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

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