. You guys are extremely passionate about this, so I'll jump on board, because if the four of us are into it, it's going to be better.' So I did my best with it, and it didn't pan out as good as I was hoping, but, again, there's no regrets, because at the time it felt like the right thing to do. So, even thinking that I need to compromise a little bit for the integrity of the band to go forward, I'd do that. But as far as the mainstream goes, I think we've been so honest and open about what we want and what we don't want. You know, this is our fucking party. [Laughs] You're invited! Everyone's invited! Be a part of the acceptance of this and the adventure, and if it starts to get personal and you don't like it, you can jump off at any point, because there's always hopefully going to be someone who enjoys that enthusiasm about creation, and there will always be a seat for that person."
During the same chat, Hetfield said that METALLICA has "always hated any kind of rules, or any attempt to categorize or box us in any way. We don't like boundaries and limits," he added. "And I think right away… heavy metal has the impression that it's a bit punk, like 'Fuck the world,' and 'We're us, we're doing things our way,' and that's fine, until you don't fit into their way. You know, cutting your hair or not wearing a leather jacket, or whatever. Doing a ballad: that was one of the things that set us apart right away. I remember almost getting in a fight with a fan in San Francisco. This was about '89, because '[…And] Justice [For All]' had just come out, and we had done a video for the song 'One', and the guy said, 'Fuck you, you sell-out motherfucker. You did a video for MTV, and blah blah blah…' [Laughs] I felt the need to defend us! It's like, 'Why do I need to justify our art to you?' So that, to us, it disappointed us. It disappointed us that fans would get angry at you for being an artist, or doing what you feel you want to do to explain yourself to the world, or to connect with the world."
Following the "Load"/"Reload" albums and tour, METALLICA went into a tailspin that resulted in the exit of bassist Jason Newsted, Hetfield spending the better part of a year in rehab and the band nearly splitting up.
In a 2016 interview with TeamRock, Hetfield was asked what he thought late METALLICA bassist Cliff Burton might have felt about the drastic changes in METALLICA's look and sound that the band made through the 1990s and early 2000s with albums like "Load", "Reload" and "St. Anger". Hetfield replied: "Well, I certainly would have thought there would have been some resistance, for sure. I think the 'Black Album' was a great album and I appreciate the fact that we did have the balls to do that… I would certainly think that the 'Load' and 'Reload' [era], I would have had an ally that was very against it all — the reinvention or the U2 version of METALLICA."
METALLICA returned to a heavier style more reminiscent of its early albums on 2008's "Death Magnetic", while its new disc, "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct", arrived in November 2016.