ALBUM REVIEW: Metallica – “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct”

Bay Area Thrash Kings Return with Their Highly Anticipated Tenth Studio Album
by Brian Kuhn on November 16, 2016
Editor's Pick
Overview
Item Reviewed

Metallica - Hardwired...To Self-Destruct

Author
November 16, 2016
Synopsis

Bay Area Thrash Kings Return with Their Highly Anticipated Tenth Studio Album

Features

Two Discs of dynamic thrash metal

Specifications

Available Everywhere November 18th, 2016

Length

78 Minutes

AwardsEditor's PickMust Have!
Positives

- James Hetfield's best vocal performance in 20 years
- Musically dynamic from fast and heavy to slow and melodic
- Sonically pleasing from start until finish
- Lars double bass hype
- Zero bad songs

Negatives

- Kirk's solos are hit and miss through the course of the album
- Odd album pacing
- Lars needs to stop counting quiet sections with his hi-hats
- Two Discs is pointless and only for marketing purposes
- Zero "YEAH" from Papa Het

EDIT** After listening to this album whilst high has made me realize I am dumb. Don’t listen to what I said in this review. This album is fire. METALLICA IS BACK BABY!!!

EDIT 2** This album has zero “YEAH” from Hetfield. 0/10 Unlistenable.

 

When I think about the last eight years of my life, a lot comes to mind. Eight years ago, we elected out first African-America President, RDJ revamped his career with the release of Iron Man, Britney Spears was still winning MTV music awards and Bay Area Thrash Pioneers Metallica released Death Magnetic to largely positive reviews, almost five years after 2003’s St. Anger. That was how long ago that was and not a single TOOL fan will show any empathy. Despite its positive reviews, Death Magnetic still left us with the feeling of something missing but was a step in the direction the band needed to truly make something special and after eight years, we have Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, an album that came to fruition after years of delays and the band telling us “it’s coming along, be patient” and schedule conflicts. Then out of nowhere, the single “Hardwired” was released over the summer and the hype train began. Then follow-up tracks came out and anticipation, which was already at an unbearable pitch, has been building as all of the metal militia awaited the return of the biggest band in the world. After all, can a band that has been at it for 35 years really put out material that is worth of the legendary albums of the past?

I’m here to tell you, this album is fire. Forget the Metallica hate circlejerk over St. Anger and Lulu. This album is here to stay and proves that even in their 50’s, Metallica can still write tracks like when they were angry teenagers.

78 minutes of music packaged into two discs, the stylistic approach is slightly different for each, with the first showing more energy and the second wavering more to the hardcore dark side of things that should not be. I have zero issues stating that there isn’t a single bad track on this album. Some are stronger than others but they each have their place and, I feel, represent the band’s entire catalog in some way, so for the sake of this review, I’m going to do a small write-up about each song in my musical opinion. GO!

Disc One

1. Hardwired – 3:09

BOOM!!! Out of the gate, we get the track that propelled the Metallica hype train into motion. Odds are if you’re reading this review, this is one of the three songs you’ve already heard. Drawing huge influence from the days of Kill ‘Em All, Hardwired drives nonstop for 3 minutes of thrash heavy and doesn’t stop. The major weakness of this song is Kirk’s phoned-In guitar solo. Otherwise, the perfect opening track for this album is this one which was also the last song of the album written as Lars explained on the Howard Stern Show. They wanted a fast, dick-kicking song to hit us in the face and they accomplished it. Also, LARS DOUBLE BASS HYPE!

2. Atlas, Rise! – 6:29

The second track was the third to be released to the public before album release where I already did a small write-up but to echo my previous comments, Atlas feels like a Justice-era track that, to my ear, feels heavily Maiden influenced as you’ll come to find with many of these tracks. With an intro similar to that of “Dyer’s Eve,” it shows the foundation of Metallica, open notes into riffs that just FEEL like Metallica. Kirk’s solo here is exponentially better than before. Also, the solo section is classic Metallica in that it’s imposed overtop a different bridge riff over the course of two minutes of feel changes into a very Maiden style of harmonizing. I feel like over time, this will be a sleeper favorite off the album.

3. Now That We’re Dead – 6:59

Where are my Load-era fans at? This is the track for you. The third track on the album feel’s like mid-90’s Metallica with a certain grittiness and darkness to it to yet still feels heavy. Kirk’s solo feels a little phoned-in again but the bridge section after the solo is my personal favorite part next to James’ vocal melody in the chorus. Great track for the Mid-90’s Metallica fan.

