Hardwired... To Self-Destruct
Review by JD on March 13, 2017.
Ladies and Gentlemen… I introduce… Metallica! They are back, they are inspired and they are gonna kick your ass and give us all a lesson in how to create metal. We have a new Metallica record in eight damn years… so let’s see what the boys offer us, and if it can live up to the Metallica we all know and love.
I am going to forgo the long and over told history of this storied band, and concentrate on the task at hand. I loved their last album offering (Death Magnetic), but on some of it I had some rather dicey issues with the album as well…. Does this set the whole Metallica ship right, or does it disappoint like other albums have? After hearing the first three video singles ('Hardwired', 'Moth into Flame' and 'Atlas, Rise!') I was impressed and hungry to see if Metallica has finally emerged to prominence… and as I now dig into the 2 CD album, I am shocked.
The whole thing is a nod to their journey. They show the power of their thrash roots once again with fire and passion, the striped down excitement of the Black era looms nicely and even end up modernizing the progressive heaviness of other points. Each era is touched on and respected, but never duplicated as it goes for originality while holding that certain feel. Songs like the artistic 'Halo on Fire' and the thrash masterpiece 'Spit out the Bone' show that the band has delved into themselves and brought out the real Metallica once more… but still making it clear that they are the sum of all of their parts.
I there were a few good but clearly filler tracks that could have been left off ('Confusion' and 'Am I Savage'), the album as a whole makes it clear – they are back, relevant and purely unapologetic at the wandering path that has led them to be the biggest metal band ever. They do thing in their way, skirting trends and wanting to make music that is truly theirs. They have, and despite some of their choices, made music history.
Rating: 9.9 out of 10632
Review by Chris Pratl on December 12, 2016.
I'm newly 45-years old and I'm sitting here in 2016, some 32-years after hearing Metallica's music for the first time way back in the summer of 1984. I'm in unfamiliar territory, I must admit. I thought the current political election was rife with vitriol and strife – I seriously didn't anticipate such rancor like I received by merely saying how much I thoroughly enjoyed the latest Metallica offering Hardwired...to Self Destruct. While I reiterate, as I always have, that some people need to get a life outside the comfort of their musical corners, I find myself in a position to praise the very band that put metal on the virtual map in 1986, only to sell it out around the globe in a matter of one album. What fools these mortals be....
What we have here is two CD's worth of Metallica music that took an insane eight-years to be released. As with Chinese Democracy by Guns 'n Roses, a decade-long wait itself, no album should take so long, especially with all members still alive and able to wipe their own backsides – it's ridiculous and insulting. That said, in this humble old man's opinion, the album is, indeed, worth your inspection and subsequent praise. The running rally cry is that it's the best thing they've offered a beleaguered, resigned public since 1988, and that is very much the case.
The infinitely sad thing concerning Metallica is the emotional roller coaster one rides when engaging this band, especially if you're one of the old guard that has “been there since the start,” which really holds no real significance other than a testament as to how old and cantankerous you've undoubtedly become. If you say you actually enjoy the latest opus, you lose these invisible metal points with this clandestine empire that runs the underground elite of metal fandom (if that's the case I should be one of the guys running it with time served alone, but I digress). If you hate it, which is your right, you are either stuck in the distant past or someone who just feels it's not a good piece of art, and I suppose both are acceptable in their own right. I've never seen a mass contingent so divided like this since this last farcical presidential election. It borders on pathetic.
It's music: don't take it so seriously. Leave that to me. So, to the task at hand, which is disc one...
Hardwired...to Self-Destruct is a very credible, tangible return to respectability for Metallica. When I first heard the title track upon its release I was taken aback by the furious nature of the music coupled with the vocal line that delivered a well-placed sock to the nose that causes the eyes to tear up and the salty taste to envelop your throat after being sucker punched by a somewhat weaker, unassuming foe. You're really not sure what to feel in the mixture of surprise and pain. It grew on me after I initially dismissed the lyrics as somewhat pedestrian, especially the “we're so fucked...shit outta luck” lines, but that, too, won me over with its easy progression into a tempestuous rhythm that set the overall tone for the rest of the disc.
