A lot better than anything this iconic band has released in the past 25 years, but still way below what they can truly offer to the world of Heavy and Thrash Metal.
Reviewing an album by American Thrash Metal icons Metallica is never an easy job. This is a band that has an enormous potential to deliver the most amazing metal you can think of, but due to several external and internal factors they keep launching below average albums since their highly acclaimed (but not as good as people say) Black Album back in 1991, and because of that the reviewer is always confused trying to find a good reason for not criticizing the album too much and for not comparing it to classics like Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning. Well, here we go again with Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, their tenth studio album (I can’t believe I’m counting the abominable St. Anger as an album) and another perfect example of how the band doesn’t seem to care anymore about crafting truly remarkable music.
Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is their first studio album in eight years following their 2008 release Death Magnetic (an album I personally cannot distinguish one song from another, but that at least can be considered Heavy Metal), marking the longest gap between two studio albums in the band’s career. Let me be very honest with you, I had some good expectations with this album even not being a huge fan of the band, and after they released the first single, the excellent “Hardwired”, I really thought they would be back to their amazing Thrash Metal mode from the 80’s. However, after listening to the entire album, I felt a little tricked by the band, with a frustrating feeling of “so you guys released your most aggressive song as a single, but the rest of the album is quite slow and boring, uh?” In other words, it might be by far their best and most cohesive album since 1991, but that doesn’t say much taking into account their most recent releases are all pretty tedious.
As already mentioned, in the heavy and fun Hardwired a nice, thrashy start flows into classic Metallica, not as visceral as their metal hymns from Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning but still pretty good and violent. Mr. James Hetfield sounds in pretty good shape with his trademark angry vocals, while Kirk Hammett fires some amazing riffs and solos inspired by old school Thrash Metal. This is the best song of the album by far, and unfortunately after that the album is just a sea of uninspired and generic metal, starting with the tasteless Atlas, Rise!, where a promising intro fades into an annoyingly repetitive rhythm. Despite some good moments and another decent performance by James on vocals, it’s way too lengthy for the lack of tempo changes and variations, in special the extremely basic and uninspired drums by Mr. Lars Ulrich. After two minutes, it sadly becomes that type of ambient or background music that you don’t really pay attention to, it’s just there. Not sure if it was on purpose or not, but the main riff in the following tune, Now That We’re Dead, sounds like an exact copy of the all-time classic “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” by Judas Priest, but obviously this is not going to become a classic like that, not in a million years. Once again, it’s extremely repetitive and unexciting, going on for grueling seven minutes.
We finally get the “old school Metallica” promised by the band for this album in Moth into Flame, which together with the opening track is the best thing they’ve done since the fast and furious song “Fuel”. I love the sound of both guitars and the thunderous bass by Rob Trujillo during the whole song, not to mention that even Lars has a pretty solid performance in this high-octane tune. In Dream No More, they tried to copy their own classic “Sad But True”, but what we get instead is just a boring imitation of it as if Avenged Sevenfold decided to go full Metallica like they almost did in Hail to the King. Furthermore, Lars makes me cringe with his amateur and disconnected drumming in this horrible song, which is also the case in Halo on Fire, undoubtedly one of the most wearisome of all songs. Why this atrocity has excruciating eight minutes is beyond my knowledge, with just a few good guitar lines being enjoyable while everything else seems to be leftovers from Load and Reload. Although James tried hard to add some electricity to it on vocals, there wasn’t actually much he could do about it.
Confusion brings forward a marching intro that had an enormous potential for becoming an amazingly heavy and dark hymn, and despite not reaching that level of awesomeness it’s still a pretty decent composition which would have been a lot more effective if slightly shorter. Then Metallica offer us the unstable ManUNkind (which official video is supposed to be a “tribute” to Norwegian Black Metal masters Mayhem), with an Iron Maiden-ish vibe in the beginning that suddenly turns into another average composition that doesn’t do good or bad for the album showcasing the same basic performance by Lars, sounding like a lazy jam session instead of a real song. Rob fires some powerful bass lines in the above average Here Comes Revenge, with the guitars by James and Kirk also providing some extra energy to it. Elements from Black Album mixed with Load and Reload are found everywhere in this song, and albeit this is not the best Metallica are capable of doing, at this point of their career I’m more than fine with it.
Am I Savage? might be another generic tune, but at least it’s fuckin’ heavy thanks again to the job done by Kirk and Rob with their strings, and despite never really taking off it’s still enjoyable if you’re a fan of darker compositions like I am; whereas their tribute to the one and only Lemmy Kilmister, entitled Murder One, might have “One” in its name and even hints of one of the band’s biggest classics here and there, but it falls flat with nothing really outstanding to offer the listener except for some potent punches by Rob with his bass. Last but not least, we’re treated to one final blast of real Metallica in Spit Out the Bone, a bit sloppy at times and again too lengthy, but at least it has the fury that helped put this band on the map of heavy music decades ago. James sounds so much better when he’s angry, and perhaps this is what the band needs to do to cover all the issues with Lars’ drumming by sticking to the most primeval form of Thrash Metal.
I’m pretty sure there will be many diehard fans of Metallica thanking the gods of heavy music for Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (you can watch the official videos for every song on their YouTube channel), but for me, after listening to the whole album a few good times with an open heart, nothing ever truly clicked; it’s still way below their potential to generate stunning heavy music. Of course it has its good moments, in special when they cut the crap, speed things up and play straightforward heavy music the way we all expect, but the absurdly inflated length of most songs and the complete inability of Lars to provide any hint of intricacy on drums (Metallica definitely need a REAL drummer; even German a capella metallers Van Canto have one) ended up dragging the overall quality of the album down considerably. In other words, you can have some fun listening to Hardwired… to Self-Destruct a few times, but just like everything else released by Metallica in the past 25 years, it will soon become just another lost item in your dusty collection of albums.
Best moments of the album: Hardwired, Moth into Flame and Spit Out the Bone.
Worst moments of the album: Atlas, Rise!, Dream No More, Halo on Fire and Murder One.
Released in 2016 Blackened Recordings
1. Hardwired 3:09
2. Atlas, Rise! 6:28
3. Now That We’re Dead 6:59
4. Moth into Flame 5:50
5. Dream No More 6:55
6. Halo on Fire 8:15
1. Confusion 6:43
2. ManUNkind 7:17
3. Here Comes Revenge 6:30
4. Am I Savage? 6:29
5. Murder One 5:45
6. Spit Out the Bone 7:09
James Hetfield – vocals, rhythm guitars
Kirk Hammett – lead guitars
Robert Trujillo – bass
Lars Ulrich – drums