Wednesday 23 November 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Metallica - "Hardwired...To Self Destruct"

By: Bobo Coen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/11/2016
Label: Blackened Recordings

Metallica have rediscovered their mojo, brought the heavy and most importantly appear to be enjoying themselves. An album, of two halves, with a cracking opening salvo on side “A” and “B” side, marred only by one throwaway track.  If not perfect, it is the best music they have produced in over two decades and is the natural successor to the Black Album.

“Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Hardwired
2). Atlas, Rise!
3). Now That We’re Dead
4). Moth into Flame
5). Dream No More
6). Halo of Fire
7). Confusion
8). ManUnkind
9). Here Comes Revenge
10). Am I Savage?
11). Murder One
12). Spit Out the Bone

The Review:

After eight long years, where it seemed Metallica would rather do anything other than make a new album “Hardwired to Self-Destruct” finally is spawned. Like it or not Metallica releasing new music is a major deal. Unfortunately, being the biggest metal band ever, they are a victim of their own success. 

The Metal Hipsters have the knifes sharpened and no matter how good this album is they will cut it to bits. The usual insults “they were only good with Cliff” “They are sell outs” and on and on. Zzzzzz.

There is no doubt they have tested the patience of the hardcore fans over the last two decades, with poor to dreadful albums, and it seemed the wimpy, gutless performance they turned in at Glastonbury was the death knell of a once mighty band. As for “Lulu,  let’s not go there ok?  So what is this new album giving us? Another road crash? Or a return to form? More of the latter I’m happy to report.

It kicks off in fine style with “Hardwired” this is metal to its core. The lyric might be lazy by Hetfield’s standards but as an opening statement of intent it says “WERE BACK” A short sharp shock at 3 minutes. Lars Ulrich sounds like he practiced and improved his drumming with some tasty double bass and fills.

In case doubters thought track one was a fluke Metallica keep up the assault on your ears and land another body blow with “Atlas, Rise!” one word describes this song’s intro “RIFF!” the song is everything that is good about Metallica. Great lyrics, Great chorus and it is probably  thestrongest song they have written since “Puppets”. It may not be in that class (but what is?) but  it has me bouncing of walls with joy. Kirk Hammett may lament his lack of writing credits on the album but he makes up for it with his most inventive and aggressive solos since that classic period. He is literally ripping a space for himself in this song. In the past, some of Metallica’s longer songs have been an endurance but the six plus minute’s fly by in a blink of the eye.

A change of pace on “Now That We’re Dead” but it still moves with an underpinning riff that shows a mean intent, it’s still a heavy song. This is closer to the flavour of the Black album. It doesn’t waste time and opens in to a huge chorus that will sound even bigger with the Metallica family singing it at whichever mega festival they headline. Lyrically inspired by their love of the misfits. Again, Hammett gives it his all, in fact all the musicians are playing out of their skins. Some may long for Hetfield’s more aggressive singing style but he delivers a powerhouse performance and some complementary backing vocals from Robert Trujillo.

 Metallica sure know how to write an intro and “Moth into Flame” is no exception. They bring the heavy back and this is a stomper of a song. This will bounce around the inside of your skull and it’s a neat trick to write a heavy song with a chorus as catchy as the plague, which Metallica are absolute masters at. Another long song that flies by it could easily become a favourite in their cannon. The highlight of the album so far.  Dream no More” continues the high quality. If “The Thing That Should Not be” and “The Call of Ktulu” had a child this song would be it. It is a long-awaited sequel and is great to see Hetfield writing eerie lyrics that give a nod to his roots rather than the introspective stance he has been working from over last couple of albums. Hammett proves he is surely one of the most underrated guitarists in metal with a melodic solo that also has teeth to strip the flesh. It has a menace that Metallica haven’t displayed in many a year

The longest song on the Album “Halo on Fire” is the ballad moment aka this album’s “Fade to Black” and the first time they have stepped off the gas and distortion pedals. It is Hetfield at his most melodic vocally but when it kicks up for the chorus it really kicks up and another melodic solo. It is at first listen a by the numbers soft/hard Metallica ballad but there is a lot going on here that reveals itself on second listen. It is the first song where it feels as if the music is coming from their brains rather than on just instinct, when it moves to the solo and a quiet phase, long time listeners of Metallica know what is coming and we get in spades. Lars Ulrich’s drumming is clean and unfussy here and it benefits the song rather than hampers it. A showcase solo brings eight minutes to a close with a bang.

