Whilst not all of the content hits as successfully as its best bits do, this is still an absolute clinic from the metal legends.
How does one go about trying to condense all of Metallica’s achievements, accolades and back story into just a few short sentences? Quite simply, you can’t. There’s never been a band quite like the simply monolithic Metallica – perhaps the most enduring musical force on the planet, they are never short on heavy riffs, fist pounding drums, and bad-ass metal music. With tenth LP Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, the band aims high with its first ever double album, clocking in at nearly 80 minutes in total. After a resurgence with 2008’s critically acclaimed Death Magnetic, Metallica’s return is yet another epic and rousing (if a little over-stuffed) piece of heavy goodness.
Fans are assured that this is a true-to-their-roots album with a killer first half. Like a machine gun mowing down its enemies, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct bursts to life with ‘Hardwired,’ a fast-paced shorter cut of their trademark thrash style, that serves as a vivacious opener built upon some ridiculously rapid rhythm guitar work and drumming from James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich respectively. ‘Atlas, Rise!’ is the first of numerous muscular tracks of length, featuring plenty of progression in Kirk Hammett’s riff work and dueling between him and Hetfield throughout. More heavy than thrash, it is plowed through like a casual pre-show warmup exercise. A standout featuring perhaps Hetfield’s strongest work lyrically thanks to a more powerful punch, ‘Moth Into Flame’ speaks of false idolatry and a self-inflicted downfall – “You’re falling, but you think flying high,” he calls out as the guitars soar accordingly, transitioning into an excellent chorus. The sensation delivered (and secured by a face-melting solo) isn’t so much that of a moth being attracted to a lightbulb – this is a moth meeting an inferno.
As the back half of the album unfolds, however, one cannot help but realise that Hardwired…To Self-Destruct starts to play it safe a little. Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo hold things together between the riffs, but it all pales in comparison to the soaring heights that Metallica has managed to reach previously. Is there simply too much material for one album? Is there an attempt to overcompensate through fear of failure? Tracks such as ‘Confusion,’ ‘ManUnKind’ and ‘Murder One’ are quite average by Metallica’s standards, especially as forgettable points found around some truly stunning moments presented this record.
‘Am I Savage?’ is a fortunate deviation, experimenting with a heavy, stomping outro under Hetfield’s bellows, but ‘Spit Out The Bone,’ a closer akin to ‘Master Of Puppets’ in both execution and scope, is easily one of the album’s finest tracks. There’s barely a moment of respite in its seven minute duration, militant in its aggressive and powerful style. It’s intense and bombastic, like eating a rare steak served with nails and firecrackers.
All in all, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is exactly what one could hope for after Metallica’s eight year absence. Even after 30 years, there’s so much confidence and coolness in how they play. Whilst its second half may not reach the first’s gargantuan standards, there’s still plenty of greatness to sink your teeth into.
Hardwired…To Self-Destructis out now via Blackened Recordings