After eight long years the wait is finally over. Bay area thrashers METALLICA have returned with a brand new album Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. Released via their own Blackened Recordings, this is a double disc with twelve songs and clocking in around 80 minutes. So you certainly can’t say they aren’t giving us a lot to work with after all this time. But, as we all know, it’s quality over quantity when it comes to our bands; all of them, not just the ones that have been at it for 30+ years. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve been burned before by some of the major leaguers so you learn to approach something this massive with cautious optimism.
Alright, enough chatter…what about the songs, right? First single “Hardwired” kicks off this feast of metal in hard-charging fashion, with machine gun riffs and drums, and vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield barking in his signature style. The shortest track on the whole thing, it is in-your-face and up your ass, and gets right to the point without dicking around. When it was first released I was all in, and I still feel that way. Next up is “Atlas Rise!”, released on Halloween. Again, as soon as it hit my ears I was beyond happy. THIS is what I wanted, and THIS is what they delivered: punching guitars, vintage drumming, smooth solos, and double fists of attitude.
“Now That We’re Dead” brings the tempo down a bit with a chugging riff and some cool, almost tribal drum patterns from Lars Ulrich for the first minute before it settles into its groove. Wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, but it definitely grew on me, especially that hook. “Moth Into Flame,” the second single unleashed, was also love at first listen, and has become one of my absolute favorites. I can’t wait to hear it live. Plus, Hetfield’s fiery delivery around the three minute mark makes it deliciously evil. Kirk Hammett’s solo is like a thick, juicy steak, and bassist Robert Trujillo is everywhere at once, holding down the groove alongside Ulrich.
Now we come to one I liked, but didn’t love in “Dream No More.” The guitar sound is cool, but there’s something jarring about the verses and the hook. Does it suck? No, but it’s certainly not one of my favorites. However, I DO love “Halo On Fire”, Disc one closer and the album’s longest track. This song truly feels like we’re on a journey, and even though it clocks in at 8:15 it never once gets dull or stagnant. It actually gets better as it progresses. The second disc opens with “Confusion” and it’s good, not great, something that can be said about Disc two in and of itself. The waters get a little muddy here because of how much stronger the material is compared to the weaker stuff.
“ManuNkind” has some twists and turns, moving more into bluesy rock territory, which can be good or bad, depending on your tastes, I guess. Again, I wasn’t overwhelmed. “Here Comes Revenge” though, is one I can definitely get behind. A deliberate, almost stalker-esque mid-tempo pacing coupled with Hetfield’s howl of “REVEEEEENGE!” make for a great combination. I found “Am I Savage?” to be anything but, and just okay, perhaps a bit plodding. “Murder One” ups the ante nicely though, especially with Hammett’s solo (Side note: Can’t believe either of these made the final cut over “Lords of Summer,” whose omission is downright criminal).
But the final piece to this puzzle comes in the form of “Spit Out the Bone.” Since last night you’ve probably heard anyone and everyone hailing this as a tr00/trve return to METALLICA form. Guess what? They’re right, every single one of them. This song is aces all the way in its ferocity, speed, anger, grit, and grime. I dare you not to hit REPEAT six or seven times. You won’t be able to do it, trust me. What a perfect way to close out this big beast of a record! At the end of the day Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is an album full of mostly high points, with only a couple of near misses. All told it’s a very good record that should fuel many a discussion and/or screaming match until the next one comes out, which hopefully won’t take eight years…right guys?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Spit Out the Bone”, “Moth Into Flame”, “Hardwired”, “Atlas Rise!”, “Halo On Fire”, “Here Comes Revenge”