Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct
Written by: MIN on 21/11/2016 15:41:27
It is hard to deny the importance and power of Metallica’s past. “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” are classic masterpieces in their own right, their self-titled LP is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and “Kill ‘Em All” and “… And Justice for All” rank high among the most influential metal releases since the genre’s conception. But after these acclaimed opuses, it felt like the band became but a shadow of itself; although having some excellent cuts, “Load” failed to meet the high expectations of 1991’s Black Album. Three years later, 1997’s “Reload” gravely disappointed, and was then followed by one of the most notorious albums of all time, “St. Anger”, in 2003. However, according to many people, Metallica found some redemption at last, in 2008’s colossal ”Death Magnetic”. Although wide dispute as to whether the album would hold its own in time has been ever-existing since its release, the album was in fact praised by most critics and fans alike.
Personally, I’ve never found ”Death Magnetic” to my liking. The songs tended to drag on forever without purpose, the music and lyrics felt uninspired, and worst of all the production and compression of the album was horrible. And the metallers’ collaboration with Lou Reed on ”Lulu” didn’t make my impression of the band’s current state any better. With this latest record, “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct”, however, the band seems to have kicked back into gear, and quite the behemoth though it may be with its 77-minute duration, it’s impossible to deny the strength that many of its track possess.
The first disc of “Hardwired…” offers some really interesting cuts, where the band kicks off with the thrashy title track, followed by one of the album’s best takes: “Atlas, Rise!”. It drives at a steady tempo which constantly creates momentum for James Hetfield to properly depict the burden of Atlas — an ancient Titan of Greece who was condemned to carry the sky on his shoulders. Although primarily featuring a crunchy riff throughout, the song is most interesting when the guitar melodies race to the beat of the drum like two lightning bolts hurdling towards their target. “Atlas, Rise!” quickly shows that when Metallica is at their best, they still outshine most other bands.
Metallica’s strongest asset on “Hardwired…” is without a doubt Hetfield’s ability to create some excellent melodies, as reflected by another choice cut in “Halo on Fire”, with which the band creates a riveting epic that climaxes during its last few minutes: the anthemic guitar cries to the sound of Hetfield yelling ”Hello darkness, say goodbye!”, thus creating that sensational feeling where you can almost envision the band standing at the edge of their snake pit on a dark night, playing to thousands of people.
The album draws on several of the band’s past outings, all the way from the bluesier parts of “Load” (“ManUNkind”), the heaviness of their self-titled album’s “Sad But True” (“Dream No More”) and the lengthy, progressive parts of “… And Justice for All” (“Halo on Fire”). But the album’s ultimate highlight has to be the thrashy, raging “Spit Out the Bone” which highly resembles the band’s earliest material. Everything just works: Hetfield’s vocals are harder than usual, Lars Ulrich’s drumming is fast and precise, the guitar riffs are fast and relentless. Robert Trujillo gets to play a nice little bass solo, and Hetfield & Kirk Hammett get to play one of those delightful, two-pronged guitar melodies before the song turns into an anthem in its middle-section — not unlike the one previously showcased at the conclusion of “Halo on Fire”. “Spit Out the Bone” is quite possibly the best song the band has written in 25 years.
But as much as I love to write about the best moments of Metallica’s new album, there’s too much that doesn’t work well on “Hardwired…”. Too many songs are dispensable, second grade b-sides that should never have been released. The album’s two tributes, “Am I Savage?” (a little nod to Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?”) and “Murder One” (a song about Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister), are both painfully boring. They feature basic grooves and riffs without any punch, and seem to go on forever without purpose, and could easily have been erased from the record making it better. The previously mentioned “ManUNkind” occasionally features a decent melody but is way too monotonous throughout, and “Here Comes Revenge” is, despite an initially good, heavy riff, way too long for its own good. Had it been two minutes shorter, it would probably be a decent song, but Metallica’s tendency of stretching songs beyond all reason ruins it.
Something else that’s highly noticeable is Kirk Hammett’s lack of song-writing. I’m not saying Hetfield and Ulrich haven’t done a decent job in taking on this duty, but most of the time when Hammett provides a solo, it’s hard to distinguish it from the one he played a few minutes ago due to his extreme use of the wah-wah pedal — it feels like he hasn’t properly poured his heart into the songs, and instead opted to just wing it. Furthermore, Robert Trujillo’s bass is too often hard to find in the album’s mix, and Lars Ulrich is incredibly unimaginative with his drumming. Don’t get me wrong — they both shine on a few occasions. But way too often, it feels like they’re on standby. No, this album’s real hero is without a doubt James Hetfield, who’s done a stellar job throughout.
“Hardwired…” contains some of the best material that the band has made in 25 years, and I almost feel sorry for not being able to rate the album higher than I do. But honestly, too much filler and poor material drags down what could’ve been an excellent album, had its duration been limited to just 40 minutes. The record would’ve benefitted greatly from having cut the fat instead of making too many lengthy tracks, and seeing as the outcome is ultimately the band’s own choice, it’s impossible for me to go with a compromise.
Download: Atlas, Rise!; Moth Into Flame; Halo on Fire; Spit Out the Bone
For the fans of: Megadeth, Anthrax, Exodus
Release date 18.11.2016