Metallica
Hardwired... to Self-Destruct


3.5
great

Review

by Trey Spencer STAFF
November 17th, 2016 | 1375 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Metallica stop trying to please everyone else, and release an album that embodies where they're at in their lives.

Kill ‘Em All is a pure album. It wasn’t guided by fame, label executives, money, fans or anything outside of four guys’ desire to create and play music. Every album since then has had some sort of external baggage attached to it. Whether it was the ambition to push the envelope and prove themselves in the 80s, the commercial pressure of the 90s or even the fan pressure of the past 16 years, there were forces outside of Metallica’s simple love of creating that drove them. The cracks in the foundation first appeared with the release of Load. Suddenly the band that claimed to only care about the music seemed to be equally concerned with image and current trends (If not more so). If Metallica’s identity crisis wasn’t apparent at that time, it became blatantly obvious with the release of Some Kind of Monster and St. Anger. St. Anger was the sound of a band struggling with the pressures of fame versus their desire to write what they want while also staying modern and relevant. It was Lars watching Jason Newstead’s Echobrain band and wondering out loud if Echobrain was the future and Metallica was the past.

If Metallica was the past, they tried their best to embrace it with the release of Death Magnetic. That album was relatively well received, but it definitely felt a little forced, and confirmed the identity crisis was very much alive. This is all relevant to Hardwired… To Self-Destruct because everything they’ve done has led to this release. The experience of writing extended songs in their youth, the prolific songwriting prowess that blossomed in the 90s (and the financial security that came with it), and even the struggles of their previous two releases have led to what is probably the purest release since their debut. Throughout Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’s extended runtime is the sound of band that finally seems to be playing whatever they want without any outside pressure. So, what does Metallica want to sound like in 2016? If you’ve heard the first three songs released from the album, you might have the wrong idea.

Before the release of Hardwired, Metallica released the title track, “Moth Into Flame”, and “Atlas, Rise!” – three of the four only high-energy songs on the album. They’re all very good songs that approach Metallica’s heavier side from different angles. “Hardwired” hits with a simplistic, almost Kill ‘Em All energy while “Moth Into Flame” approaches from a more progressive angle, featuring a few different tangents, some dual-guitar harmonies and an extended runtime. Of the three, “Atlas, Rise!” is probably the best early representation of the album as a whole, but it’s still more energetic compared to the other songs. The fourth high-energy song is also the one that seems to have everyone talking, “Spit Out the Bone”. If there is a track that faithfully recalls the band’s glory days, it is that song. Musically, everyone already knew the band probably still had it in them, but what might surprise people is James even brings back some of the harsh vocals that he hasn’t used since the late 80s. The rest of the songs, though, take on a different persona altogether.

The other songs on Hardwired… To Self-Destruct remind me of an even blend of And Justice for All (played at half-speed) and the black album mixed with the modern influences featured on Load/Reload. Compared to the early release songs, these tracks are all pretty damn slow, but they’re also some of the best. The opening track of the second disc, “Confusion”, probably stands as the best of the album. If harsher vocals had been used, it would pretty much fit (near) perfectly with the rest of the … And Justice For All material as it definitely has more than a passing resemblance to “Eye of the Beholder”. Earlier on the album is another top-tier Metallica song (especially by modern standards), “Dream No More”. It kind of has that “Sad But True” groove, mixed with some of that Load swagger, but also just a bit of that Justice crunch – including some of James’ better shouted vocals. To a certain degree, that description can pretty much fit most of the songs on the album, but they all approach the influences from different directions. Despite, all of the positive aspects of this album and the fact that this really is their best release since the black album, all is not perfect.

While Hardwired… To Self-Destruct features one of James Hetfield’s best modern performances, the rest of the band seem to be set on autopilot. The best way to describe Lars’ performance on this album is loose and casual. Other than the four energetic tracks, I can’t even see Lars breaking a sweat while playing these songs. At this point, I think he just wants to drink his wine and knock out a simple beat. His lackadaisical approach doesn’t particularly ruin any of the songs, but they also do very little to enhance any of them. What might be more surprising is that Kirk Hammett also phones in his performance. In interviews, he has spoken at length about how he didn’t contribute to any of the songs and also didn’t bother rehearsing any solos before coming in and winging it. As such, there isn’t a single solo on this release that is memorable or even complimenting to the songs they’re attached to, which is a real shame. There’s also some semi-audible bass on the album, but you can’t really expect much from the guy that not only doesn’t participate in the most of the song writing, but could also straight up be dropped from the mix at any moment.

