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

Top 10 Best* Metallica Songs

The other day I got to listening “One,” just a fantastic Metallica song, and thought, why not a Top 10 list of Metallica songs.

I enjoy reading Top 10 lists and have occasionally done them for other publications but it’s something I’ve never done before in this forum.

I, like everyone else, get drawn into reading them. They’re quite often enlightening, usually entertaining and Top 10 lists provide an easy read for readers. However, these lists tend to be subjective and sometimes, if not always, raise the ire of someone, somewhere. Especially when it comes to music. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never thought about posting one. Providing an opinion on a concert or album is risky enough!

However, I thought it would be fun to do, stretch my boundaries and hopefully this exercise will elicit positive responses and get others to share their Top 10 songs by Metallica. If it does well and serves a purpose I’ll do more. From other bands, not Metallica.

Metallica has lots of great songs so choosing wasn’t super easy though the first five or so came rather quickly when I thought about what Metallica songs I would want with me on a deserted island. So that’s what it boiled down to. *If I had to choose what songs would accompany me on a deserted island? I only get 10 – so relax a bit if I leave out your favorite. Please, list yours!

These songs are in no particular order but you can probably guess what #1 will and should be.

  1. One – …And Justice for All (1988)

If the song was entitled “Two” I’d put it at #2 though if pressed certainly “One” would compete for the #1 Metallica song. “One” is so well done musically and lyrically it ranks right up there with Rush’s “Red Barchetta” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” for storytelling. It’s pleasantly long and superbly put together. This song so ruled the late 80s that even followers of New Kids on the Block blasted it from their daddy bought cars. The guitar and double bass before the five minute mark is, well, just go listen to it.

  1. Master of Puppets – Master Of Puppets (1986)

The title song off Metallica’s seminal 1986 album quite possibly raised the bar of heavy metal. In fact, heavy metal doesn’t seem a proper description for such a profound song. Progressive metal? Is that a term? It’s a song about cocaine and really why would anyone need to chop their breakfast on a mirror when they can get a taste of this high octane, eight and a half minute tract. The adagio section that starts at 3:30 – stellar musicianship.

  1. Ride the Lightening – Ride the Lightning (1984)

Another title tract! “Ride the Lightening” rides one of the purest metal solos to greatness. On just their sophomore album way back in 1984 Metallica proved they were a force to reckon with on the metal stage and it all starts with this slick tract.

  1. Holier than Though – Metallica (1991)

The so-called Black Album, more aptly their eponymous album, was also the so-called selling out album. This is when longtime fans of the band felt Metallica went mainstream and sold out with their catchy hit “Enter Sandman” which did indeed put the California natives on radio everywhere. (Remember when KROQ in Los Angeles played Metallica for about a month?) But that over-played single is not the best song on the album. Nor is the somewhat monstrosity that for some reason gets airplay “Wherever I May Roam.”

“Holier Than Though” is short, rips, and shows the guys didn’t stray too far from what their fan base felt otherwise. By the way, I applauded their effort to reach for new heights on ensuing albums but I didn’t connect well with them. Until…

  1. The Day That Never Comes – Death Magnetic (2008)

Constructed in the same vein as “One,” “The Day That Never Comes” builds on a solid crescendo for nearly half the song before a blitzkrieg of sonic delight. Whatever your opinion of the band’s albums between this 2009 effort and 1991’s self-title album, Death Magnetic brings Metallica back full circle to their metal days of yore. However, “The Day That Never Comes” just made this list and possibly would not be the lone song from the album if not for the production. It’s a hard record to hear because the recording is so dang loud. Apparently this was done purposely but whatever the reason, it backfired.

  1. Am I Evil – Creeping Death (1984)

Putting a cover song on this list gives a bit of disservice to some other worthy original selections however, what Metallica accomplishes with Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil” is on par with what Joe Cocker did with the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” The song now belongs to the metal giants. Released as a B-side to the limited run single “Creeping Death” from Ride the Lightening “Am I Evil” is a solid anthem for the band featuring blistering guitar work and that awesome opening drum cadence.

  1. Orion – Master of Puppets (1986)

Not a lot of bands can pull off an eight-plus minute instrumental so maybe that’s why “Geddy, Alex, Neil of Rush” get a thank you credit in the linear notes on Master of Puppets. Metallica isn’t known for their instrumentals but of the handful they’ve done “Orion” is a standout. It’s much more progressive rock than heavy metal and if it already wasn’t clear being the penultimate song on the album, these guys are much more than a 4/4 time every song sounds alike band.

  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ride the Lightening (1984)

There are two rather popular songs that start off with a bell chime and if you’re in the car, faintly listening your first thought is, oh please not that song. Then Lars Ulrich drops the hammer, or at least drum sticks. Hammett’s guitar work is fantastic and just three songs in on the album know you know why Metallica was making waves in the 80s music scene dominated by New Wave.

  1. Fade to Black – Ride the Lightening (1984)

Lyrically as dark as it gets, “Fade to Black” is about death and suicide but seriously check out the music arrangement. You don’t even need the lyrics to know this song is depressing. It’s truly a great song to wallow your sorrows away if you find yourself at a crossroads in life, but seriously it’s just a song. Listen to the next one on this list before you get too deep.

  1. Battery – Master of Puppets (1986)

Don’t let the pretty acoustic guitar opening this gem fool you, it’s about to get hard, really hard. The opening song for Master of Puppets sets the pace for the entire album. It’s one of Metallica’s most popular songs but unlike some of the more oft played ones on local radio, you leave this one on because no matter how many times you’re heard it, “Battery” gives you a charge every time.

Several others were considered but ultimately these songs made the list which of course could change over time and hopefully gets a bit shuffled with the highly anticipated and long overdue new album now expected in 2016 – EIGHT years after their last one.

Written By: AndrewT