Metallica - Hardwired...To Self Destruct 3/5
I woke up with some wicked ass heartburn and couldn't sleep so I headed over to Metallica.com and downloaded my digital copy of the new Metallica record. There was a lot of temptation to listen to this before release day but I avoided the videos that were released every two hours and the leaked version that came out on Sunday. Let's check it out. Right off you get punched in the dick by the title track which could easily fit on one of the band's first three albums. James is in fine vocal form and Lars who seems to have lost his skills as a drummer seems to be able to flail away with reckless abandon. This was exactly why I pre-ordered the record. That in your face thrash makes you want to wreck your neck and form a mosh pit with your cats. Atlas, Rise starts off with a riff that sounds a little familiar. Yeah, some of this song is lifted from the Four Horseman and you know what? It fuckin' smokes. I have to admit that James' voice has really struggled over the last two records but he's finally returned to form and unlike Death Magnetic this has a way better mix. You can hear everything clearly and Atlas, Rise is a reminder of just how great Metallica once was. This is another song that takes elements of the classic Metallica and uses them to give the song the punch that's been lacking since ….And Justice For All.
We've waited eight years for Hardwired and the thing that drew me to this record was the thrash elements that ran rampant through the first three singles, but alas it's quickly snatched from us in the oddly placed Now That We're Dead which is kind of a letdown after such amazing songs like the title track and Atlas. It's kind of a bastard child of the Black Album, and Load/Reload. If you're a fan of those records you'll dig this, but for me it just kind of falls flat after such a strong opening. Those albums were always a sore spot for me and hearing a return to that era isn't a happy memory for me. The problem is that it's kind of catchy so you can't really hate it, but I want more of the thrash featured on the opening tracks. It's not a bad song, but not what I was hoping for when I envisioned the new album. Moth Into The Flame is a scorcher that again serves as a reminder of how great Metallica was. It's technical and again makes you want to mosh with your cats. Hammet's guitar work here is amazing and Lars is once again flailing away as best as he can. You can almost see him making those weird faces and yelling; "Fuck!" After the final take. Moth is everything you want in a Metallica song and yeah, it made me smile a little.
Moth may have knocked your face off but Metallica glues it back on with a burner called Dream No More which is a damn fine song. Imagine for a second that The Thing That Should Not Be had a baby. That would be this song. It's not as good mind you but it feels like a Puppets outtake. James snarls through this one and you can't help but bob your head in time to the lumbering rhythm. After the semi clunker Dream No More this is a far better track and while not as heavy as I had hoped it's just heavy enough to remind you that once upon a time Metallica was one of the best thrash metal bands in existence. Last song of the first disc or if you're like me the end of side two we have Halo On Fire which is an odd sounding song that's a kind of ballad that takes elements from every single era of the band and makes a little Metallisandwhich. After such a strong track list Halo is one of those songs that we're going to hear a lot of. It's got that catchy heavy vibe and you can't hate it even if you wanted to. It's the slow/heavy style that Metallica perfected on songs like Welcome Home, and even Fade To Black. This song could easily fit on Ride The Lightning. Maybe not, but still it's a balance between those eras with the polish of The Black Album.
Now we're into the 2nd disc and a bit of a weird beginning with Confusion which once again sounds like an outtake from the Load/Reload sessions. It's a little heavier but it's just an okay song. A simple chorus that won't really win anyone over due to how bland it is. It's probably going to be a song that will be all over the radio soon due to it's simplicity. Kind of reminds me of Sad But True. I hated that song, and I hated that entire album. I wish this song was shorter. It just keeps limping along, and will not stop. Why am I feeling all weepy all of a sudden? That intro to ManUnkind sounds like a nod to Cliff and I wonder what he would have said about this album? This is a bit of a Sabbath inspired number that again seems lifted from those pesky Load/Reload sessions. What the hell happened? I thought this was a step into a heavier direction? This is just another mediocre track that reminds you just how shitty Metallica has become. It does have a thrashy kind of middle section, but compared to the first disc this is just falling apart real quick. This isn't the return I had hoped for. I feel tricked by a band that I once admired. ManUnkind again suffers from its length. If it was shorter it would be a little better. So far we have two clunkers on a double disc set.
Hey, this sounds familiar! Revenge gets the band back on track and once again takes elements of every single era of Metallica and makes a tasty little Metallicasandwich. It's a song that just smokes in it's simplicity and lumbering rhythm section. If you're looking for an album that it would fit on it would have to be the Black Album. This could even serve as a lead off track in place of Enter Sandman. I should hate this song but so far this would be one of my favorites for some reason. I like the lyrics. What the hell happened to this album? Am I Savage is another weak track that gives me flash backs of The Black album. Another one that just won't end and seems to wear out its welcome real quick. This second disc is filled with some serious filler. Maybe a single disc would have worked better. This is spiraling out of control and everything that worked on the first disc isn't working here anymore. You can skip Am I Savage. Pure filler.
Skip Murder One too. It's a tribute to Lemmy but again seems bloated and just won't end. Not a bad song but after such a strong showing on the first disc we have a serious case of why are all these songs so long? They really should be shorter. Dyers Eve is the final track, wait, fuck me, I'm sorry this would be Spit Out The Bone and yeah, this is the perfect end to a bloated record. This is how the entire album should have sounded. Wow, where's my cats? I need to mosh it up. This is Rob's favorite song on the record and I can see why. Jesus, this is awesome!! After such an uneven track listing the record is over. Jesus, that second disc really seems a bit unnecessary.
Overall, Hardwired isn't a bad album. It's just too long. It suffers from bloat and there's quite a bit of filler mainly on the second disc. This is where the cracks begin to show and you realize that maybe if they had kept their ego in check this could have been a classic Metallica album. Far better than Death Magnetic and while I hated the Black, Load/Reload albums that style actually balanced out the pummeling in your face thrash that got me to buy this album in the first place. If you're looking for a return to the classic era of Metallica you're going to be sad and a little pissed off. Death was heavier, but Hardwired is ambitious as hell and takes elements from each era of the band to try and create an album that appeals to all Metallica fans. That's part of the problem. If you stopped listening to Metallica after Justice this is going to be a huge bummer, but if you stuck around through all of the records you're going to piss your pants in excitement. It's a safe record that tries a bit too hard to be relevant and if you're Metallica that shouldn't be necessary. Hardwired wants to please all of the fans and that's just not possible. The fans that left after The Black Album won't find some of these songs all that great, and those that hated Load/Reload are going to hate even more of these. So what you have are maybe four or five songs that old school fans will love and will no doubt chuck the rest.
While I wanted to hated it, I just couldn't because this is the best that Metallica can do. It's an album that just works in spite of its flaws and lofty goals. The Metallica we have now will never be as good as Metallica circa 1988. I don't think the band is capable of creating a classic album like Puppets, or even Lightning so we just take what we're given and that's Hardwired. It's the best and worst of Metallica's history. James and the band have tried to create an album that reminds us exactly why they're considered the best band in the world and it almost works but if you grew up in the classic era of the band you already knew that. You could ignore the band's output after Justice and be okay with your decision. Hardwired brings those feelings of disappointment back and you almost want to stop listening to the record but in the end you stick around just to be polite. As I process the digital download I can honestly say that for Metallica circa 2016 it's a solid record that reminds us from time to time why we love Metallica so damned much. There's those classic elements that make you want to break shit and then you have that pesky 2nd disc full of fillers so it's by no means a perfect record but it's a little better lyrically and vocally than Death, but not nearly as good as the first four albums. In the scheme of things this is the best that Metallica can do and I guess it's better than nothing.