Metallica Hardwired...To Self-Destruct2016 Blackened Recordings
A symphony of self-destruction?
It’s been eight years since Metallica released “Death Magnetic“—an opus many fans saw as a return to form after a decade or so of controversially experimental output. Now, after their longest break in-between records to date, the reigning kings of metal are finally back with a double album that clocks in at over one hour and seventeen minutes of new music.
While that may not sound like too much on paper, let’s be clear, there is A LOT of meat on the table here. The average song length is about 6 minutes plus and most of that is dedicated to riffing. Even so, despite the breadth of what’s on hand, there’s also likely to be some accusations that this record is a bit of a Trojan horse.
The first three singles (“Hardwired“, “Moth To Flame” and “Atlas, Rise!“) all displayed ties to the band’s denim-clad thrash metal heyday. However, much of the rest of the album instead falls more in line with the slower, more melodic “Load“, etc. era of the band.
While not as gimmicky when it comes to choruses and such, big harmonies—be it guitar or vocals—have truly taken root in the DNA of this latest effort—which according to interviews, was largely written by frontman/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. That narrowed source of input seems quite apparent throughout the record as songs like “Now That We’re Dead” tip their hat to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal with a few pronounced riffs.
Meanwhile, “ManUNkind” prays at the altar of Black Sabbath, with a tumbling rhythm section that brings “Hole In The Sky” to mind. Neither track sounds like a pale shadow of its inspiration, but there’s times where you can almost trip over the hero worship.
Hetfield and Ulrich‘s influences aren’t the only thing being revisited here either. “Here Comes Revenge” takes on a stalking momentum with particularly thunderous floor tom hits and a general atmosphere that sounds like it could have been lifted from the much revered ‘black album.’ But beyond that, further nostalgia trips become a much murkier endeavor.
In particular there’s a few corny nods, among them a throwback to everyone’s favorite Lovecraftian fictional deity, Cthulhu, that is found in “Dream No More“. Then there’s “Murder One“, a heartfelt, if not heavy handed, tribute to the band’s fallen idol, Motörhead‘s Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. Meanwhile, “Am I Savage?” almost comes off as a questionably sleazier take on their classic cover of Diamond Head‘s “Am I Evil?“—at least when it comes to the chorus.
You see, the problem with “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” isn’t one prevalent shortcoming. It sounds like Metallica, right down from Kirk Hammett‘s wah-abusing pedalwork to Hetfield‘s menacing snarls. Lars is Lars and while the ever talented Robert Trujillo does feel a bit underutilized, you can certainly hear him throughout—even if he doesn’t get to show off his full skill set.
Metallica will always have its critics, those who disavow anything recorded outside of the 1980’s. This album isn’t about to change that opinion. But it may bring back a few diehards as it is a fairly encompassing mix of the band’s work to date—especially when stacked up against the last few records that preceded it. The only real gripe with it is how overstuffed it is.
There is a considerable amount of fat on this album that may or may not be to your liking. Not everything they’ve laid out here is justifiably necessary and while the core elements of the songs are engaging enough, there’s a lot of superfluous parts that easily could have been left on the studio floor.
A few leaner moments and some more concise songwriting would have made this problem easy to overlook, but with “Hardwired” the only included song that gets right to the point and gets out, you may find yourself only able to take on portions of this record at a time.