ALBUM REVIEW: Hardwired… To Self-Destruct – Metallica

2016 may be drawing to a close, but it is far from over with metal releases. With what has been the most anticipated release of this year, and arguably even this decade, LA legends METALLICA have returned in a huge way with their tenth studio release, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct.

It has been a monumental wait in Camp METALLICA for a brand new album, the last of which came in the form of 2008’s old school METALLICA revival Death Magnetic. Whilst it has been a long eight years, METALLICA have been keeping occupied over the course with the band teaming up with the late Lou Reed for their critically panned Lulu, they continued their quest to play at every continent in the world where they braved the freezing climate for a show in Antarctica, as well as putting out the Through The Never movie and performing at festivals over the globe.

With the fun and games out of the way, METALLICA hit the studio in 2014 to finally put all of their concentration into the making of double album Hardwired… To Self Destruct. The band left fans anticipating what was to come from the next album, whether it would follow on from Death Magnetic or if it would take a new route completely.

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct begins in an explosive way with Hardwired. Standing at three minutes, one of METALLICA’s shortest songs to date, Hardwired kicks off with a relentless E-string chug, which then descends into a high speed thrash assault. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield spits out a flurry of impactful yet explicit lyrics about how “we’re so fucked” as a society, which demonstrates an aggression which METALLICA has lacked in recent times. Hardwired displays METALLICA at their most energetic and it would not look out of place compared to their 80s output, particularly debut Kill ‘em All.

After the fury of Hardwired comes Atlas, Rise! which has the most similarity to Death Magnetic than any other track on Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. It combines METALLICA’s modern style with an added twist of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. METALLICA’s clear love and influence of IRON MAIDEN is most noticeable in the twin guitar harmonies and victorious march of the chorus.

Now That We’re Dead sees the first glimmer of METALLICA breaking the mould. The drumming is akin to that of the band’s anthem Enter Sandman, as drummer Lars Ulrich relies on the toms to accentuate the classic metal guitar playing. The vocals are verging on pop metal at points, with Hetfield bellowing “Now that we’re dead my dear/We can be together” serving as an interesting juxtaposition with how upbeat the music is.

The second track to be released from the album, Moth Into Flame, is arguably the strongest on the album. Moth Into Flame is a pristine demonstration of METALLICA at their finest, with a perfectly structured song which draws influence from their late 80s/early 90s output. The track contains the catchiest, iconic riffs with a chorus which METALLICA fans have been craving for last two decades. Dream No More brings the pace down a notch and offers another glimpse of METALLICA’s versatility. Influences this time are drawn from BLACK SABBATH and ALICE IN CHAINS with lyrics based on Cthulhu intertwining between the sludgy guitar playing.

The final track of disc one is Halo On Fire. METALLICA revive a formula which has seen the band create many a classic metal ballad, including Fade To Black and One. Halo On Fire’s verse has a lighter feel, as if NIRVANA collided with DEEP PURPLE. The cleanliness of the verse transcends into a heavy haven with one powerful growl on Hetfield and the headbanging activates immediately. It is the longest song at eight minutes, but it is time well spent as the track takes several turns, bringing out the best in each member through the enlightening journey.

Most of disc two contains mid-tempo tracks which drag on for slightly too long, a problem which METALLICA have faced in the past. Standout tracks include Confusion, whose lyrics tackle PTSD and war, and could be seen as a sequel to METALLICA’s hidden gem Disposable Heroes. Here Comes Revenge is one of the most ambitious tracks METALLICA have released in many years, with a spine-tingling, haunting verse. The sinister nature of the track combined with Hetfield’s approach to the song is jaw-dropping, before it leads into a powerful chorus. Here Comes Revenge displays Kirk Hammett as his finest with an awe inspiring, blues-infused solo.

The weakest track in terms of structure falls to ManUNkind. The tracks begins with a soft guitar intro alongside a bass guitar motif from Robert Trujillo, however the song takes a sudden twist into a jagged rhythm and uninspired guitar riffs and vocal lines. Am I Savage? has moments of class, however it is roughly two minutes too long and shows METALLICA’s inability to edit unnecessary riffs.

METALLICA’s tribute to the fallen legendary MOTORHEAD singer/bassist Lemmy, Murder One, is powerful lyrically, with references to “aces” and “born to lose, live to win” but musically doesn’t fit with the theme. Murder One would be better suited as a rapid pace track instead of being focused around a drawn out riff.

The saviour of disc two comes from the second and final instance of thrash metal. Spit Out The Bone will become most fans’ instant classic. It is seven minutes of pure thrash and is undeniably the heaviest track of METALLICA’s since the 80s. It is a raw onslaught that includes the heaviest METALLICA breakdown to date.

In comparison with METALLICA’s legendary output, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct stands just short of the classic albums, but analysed on its own, it is an incredible album with moments of pure brilliance for a band over 30 years into their career. METALLICA finally feel comfortable again and Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is a triumphant display in showing the world METALLICA can still write phenomenal metal songs.

Rating: 8/10

Metallica Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is out now via Blackened Recordings.

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