Sliding with relative ease into 'Atlas, Rise!' the tempo keeps going along at a good clip, keeping my head nodding and blood pumping. It's refreshing and befuddling to hear Metallica in this context after many lost years of radio rock commercialism. James Hetfield has that familiar rasp back to his voice that is criminally missing on post-Black Album releases after asshole Bob Rock convinced Hetfield he could croon with the best of them. Even into his 50's, James can still pull off a credible effort if he wants to, and he did it here to a fine, unoffensive degree.
The rhythm slows a bit with 'Now That We're Dead,' but the fact that Metallica has ridden the train of mass appeal and needs to tend to that flock as well as appease the lost wanderers of the last few decades is both understandable and necessary. It's a slight break in the flow, but it's a solid track with a catchy chorus sandwiched between a basic, yet formidable verse pattern. It works well in the track order.
'Moth Into Flame' actually moves along like an old school NWOBHM track with an overall flash of testicular impulse and enough speed to be a live favorite between 'Nothing Else Matters' and whatever slower, AM-rock / Bread-inspired cash grab they thought viable back in those days of yore. It will no doubt break up the fiscal monotony in the concert arena. I also like the vocal pattern very much; it just sort of coasts along on a belly ride with a simple, but familiar guitar riff underneath. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album for me, I like it that much.
Where the AOR era of Metallica leaves me wanting and lamenting, there are brief reminders of it along the way, and 'Dream No More' is about as close to that line as the band can get without crossing over to radio-land. I will say, that there isn't really one song I hear that could be played across radio stations with any sort of regularity, which I suppose is a positive for the banner-wavers among us. This song, while decent, just disrupts the flow a bit, but, again, nothing offensive or irritating. I never hit the skip button on the CD player when it comes on (yep, still using those old, antiquated artifacts), but I admit to not being as fully engrossed. I'm not overly crazy about the vocal tone or pattern in the track myself, but, again, it's not anything as dull as, say, 'The Memory Remains' or 'Unforgiven II.'
The last track on the first disc, 'Halo on Fire' doesn't do a lot to recapture the intensity of the first four songs, and here we're treated to James' singing in place of raspy yelling. I understand well that there will be a mixture of both styles as dictated by fanbase divisiveness and age, and, again, while not offensive the verses are somewhat boring and the music just sort of going through the motions. The chorus has a bit of balls, however brief and even obligatory, but it keeps the song from being a total throwaway. It has a slight resonance to it, but this is one of the tracks that I could never really hear in the CD line again and not miss it all that much. It just seems out of place and rather phoned-in.
The second disc starts out with 'Confusion,' which I must admit has an all-too-familiar 'Am I Evil?' feel to it that quickly augments that pace every slightly, but it's too late – the Diamond Head fans see what you did here, and those of us that are elitist bastards know that this sort of "homage" has been a sporadic constant throughout the entire Metallica catalog, so it's just more blatant these days. That said, you can choose to call this a tribute or a blatant lift; either way, the track is pretty good. I really enjoy the vocal melody here, as it harkens back to the ...and Justice for All period just enough to be impressive in its simplicity. It's the very fine line between 1988 and 1991 that has been the bane of some and the delight of many. Be that as it may, it's overall style is a decent fit for what this album is in its basest form.
Now 'ManUNkind' is one the tracks I can do without. Mind you, I don't hate it, but it's the weakest track on the set for me. Something about the music just comes off as lazy, almost cutting-room-floor in its sound in accordance with the rest of the songs. Admittedly, I'm not all jazzed up about James' vocals or the melody at all, and the music just seems to fall flat, not to mention that terrible guitar solo. The best part is the mid-section bridge that saves the song from being a total wash for me, but, sadly, it's over as quickly as it comes in. It's fine; every album is bound to have its clunkers mixed into the fray.
'Here Comes Revenge' is the song that made me roll my eyes upon hearing the opening chords. It is, without question or reservation, a blatant, unapologetic lift of 'Leper Messiah' that, again, will either sicken you for the lack of intuitive reasoning or sedate you with its nostalgic overview. Getting past that memory lane jaunt, this is a track that was designed for that post Black Album milieu that sounds like a cast-off from Load. I'll amend my earlier sentiment that there isn't a conclusive track on here viable enough for commercial radio – if there is one that could employ radio support, it might well be this one. Now, the saving grace aside from the pedestrian lyrics and ho-hum instrumentation is that it can fit nicely onto this album because it casts just enough of a shadow to fellate the latecomers and interest the historians. This track I could take or leave at will, but it's unoffensive as a whole.
