Saturday, November 19, 2016
Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct (2016)
My expectations for this record were, not surprisingly, big, for several reason. The first reason is that I highly enjoyed "Death Magnetic", and its mix of modern metal and old school thrash. It was a fresh breath of air that rejuvenated the band in a way I did not see coming. Second, the band have had a long time to perfect this album, and the longer you have to wait for new music, the higher the fall could be if it does not kick ass. Third reason is an obvious one, it is Metallica we are talking about, one of the most important metal bands in history. No matter if you love them or hate them, your eyes and ears will be on them when they release new music. Okay, enough rambling, let us talk "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct".
Before the last couple of days before this album's release, the band had given us three tastes of the album already, and all three songs is found on the first half of the first record. The title track "Hardwired" opens things up, and this is as thrash as you can almost get. It is fast, have tons of cool riffs, and an in your face attitude that many thought Metallica had lost over the years. It is also a very short song, and it works in favour for the band, giving the album a kick start that we have not heard since "Blackened". Unfortunately, this is the only short song of the album, with the remaining 11 songs spanning between 6-8 minutes, so it does not represent the album very well. The other pre-tastes do though. Both "Atlas, Rise" and "Moth Into Flame" borrows elements from the predecessor "Death Magnetic", showcasing some incredibly fun guitar work and arena friendly choruses. Hell, the chorus to "Moth Into Flame" is one of the most melodic I have heard from the band, and Hetfield kills it so god damn well. A very impressive start from the band.
After that though, the album starts to lose its way, trying out several different angles and sounds that just ends up feeling more random than well thought out. "Dream No More" tries to act like it is the next "Sad But True", with some inspiration from the "Necronomicon", but the way Hetfield sings this is so god damn weird. It sounds more like Zakk Wylde, without the guitar wanking. "Confusion" is... well... confusing... and sluggish. Then we have "Here Comes Revenge" and "Am I Savage?", both very forgettable songs that does not stick out in any way.
The song that makes me rage the most though is "ManUNkind", not only because the title is stupid as hell, but simply because this song makes no sense what so ever. It got some groovy riffs here that are nice and all, and Trujillo gets some moments to shine here, like the intro, but it is a very unappealing song overall. The chorus is extremely boring, the overall sound is very monotonous, and it just does not fit the record at all. It has some Mercyful Fate mentality in it (which explains the music video, which is just footage from some black metal concert), but it is as demonic as me. In other words, not at all.
And that is probably the main problem with "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct", that it just does not seem to have any direction at all. The album has a little of everything that Metallica has presented us with over the years, some "Kill 'em All", some "Black Album", and, believe it or not, some "St. Anger". The roots are still planted in "Death Magnetic", but all these new angles just makes the album confused, missing a clear cut personality. And it does not help the fact that several songs just goes on for too long. Even if I am not bothered with the length, I know a lot of people will get annoyed by it (because that was the main complaint with "Death Magnetic").
Fortunately, there is enough brilliance here to make the album enjoyable. I have already mentioned the first three songs that was released as great material, but I also want to mention "Halo On Fire", which is a fantastic semi-ballad that goes in the same spirit as "Fade To Black" and "The Unforgiven", mixing some great guitar work with swell emotions, and Hetfield is once again utilizing his voice in a fantastic way. I also like the Lemmy tribute in "Murder One", where the band makes several references to famous Motörhead songs, and the final song "Spit Out The Bone" ends the album in the same way it started, with fast, rifftastic thrash (or thrashified skate punk if we are picky). Such a shame that we do not get to hear more of this in this record, because this is Metallica at their best, and I am not saying this to act like a "old school" Metallica fan, I say this because they show the most fire and passion in these songs, bringing out their youthful spirit.
So let us sum it all up. "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct" could have absolutely been better if the band had tightened up things a bit, by either cutting some songs or made them shorter, and the classic Metallica problems are still there (production that is far from perfect and Lars' drumming), but the album is still good. It has a fire that burns strong, and the band is showing a versatility that they have not shown since "The Black Album", and some songs here are really strong. The inconsistencies does force me to put this album below "Death Magnetic" in terms of overall quality, but there is enough good stuff here for the common Metallica fan here to enjoy. So even if it may be a confusing mess (just like the cover art), it is still an entertaining mess. Maybe not worth 8 years of waiting, but it is at least far from shit.
Songs worthy of recognition: Halo On Fire, Hardwired, "Atlas, Rise!", Moth Into Flame
Rating: 7/10 Savages
More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All