Album Review: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct

metallica-hardwired

Well, that didn’t take long.

OK, just kidding. It’s been EIGHT! years since Metallica last released an album and the long wait (for some) ends Friday when the heavy metal giants unveil Hardwired…To Self-Destruct the band’s 10th studio album.

Despite the length of time, Metallica hasn’t been silent, instead embarking on a seemingly endless tour for 2008’s Death Magnetic that touched every continent in the world including, of all places, Antarctica, in 2013 (though perhaps it wasn’t officially a part of the Death Magnetic tour). How they ever had time to write and record a new album, not to mention videos for all 12 new songs (and “Lords of Summer” which is on the deluxe album version that contains several more songs and live tracks) is a question only they can answer. In fact, they just did a Central America trip!

Fans of Metallica seem to fall into two camps. Those who embrace and welcome new material and those who stopped listening in the very early 90s after their metal heroes “sold out.” Somehow though Metallica continues to hit the #1 spot on Billboard (so there!) and expect the same with Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Metallica is without a doubt one of just a handful of bands keeping heavy metal alive, relevant and shrewd.

No, Hardwired…To Self Destruct does not resurrect Master of Puppets or Ride the Lightning as many early core fans wish. It’s 2016 not 1986. But it’s better than the stretch of albums from the mid-90s to early 2000s  when, arguably,  hanger-ons started falling off. It’s a natural progression from Death Magnetic, touches all decades of Metallica and at times comes across very heavy but not necessarily hard.
It’s a lengthy album – only two songs less than six minutes and six registering more than seven minutes long. It’s also the second album with bassist Robert Trujillo.

So let’s get to it. The album starts fast and vulgar with “Hardwired,” the first song released to give fans a sneak preview a month or so ago. It’s the shortest of the lot – 3:19. It’s pretty angry and rips from start to finish.

“Atlas, Rise!” (6:31) is classic Metallica with a long middle jam book-ended with lyrics like “Master of Puppets”. It’s heavy with a solid pace to keep it rocking and after several listens it’s certainly a solid hit.

“Now That We’re Dead” (7:02) – Simply awesome intro. Great drum cadence and heavy metal guitar chord. Until James Hetfield starts singing this could be a Megadeth song. Don’t tell Dave Mustain!

“Moth Into Flame” (6:08) – The second album sneak preview released, the opening guitar heeds a bit of “Ride the Lightning” before opening into a hard driving riff that sticks through the whole song. Catchy chorus and overall fun song – should be a staple on the forthcoming tour.

“Dream No More” (6:38)  – Sounds more like a heavier version of today’s “modern rock” blended with “Sad But True” with some sonic tweaking to Hetfield’s vocals. It won’t win over the old school camp.

“Halo on Fire” (8:28) – The longest of the bunch and could be a leftover from Death Magnetic.

“Confusion” (6:47) – You might think you’re hearing “Am I Evil” but the lengthy drum intro gives way to a driving guitar riff which unfortunately holds back a bit too much at times. It’s got some solid chording but dawdles a bit and even with the military and ravages of war theme  it’s nowhere as good as “One.”

“ManUNkind” (7:24)  – It’s long and heavy metal to its core, but meanders a bit without much elegance and includes a noisy Kirk Hammett guitar solo.

“Here Comes Revenge” (7:25) – Stole the opening riff to “Leper Messiah” – hey it’s their song, they can do as they wish – but it continues in the same style as “ManUNkind.” It’s heavy, not overly melodious and belabors a bit much.

“Am I Savage” (6:34) – Three in a row now of slow, heavy chords. Hopefully the name doesn’t fool you into thinking it’s going to be a brother of their cover “Am I Evil.” Not even close.

“Murder One” (5:52)  – An ode to the recently expired Lemmy. It probably would make him proud too, but not Metallica fans from the 80s.

“Spit Out The Bone” (7:10) – Finally back to hard-charging Metallica. This one blisters at the start, provides a host of directional changes, and doesn’t let up for seven minutes.

“Lords of Summer” (7:15) – (On Deluxe album) Another solid heavy metal song to close out the album. Strong guitar. And for whatever reason it seems like this could have been on Kill ‘Em All.

This album requires several listens to carve the grooves into your head and perhaps in time the few sluggish tracks might prove otherwise.  Thankfully it doesn’t sound as though it suffers from that perceptible treble distortion that afflicted the last album. Overall, Hetfield’s vocals thunder as strong as ever, Hammett’s working in new compositions and Lars Ulrich probably couldn’t hit the drums harder if he tried.

Of course, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct relies on the usual repetitive head-bobbing chords as a foundation (this is why we love metal, right?) but time signature changes and other melodic riffs and arrangements elevate a number of songs while others suffer from the nomadic curse of “Wherever I May Roam.” At any rate, Metallica certainly hasn’t cooled off or lost much, if any, of their hard, heavy metal edge.