Much like its predecessor, 'Am I Savage?' reads like a Load or Reload entry that slightly disrupts the tempo. I don't like this song at all. This will set the screaming at high volume, I'm sure, but this song's bridge sounds like a Megadeth ripoff with the distorted, underwater-sounding vocal. Hear that and tell me you don't hear Dave Mustaine in that, I dare you! Hubris to the wind, it's a boring, overblown song that should have been relegated to a U.K. CD single b-side that would astound rabid collectors and bother no one who values musical purity over collective hoarding. I just find nothing redeeming in this song.
Keeping in line with the nostalgic slant, 'Murder One,' the Lemmy tribute track, gets a total pass for ripping off the tone and note structure to 'The Thing That Should Not Be' due in no small part that it's a testament to the legacy and status of the fallen Motorhead frontman who passed on nearly a year ago. As tributes go, it's fitting for Lemmy and I'm quite sure he'd have been honored and slightly humbled. Metallica works in the titles of classic Motorhead songs within the the lyrics. It has all of the earmarks of a lowly garage band's immature homage to one of the metal kings, and that's perfectly acceptable. Motorhead was never anything flashy, nothing overly complicated or even all that prolific outside the sedentary walls of their adopted sound, and that's what we love about them. Anything overly complex might have otherwise tainted the charm and reverence that is and will always be Motorhead. It's a fun, albeit somber track, but a fitting salute to the metal man in black. Total KVLT points with little effort and maximum respect.
What the hell was Metallica thinking closing out an album with the best track? It's almost a conclusive necessity that 'Spit Out the Bone' would be so properly placed here at the end. It's as if the band knew the tracks leading up to the formal conclusion might not be the strongest material, so rather than completely dismiss the second disc as leftover chop suey they toss this bad boy in and leave you happy and momentarily forgetting the decided mediocrity of disc two. An angry, volatile track with a tempestuous bass line that shows off, ever subtly, Trujillo's mastery of the "four-string motherfucker." Now, experienced ears will also hear fragmented chords and riffs of past endeavors, but you can dismiss those as causal lapses in originality and a very deep-seated love for all things 'Blackened.' Whatever you decide, it seems to be a widely accepted viewpoint that this is the most "metal" song Metallica has spit out in some years. Those people would be right on the money, even if it does reek of ancient sounds from yesteryear.
So, provided you're still awake (Metallica fans from the day will recognize that borrowed attempt at humor), my general assessment is this: Hardwired...to Self-Destruct is a fine album for what it is by a band that is a shadow of its former self. That is not as much a knock as it is a sullen, incontrovertible truth. Those flag-wavers and pedantic souls among us will take this opportunity to piss on whatever is left of "their" Metallica, and that's what it is. The cause I undertake is the gross dereliction of duty we fans seem to be accused of when espousing the virtues and strengths of Metallica in 2016.
Look, the band we oldsters grew up with is long gone. That band is dead. Now you may say that they died on April 9th, when Mustaine was summarily fired looking up from the floor in that cold New York loft back in 1983. You may be even more staunch in your belief the band ceased to be on an even colder road in Sweden on September 27, 1986 when bassist Cliff Burton died under a bus at the age of 24. Some might even venture a stab that the band died in August of 1991 when the Bob Rock-lead sellout album dropped. You may all be correct in your assumptions; after all, it's the perspective of the individual, right? The necrophiliacs among us may still want to stimulate themselves with the corpses of past lovers, and that's your right, but Metallica has issued an album that, in this writer's opinion, is a viable, interesting, and capable album. The fact that I've been deleted from 13 Facebook accounts so far (I've wept over those, I assure you) because of praise of the album has shown me exactly what metal fans are willing to go to the proverbial mat for and what others are quick to dismiss and ridicule under the guise of some false sense of dedication to an unseen magistrate. If you allow yourself the time, patience and open-mind to really ingest this record as a musical undertaking and not as a once-mighty band gone soft, you might find yourself enjoying the hell out of what amounts to a fine overall collective of tracks that call out from the past and ask that you give it a chance.
Seriously...what is there to lose? There's no going back, so try and enjoy some of the present and what it offers as casual entertainment without worrying about what Joe Metal Boy on the 'net thinks. He probably hasn't bought an actual release with money since Napster was the "in" thing.
Impress no one but yourself. You'll live longer and happier.
Rating: 7 out of 10