Metallica’s Load and Reload: An Interview with Cover Artist Andres Serrano

The mid-90s remains the most controversial period of Metallica’s career. The musical shift that the group from San Francisco took with the Charge and Reload the albums upset some sections of their fanbase, but not as much as the fact that the band now sported a whole new look that involved short hair and makeup.

Looking back, Metallica were just trying to shake off heavy metal clichés – something evident when they recruited controversial artist Andres Serrano to create the covers for Charge and Reload. The former featured an image titled Blood And Semen III, which featured cow’s blood mixed with semen, while the cover of the latter was the self-explanatory Piss And Blood. Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett were big fans of the artist’s work, although James Hetfield was deemed less impressed.

We asked Serrano how he got involved with the biggest metal band on the planet.

Metal hammer line cut

How did Metallica contact you about your art?

“Kirk and Lars asked for the photo to Charge. I met them at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, and we arranged for them to use the image for the album, merchandise, and for all promotional purposes. I was flattered and honored that they wanted it.

Why do you think they wanted your artwork?

“Because it spoke to them. They were drawn to him and I’m glad they were, because the picture and the album were a match made in heaven.

Did you know their music?

“I knew about their reputation as the best heavy metal band of all time. It was only later that I became familiar with their music.

Did they ask for these parts for Charge and Reload More precisely?

“Yes, they knew what they wanted for both albums.”

Where did the inspiration for the art itself come from originally?

“It was part of a series called ‘Bodily Fluids’. They were photographs meant to look like paintings, using milk, blood, piss and semen.

How did you get the bovine blood?

“I bought it from the butcher. It would be labeled ‘edible beef blood’ and I would buy a gallon of it every time I needed it. The blood darkened after a day, so I thought “I needed fresh blood to get the bright red. Later someone told me to put the black blood in a blender and it would clear up again.”

What did you think of the Charge and Reload recordings?

“They are amazing! I was not aware of the evolution of Metallica’s sound. 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 next album. Related but different. Everything comes from somewhere, and sometimes an audience may not realize that there is a connection between one body of work and another, but there might be. Only the artist knows for sure.

What was the reaction of their fans and the band?

“I think the pictures were a success. I once read a review where the Charge album was named No. 1 on a list of the best album covers. We know Lars and Kirk were happy with it, but James was not. I think James is still pissed!

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