If we look at this album as a side “A” and Side “B”, After a near flawless side “A” side “B” is where it starts to run out of momentum. Not to a huge amount and not to the detriment of album but following six songs of such quality would be hard for any band. So “Confusion” continues in the heavy vibe of the album with a killer “Puppets” style riff then steps of the gas. If the album has residual echoes of their past, then this is “Disposable Heroes” via veterans looking back at a hard fought campaign rather than a grunt down in the hell of the trenches. It has everything you want from Metallica but it is more of a grower than the immediate gut punch of the first six songs

ManUnkind” is where it all goes a bit wrong. This is a filler. It is a phoned in performance. It isn’t a terrible song but it has none of the power or fire of what preceded it. It could easily slip into “Death Magnetic” which isn’t exactly an insult but is no means a compliment either. It has all the right elements. Riff? Yep. Big Chorus? Yep. Ripping Solo? Yep. Somehow it does not work so let’s move on. Nothing to see here

Here Comes Revenge” puts the train back on track. Great intro and nice groove lead into classic that  Metallica sound. It moves at a fair pace. It speeds up, it slows down and is a fun ride of a song that has a razor blade sharpness to it and a spiteful joy in its lyrics. It’s another grower that reveals its charms as it is replayed. I am repeating myself but Hammett stomps his identity all over this with his solo.  Am I Savage” starts quietly before a staggered riff marches into view. It packs a punch but is more mid paced than rest of album. It has the most experimental feel to its vocal approach. It brims with understated violence and the chorus could be a tribute to Diamond Head but also has vibe of their garage days in its rawness. It is great and just feels like a future classic. A good mix of heavy and melody.  right on the money.

Murder One” is a tribute to the great Lemmy. Named after his monstrous bass head. Now tribute songs can be awkward and mawkish but if any band needs to pay homage to Lemmy it is Metallica. As They have stated on many occasions “No Motorhead, No Metallica”.  Musically it would have been the easy option to write a Motorhead sound alike but Metallica never take the easy option and instead give us a stomping lead weight boot to the face. Lyrically it is a highly fitting tribute with its motifs of “Born to Lose” “Aces Wild” and the Chorus is fantastic “Hear Your Thunder/Still feeding Back/Still hear your Thunder/The Man in Black” sums up the spirit of Lemmy in four lines and I’m sure he would be equally embarrassed and proud. As a tribute a triumph. As a standalone Metallica song? Also, a triumph

Finally then, “Spit out the Bone” is the Metallica none knew existed anymore. The thrash is turned up to whiplash speed but played by masters of their trade. The lyrics are spat out with a venom that is staggering. It is what long term fans have been waiting for. The real revelation is Lars and Robert.  The bass tone is filthy and the drums!!! Lars double bass playing just destroys. It still has a ton of melody in its guitars but built on a foundation of heaviness that does not let up when the pace drops momentarily before exploding off again like a greyhound out of the traps after a rabbit. A total and utter metal classic and an amazing finale.

Metallica have gone from drinking at the last chance saloon to buying drinks on the House. Nobody expected anything from the new album but somewhere along the line Metallica have rediscovered their mojo, brought the heavy and most importantly appear to be enjoying themselves. An album, of two halves, with a cracking opening salvo on side “A” and “B” side, that is marred only by one throwaway track.  If not perfect, it is the best music they have produced in over two decades and is the natural successor to the Black Album. It moves them forward by acknowledging their past and is more than anyone could have wished for. To those that wrote them off, reach for the spoon and eat a big old slice of humble pie.

Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” is available everywhere

Band info: official