Rating: **** (3.75)
Eight years have passed since Metallica released Death Magnetic in 2008. However, the band hasn’t been inactive since then. In 2011, the band collaborated with the late Lou Reed- which resulted in the infamous Lulu. The project was universally hated by Metallica fans, some even going as far as sending Reed death threats. Metallica tried to keep fans happy with the Beyond Magnetic EP later that year and in 2013 with the 3D concert film Through the Never. This was all fine and dandy for fans but what we really wanted was a brand new studio album. In this year of 2016, Metallica have finally done just that. The album, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, is the band’s tenth album. So after these last eight years, was it worth the wait? While it isn’t an instant classic, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is still worth a listen.
Hardwired is a two-disc set consisting of twelve songs in total, with six songs on each disc. In total, the album’s run time is some 77 minutes. This makes it the band’s second longest album- their longest being 1996’s Load, which was 79 minutes. However, Load able to fit on one disc. The choice to have the album on two discs instead of one is strange. Still, this has no impact on the music. It’s just something that sticks out.
The first disc opens up with an onslaught of thrash metal in the form of the title track. As the lead single off the album, it’s an incredibly speedy track with the band firing on all cylinders. As most fans should know, Metallica were heavily influenced by the heaviness of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands and the velocity and speed of punk rock music. With that in mind, the band proudly shows the former in some of these songs. The commanding “Atlas, Rise!” and the slow but melodic “Halo on Fire” feature some impressive Maiden-like guitar work. “Now That We’re Dead” and “Dream No More” are also good. The former has a cool prowling feel while the latter sees the band dabbling in sludge metal. However, it’s “Moth Into Flame” that impresses me the most. Musically, it’s another head-bangin’ tune. Lyrically, however, the song is semi-autobiographical, about the ups and downs of fame. “Sold your soul/Built a higher wall” sings James Hetfield. “Yesterday/Now you’re thrown away.”
The second disc, as much as I hate to say, is where the album starts to derail. “Confusion” has a great militant opening but doesn’t go anywhere else while “Here Comes Revenge” and “Am I Savage?” are just very plain. “ManUNkind” isn’t the strongest track lyrically. Musically, however, it’s Sabbath-esque in its timing and feel- which I like. “Murder One”- the band’s tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead- is just okay. Motorhead were a huge influence on Metallica and Lemmy was very supportive of Metallica. It just seems fitting that the band pay tribute to their mentor. You also have give the band credit for writing an actual song, whereas most people would decide to do a cover song. The second disc closes out with the balls-to-the-wall thrash metal of “Spit Out the Bone.” It’s easily the strongest song from the second disc, as it is relentlessly fast and brutal- closing the album on a high note.
Despite its drawbacks, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is a decent album from Metallica. While I find myself preferring Death Magnetic, Hardwired is a decent follow up. However on the production side, Hardwired sounds much better. At this point in their career, I think Metallica don’t have to impress us anymore. Their best albums came out in the 1980s. The albums that came afterwards have been hit or miss. I think what matters now is that they‘re happy doing what they do. Their new material? You can take it or leave it. So is Hardwired a groundbreaking album? No. Is it worth listening to? Sure, why not? It doesn’t hurt to.