Grade: B

Metallica – Hardwired…To Self Destruct – track list

1. Hardwired [Explicit]
2. Atlas, Rise!
3. Now That We’re Dead
4. Moth Into Flame
5. Dream No More
6. Halo On Fire
7. Confusion
8. ManUNkind
9. Here Comes Revenge
10. Am I Savage?
11. Murder One
12. Spit Out the Bone
13. Lords of Summer

Written By: AndrewT

Review: Rush – Time Stand Still (Documentary)

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So you’re saying there’s a chance?

However high, or low, the possibility, Rush fans shouldn’t hold their breath for their beloved members of the famed Canadian rock group to return to the stage, though the door wasn’t exactly slammed shut during the documentary of Rush Time Stand Still shown nationwide on Thursday for one night only in select theaters around the country.

The much anticipated film chronicling what’s believed to be the band’s final major tour picked right up where R40 left off in 2015 – sold out – albeit in a movie theater. After an animated short and a 20 minute introduction titled “Salute to Kings” featuring interviews with Gene Simmons of KISS, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (with Nancy describing Rush music as a dog whistle only heard by males), and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, among others “Time Stand Still” began with a backdrop of the concert from Portland, OR and some haunting words from Rush bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee when he said walking away from it is not fun before cutting to Lee in the backseat of a car heading to the first show of the R40 tour.

Time Stand Still (available Nov. 18 on DVD and Blu-Ray) follows in the same vein as 2010’s Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage but proved less about the band’s history, as the first documentary covered quite well, and more about now. Narrated by actor Paul Rudd, the film followed Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart from opening night in Tulsa, OK to the final show on Aug, 1, 2015 at The Forum in Los Angeles with various snippets and interviews in between.

A handful of super fans were featured including one gentleman with a 90-plus page of documented Rush memorabilia he owned, the founder of RushCon and one of the more emotional moments talked to fan George Summers from Scotland who survived a brutal car crash and used Rush’s music, specifically the fantastic “Everyday Glory,” (finally gets its due!) to help him through injury and recovery.

But the stars of this movie of course make up the stars of Rush. Lee, Lifeson and Peart re-told a few stories of the past – some rather comical – “The Bag” – others touching – Lifeson finding out the lead truck driver was getting married and stopped the caravan to bring some champagne and celebrate with the engaged couple in the cab – and one hilarious – the speed metal arrangement for “Subdivisions.” But most accounts discussed the rigors of touring, the love of the band from devotees and touring personnel, and a mostly unwilling embrace of the inevitable end.

Surely, time is the infinite jest on Rush and their fans.

Age knows no boundaries even when it comes to childhood heroes who seemingly return every few years like clockwork for nearly half a century. Peart struggled through a painful foot fungus during the R40 tour and Lee and Lifeson recounted seeing the drummer’s hands during the final shows which were cracked and calloused. The men laughed at their own expressive demeanor when it came to their personal pain threshold over the years but marveled at Peart’s stoicism. Lifeson, too, struggles with arthritis which Lee described as a ticking time bomb.

Time Stand Still neared tenebrific at times in terms of any future dates to the stage. Peart said he was done with touring after the band’s first tour. And, not until the Clockwork Angels tour did he feel happy about a tour. In fact, R40 was an 11th hour approval after the mates got together to discuss the band’s future – Peart was out with a slight window –  and it was Lifeson who said, “Let’s do it one more time” that fully opened it.  Lee appeared genuinely doleful, at times.

Time Stand Still was well-done and felt like a Part 2 or continuation of Beyond the Lighted Stage. Yet, Donna Halper, the woman credited for bringing Rush to the United States was nowhere other than a camera shot of a poster thanking her, and perhaps a bit too much time committed to the RushCon founder. You have to wonder who got left on the cutting room floor.

The end of touring enveloped the hour and 40 minute long film, yet, still no one broached the subject of Rush creating new music, a topic not asked or really discussed during interviews of the band members since their “retirement.” Lee and Lifeson have indicated a willingness to move forward together with Lee saying their music would sound like Rush without Neil. But writing and recording a new album is something easily done with today’s technology allowing Lee, Lifeson and Peart to collaborate from the comfort and confines of their own homes. If they so desire.

Indeed, a glimmer of hope remains to freeze the moment of Rush a little bit longer. “If there’s more there’s not a lot more,” said longtime manager Ray Danniels and as “The Garden” from Clockwork Angels somberly played while the cameras followed Lee and Lifeson off The Forum stage into the backroom, before the screen went black, Lifeson perhaps nudged the window slightly ajar.

But it wasn’t enough to diminish an overall presentiment of closure.

Written By: AndrewT