Metallica

Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Blackened Records

Review by Mabh Savage

Was there ever an album title that felt so apt currently? For a year when so much seems to have gone so wrong, even their logo has been adapted to a ‘glitch’ version, which seems to be breaking up, like there’s a poor reception signal on an old TV set.

Musically, the album is much less 2016 than 1983. There’s a real sense of the band returning to their roots. Death Magnetic (2008) started in a dark, haunting style, before kicking it with some crunching riffs. There’s no such ‘easing in’ on Hardwired. The very first notes grab you by your roots and start forcing your head up and down rapidly. There is physically no way to not head-bang to this music.

The title track is also the first track on the album, and while the staccato beat forces you to twitch uncontrollably, the lyrics tell you just how shit everything really is.

We’re so fucked
Shit out of luck”

No really, don’t beat about the bush, tell us how it really is guys! This kind of Punk Metal approach to lyric writing is most refreshing at the moment. It sums up the desperation felt across a nation, even across the globe, and instead of trying to be poetic about it, goes straight to the heart of things; we’re fucked guys.

Does the album cheer up from this point?  Nope!  The shortest track apart from the just-over-three-minute opener is 5.45, and these are long tracks of crushing misery, angst and pain.  And I love it! Atlas Rise! is a monster of a tune, a real anthem with a chorus and post chorus guitar riff reminiscent of early Maiden, circa Killers. Now that We’re Dead has such an unusual ‘tappy tappy’ drum sound accompanying classic, crunchy guitars and a sound so wide it needs a stadium all to itself.

Moth Into Flame is a classic Metallica shout-a-long track.  Chromatic guitar riffs, 2/4 drums that have been produced to sound as if they are coming from everywhere all at once, and a brief melody in the refrain that gives way to more anger and bile.

Dream No More sounds just for a moment like Rage Against The Machine, then morphs into something slower than the previous offerings; a reprieve, if you will. Halo on Fire continues this slower pace, but with some more mainstream sounding drums and melodies that are actually quite fantastic. The last couple of minutes of this song are like the end of a great movie, gripping and epic.  Great song.

The album is split into two CDs, if actually owning music is your thing.  Doesn’t everyone use Spotify these days? I always feel weird streaming music from a band that once spent a couple of years trying to get Napster shut down…

CD two takes us straight back to chug-town, with a guitar riff that speaks of Black Sabbath to start with, then simply early-day Metallica by the time we hit the second minute of the song. ManUNkind is one of the worst song titles I have ever heard, but what a tune!  The gentle start lulls you into a false sense of security before your ear drums are assaulted by some extremely densely produced drums and guitar.  Classic Hetfield single word pronouncements pepper this fun and bouncy track.

James Hetfield sounds really angry on this album. Vocally there is a tone of bitterness and self-loathing, that melds with the incredibly produced tapestry of Metal and Thrash to create one of the most upbeat yet downhearted albums I have heard this year.  Fuck your false optimism and positivity.  This is how it is.

Here Comes Revenge is a song title that kind of sums up the feel of the whole album for me. This album says ‘We’re pissed, and we’re not going to take it lying down.’

Hardwired has shot straight into the US charts at number One, which is not unusual as the last five studio albums before also did the same. What’s interesting is that although 282000 actual albums were sold in the first week after release, the songs were streamed 9.3 million times. That’s an awful lot of people listening to one album in one week. The album has also hit the top spot in another 22 countries.

Back to the tunes, Am I Savage seems a bit thinner than some of the other offerings.  The sound isn’t as fat, and Hetfield isn’t as, well, angry.  Murder One will be emotional for some, as it’s an ode to Lemmy Kilmister. Hetfield said that “Motörhead had a lot to do with Metallica sitting here right now”, so this song is a fitting tribute to a hugely influential man.

The final track, Spit out the Bone is an unrelenting war-horse of a track, crushing from the start, then moving into some crazy stop/starts. All the vim and venom is back, and we end the album with over seven minutes of vicious Metal aggression.  

This album is unusual in that guitarist Kirk Hammett is not listed as a credited songwriter. There’s nothing nefarious about this; apparently the poor guy lost his iPhone, on which he had recorded hundreds of riffs, which may have eventually made it onto this album. Gutted. Isn’t it strange to think that, without that odd little incident, this album may have been an entirely different beast.

This is a great album, one of their best in recent years. Its main flaw is that it sets the bar so high from the start, leaving some of the later tracks struggling to reach those heights. What I think is really special about this album though, is that it should appeal to all Metallica fans, even those that haven’t looked sideways at their albums since they heard Enter Sandman. Go on, give it go. I dare you.

Verdict: 8/10

Leave a Reply