Throughout Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’s extended runtime, it becomes pretty clear that this is the sound the band is comfortable with. With few exceptions, that sound seems to be one that uses the riffs and song structure blueprint of Justice, the crunch and tempo of the black album, and the hooks and songwriting from Load. To be honest, that mix works pretty well and leads to Metallica’s best release since the early 90s. At the end of the day, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct sounds like a band that has returned to playing just for the love of playing. You can hear it in James Hetfield’s reinvigorated vocals, and the way he even brings back a bit of that visceral fire in places. You can see it in the album’s extended song lengths with nary a single or ballad in sight. You can even hear it in Lars’ performances (for better or worse). There’s no attempt to recapture their classic sound, no blatant radio single, and not even an attempt at performing more than what they’re comfortable with. If you’ve followed Metallica beyond the black album, you’ll find a very good, honest, release in Hardwired… To Self-Destruct.



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user ratings (793)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
rockandmetaljunkie
November 17th 2016


6553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

summary is spot on, that's exactly how i felt for this album

rockandmetaljunkie
November 17th 2016


6553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

nice review trey

RunOfTheMill
November 17th 2016


2848 Comments


Hey willie, this was a great read. I'm not sure it convinces me to really listen to the rest of the album (especially considering your criticisms of Kirk and the production), but it's def the best review I've read for this so far. Spit Out the Bone was pretty rad, though, and I thought the solos on that one were actually pretty decent.

In any case, nice work.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
November 17th 2016


4194 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, this is a decent work coming from a band that's past its prime. Nothing groundbreaking, yet at times enjoyable.

Digging: Depeche Mode - Spirit

SacredSerenity
November 17th 2016


440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Review is spot on.



DungeonBoy
November 17th 2016


2450 Comments


Great review man. I haven't had a chance to listen to the whole thing, but I think I know what to expect from your write up.

Digging: Witherfall - Nocturnes and Requiems

manosg
Staff Reviewer
November 17th 2016


10160 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

summary is spot on, that's exactly how i felt for this album [2]

Digging: Doomocracy - Visions & Creatures of Imagination

smaugman
November 17th 2016


4029 Comments


great review man

trackbytrackreviews
November 17th 2016


3113 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cover art is still atrocious



Like a copy of Foo Fighters' Wasting Light, except edgier and lamer at the same time

Mythodea
November 17th 2016


3900 Comments


actually, one of the most entertaining reads in a while. Haven't heard yet, but I guess I'll do sometime...

Jom
Staff Reviewer
November 17th 2016


2964 Comments


Fantastic read. Good to see at least one member from the band isn't phoning it in completely (Hetfield), but perhaps Lars "for better or worse" Ulrich keeping things status quo is exactly what the band needs if the other guys are absent (one no fault of his own).

BeerKhan
November 17th 2016


72 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I wish they'd just stream it in one location I don't want to watch 12 music videos.

Davil667
November 17th 2016


2224 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Great review agreed. Enjoyed the Load vibes from this tbh... Not too impressed overall though. Songwriting just isn't interesting enough to fuel songs this fcking long...

wham49
November 17th 2016


3108 Comments


so overall it sucks?

Digging: Roky Erickson - Roky Erickson And The Aliens

onionbubs
November 17th 2016


4867 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Cover art is still atrocious" [2]



Great review. I'm not the biggest metallica guy but i'll give this a spin

Digging: Depeche Mode - Black Celebration

blacklightjer
November 17th 2016


442 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, this is EXACTLY how I feel about this album. My biggest gripe besides Lars' bland drumming, is the album's awful production quality. From the inaudible bass, to the shit guitar tone, to the terrible sound of the drumkit... It's all done so lazy.



Still it's a good sendoff, and I don't think Metallica needs to write any more albums in their career. Let it be done once... and for all.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
November 17th 2016


15064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great read Willie. I thought this had a few highlights and somewhat better production than DM, but could've been trimmed. It's basically Black Album Part two, which I'm ok with.

Digging: Sleepmakeswaves - Made Of Breath Only

facupm
November 17th 2016


11214 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gotta get this

Willie
Moderator
November 17th 2016


17064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks everyone.

--I wish they'd just stream it in one location I don't want to watch 12 music videos.--

Watch "Confusion", "Dream No More" and "Spit Out the Bone". Another interesting track is "Halo on Fire". I can't quite describe it, but it almost comes off like a stoner/southern rock kind of vibe and has some pretty unique vocals from James.



--Great review agreed. Enjoyed the Load vibes from this tbh.--

-- It's basically Black Album Part two, which I'm ok with--


It's funny that people are hearing more of certain albums. I guess it depends on preference, because I hear a lot of Justice on these songs.



Digging: Believer - 1 of 5

Titan
November 17th 2016


16461 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I wish I heard Justice



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