4. Moth Into Flame – 5:51

Onward to the fourth track and the second to be released to the public, the Puppets-era feeling track that reminds me of my favorite Metallica track of all time, “Disposable Heroes”. Strong, heavy intro, broken open note thrashing, driving bridge and solo section. This track is almost “Disposable Heroes” verbatim in terms of arrangement and that’s a fucking great thing. All these elements make this a contender for one of the stronger tracks on the album if it weren’t for a song we’ll get to later. Also again, LARS DOUBLE BASS HYPE!

5. Dream No More – 6:30

This track is interesting to me in the sense that it combines very sluggish/doomy metal riffs similar to Black Sabbath with ReLoad-era vocals similar to “Where The Wild Things Are.” Dream No More is very haunting but still manages to have a tremendous amount of energy. Kirk’s solo on this is much better. Dirty, gritty and full of feel that matches the track well with a large build out of the solo section back into the heavy chorus section.

6. Halo On Fire – 8:15

Closing out the album’s first half is the lengthy and ingenious “Halo on Fire”. For years now, Traditionally, Metallica has always included one song on each album that begins with a somber tone of sadness that builds into chaos and something epic. “Halo…” is Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’s submission to that format. Three great solos overtop of progressively perfect instrumentation into a beautiful send-off for the first disc of the album. Hello darkness, say goodbye.

Disc Two

7. Confusion – 6:41

Anybody remember the B-Side of 1984’s “Creeping Death?” Yeah, it was a track called “Am I Evil?” that had an intro that was iconic. “Confusion” starts in a very similar manner that reminds you of that feeling you had the first time you heard Evil. The track sets the mid-tempo pace that much the second half of the album has.

8. ManUNkind – 6:56

More mid-tempo madness that primarily takes place in a groovy swung 3/4 time on occasion showing signs of 6/8. The intro made me feel like I was listening to a Maiden album as Rob gets to showcase himself well overtop of James. This is one of the more technical songs in terms of arrangement.

9. Here Comes Revenge – 7:18

The best of the mid-tempo track of the album, in my opinion, Revenge sports a strong heavy into a great main riff that carries the classic Metallica feel. verses are dynamically lower with lars playing a heavy tom beat over James singing darker lyrics. Think the verses of “Wherever I May Roam.” Great track to sit and bob your head to.

10. Am I Savage? – 6:30

Have I said that this album seems to have Maiden influence all over it? The intro here is no different and builds into a more mid-tempo sludgy/doomy metal feel with some of James’ most raw and sinister vocal performance on the album. That said, the chorus riff here seems very watered down for what the king of metal rhythm guitar is capable of. That said, the triplet riffs overtop of Lars give this songs it’s key sinister feel. Also, another fantastic solo by Hammett, which he’s about 50/50 on so far to this point.

11. Murder One – 5:45

The second to last track on the album is Metallica’s tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister. James mixes dynamic vocals with great riff variety in a fantastic manner to play tribute as he howls “Aces High” overtop of the driving mid-tempo track and fantastic solo. The issue I have with this song is that it lacks much diversity from the last three songs we’ve heard. Solid but seemingly unpolished track that leads into what is, arguably the strongest track off the album.

12. Spit Out The Bone – 7:09

Holy shit. After having listened to 5 mid-tempo tracks in a row, Bone kicks you in the face as soon as the track rolls. Fast, driving, angry 17-year-old Metallica is very much present in the closer. It’s almost like something from Kill ‘Em All was written in 1988. Between fast thrashing, riff changes, mini solos, double bass, insane harmonies and just flat out RAW vocal deliveries on a song that embraces our new machine overlords. This track has been on repeat many times over the last two weeks for me and it will for you too. Also, easily one of Kirk’s best solos in a while and contains one of the coolest bass lines delivered in the middle that’s overdriven and in a style we haven’t heard since Cliff. Oh and LARS DOUBLE BASS HYPE! Amazing way to end the album. Long live machine!

Final Thoughts

Hardwired…To Self-Destruct has successfully bridged a gap between mid-tempo and heavy technical Metallica we’ve spent the last 30+ years with. The band has manages to take influence from their entire catalog and create a standalone album that literally any age of Metallica fan can appreciate. James sounds the best he has in years vocally, delivering a wide variety of dynamics and grittiness that has been missed. Rob is also heavily prominent on this album and makes the rhythm section as solid as Metallica has been since Cliff. Kirk’s disconnection from the album is noticed but the album doesn’t suffer as a result. Despite that, the album still is a very accurate representation of the bands ability to be versatile but also remember where their roots are, as thrash metal kings. #longlivemachine

Standout Tracks

 Spit Out The Bone, Halo On Fire, Hardwired, Moth Into Flame, Atlas, Rise!

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