For Fans Of
Metallica, despite being indisputably the biggest, most successful metal band of all time, have plenty of detractors and haters. And it’s certainly easy to criticise their missteps (‘Load‘, for instance) the really shit ideas like their collaboration with Lou Reed for ‘Lulu‘, the garbage production quality and snare tone of ‘St Anger‘ (although some of the songs are redeemable) and Lars Ulrich just being lazy live (play the goddamn double kicks on ‘Dyers Eve‘, man!). Then, of course, the suing of Napster in 2000 was a bad public image scenario, but Lars was right. Admit it. Look at the music industry now compared to where it was in the early 2000’s, and sites like Napster helped create and further the current torrent environment that has littered the industry for years now.
But I digress! As for every questionable decision Metallica has made, there’s a whole host of great albums and superb moments in the band’s staggering career. Their first four albums are near untouchable thrash metal classics, and their fifth self-titled album sold at least 25 million copies and spread a vast influence on several generations of musicians – myself included – which was only ever a great thing for the heavy music community as a whole. Now in 2016, eight years after ‘Death Magnetic’ and it’s “If you’re not redlining you’re not headlining” approach to mastering, we have ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’.
There is absolutely no messing around with the first two tracks, ‘Hardwired’ and ‘Atlas, Rise’. They’re both heavy, hook-laden metal tracks, but the lyrics are rather lacklustre on the former song, in particular, those found in the chorus. Yet it’s forgivable because Metallica actually wrote a four minute single for the first time in what seems like forever and that length matched with the song’s fast pace gives it a great sense of energy and urgency. ‘Halo On Fire’ is the first of the typically long songs the band write, but it flows very well. The back half is made up of a great guitar solo from Kirk Hammett where he definitely shows off some Iron Maiden influences, and it creates a great tail end moment for the song. ‘Dream No More’ has an intro that is eerily reminiscent of ‘Sad But True’, but the verses sound like an Alice In Chains song and hearing venerable frontman James Hetfield sounding like Layne Staley or Jerry Cantrell (just with more “YEEAAAHHHHH!“) is a little odd. It’s definitely an interesting song and the way the guitar solo lands, again, is very similar to ‘Sad But True’. I suppose that the comparisons don’t stop when you consider that this song is in the same tuning and features a similar structure and pacing to the classic Tallica tune as well.
I know that Metallica loves Diamond Head, but the intro from ‘Confusion’ is at least 90% of the intro from ‘Am I Evil’, a song that they’ve covered numerous times. Regardless, the song itself doesn’t feel all that special, as it just kind of plods along for seven minutes or so. ‘ManUNkind’ (one of the cringiest song title of 2016 – Ed) has a solid bass intro that gives bassist Robert Trujillo some real time to shine, but again aside from that and a couple of strong hooky riffs, it’s yet another long, drawn out song. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best songs the band has ever written pass the six or seven-minute mark. But when there’s nothing that engaging or that memorable about the songs, they just feel so forced and so padded out. ‘Murder One’ begins with what sounds exactly like the ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)‘ intro, but all is forgiven in my mind because the title and lyrical content are meant as a tribute to the departed Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead (fuck, hard to believe it’s nearly been a year already). The band pick up the pace significantly for the album’s final song, ‘Spit Out The Bone’, and is easily the best of the last six songs and ends the record in a great fashion.
Now, I brought up the issue of song length a lot just then and it’s a tricky topic. As I said before, Metallica usually writes really good, really long songs. If you look at ‘Master Of Puppets‘ for example, it’s only eight songs long but it clocks in just shy of an hour. But every single one of those songs is memorable in their own unique way, be it for ‘Battery’ for its unrelenting aggression and speed, ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ with it’s chugging, slow burning riffs or the classic title track as a whole. This album, while solid, just doesn’t quite have that same effect, and it almost feels forced. Don’t get me wrong, I think that this easily tops ‘Death Magnetic’, ‘St. Anger’, ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ easily and is a solid metal album, generally speaking. And while the production can be quite wayward at times (how about those kick drums?), to see Metallica overtly showing more of their influences and playing faster songs again is a great thing for long time fans, and it hopefully bodes well for their future.
Look, this is far from the best album that Metallica have put out, and it’s not the best metal album of the year by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s solid nonetheless. Of course, all the hallmarks of a good Metallica album are there, however, ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’ is just missing that extra ‘something’; that special ‘it’ factor that great albums and great Metallica albums sorely need.
02. Atlas, Rise!
03. Now That We’re Dead
04. Moth Into Flame
05. Dream No More
06. Halo On Fire
03. Here Comes Revenge
04. Am I Savage?
05. Murder One
06. Spit Out the Bone
‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’ is out now. As Metallica are, you know, Metallica, they’ve been putting out music videos for each song. So here’s the music video for one of the album’s better songs, ‘Altas, Rise!’.