Review Summary: An overlong but gleefully energetic sequel to Death Magnetic.
Metallica was a defining band in my life, as I’m sure they were for many metal fans. I’ll never forget the day I first heard ‘Master of Puppets’; suffice it to say, it blew my 12-year-old mind and ended up playing a pivotal role in shaping my music taste into what it is today. Shortly thereafter, I’d heard everything Metallica had ever produced. Admittedly they’ve had a couple blunders, namely Reload
and St. Anger
, but they’ve learned from their mistakes since then… for the most part. 2008’s Death Magnetic
saw the band celebrating their thrash metal roots once again, albeit in a modern gauze, featuring longer track lengths, tighter songwriting, and an overall synergy that was absent in the band prior. Now here we are eight years later with a proper sequel, Hardwired… to Self Destruct
I say Hardwired
is a sequel to Death Magnetic
because, really, that’s what it is. The production is better, as are the vocals, and it shares the same old-dudes-still-kicking-ass nostalgic feel that DM
had. ‘Hardwired’ picks up where ‘My Apocalypse’ left off, serving as the shortest and thrashiest song on here. It’s your standard modern Metallica romp – fast-paced and energetic but ultimately lacking in substance. It isn’t until tracks like ‘Moth into Flame’ and ‘Halo on Fire’ come on where you start to hear classic Metallica shining through. Vaguely technical riffage matched with Hetfield’s best vocal performance in over two decades, and perfectly serviceable jobs by both Ulrich and Hammett on drums and lead guitar respectively. There’s the occasional eye-roll inducing whammy solo, but the band are largely at the top of their game here. Also, a quick shout out to Rob Trujillo who tears it up on bass yet again, adding melodic texture and personality to otherwise indistinguishable tracks such as ‘ManUNkind’ and ‘Atlas Rise!’
also suffers in the same ways Death Magnetic
did. The production is a marginal improvement but it’s nothing to write home about. A handful of tracks could've been scrapped and the album would've been better for it, which leads me into the biggest offender by far: its length. Why this was released a double album I’ll never know. Why every Metallica album in the past decade pushes the 70-minute mark I’ll never know, but it’s fun to listen to, and at the end of the day isn’t that what you want from Metallica? No, they’re never going to write another Master of Puppets
or Ride the Lightning
. Ever. This is about the best we’re gonna get, and considering it’s four 50-year-old guys jamming to heavy metal music like it’s the ‘80s, it’s pretty damn impressive. Try not headbanging to ‘Moth into Flame’ or ‘Spit Out the Bone’ – I challenge you. They’re having fun, and their energy is infectious. Compared to the other three of thrash’s big four, Metallica are faring just fine.
Sure, it’s easy to criticize things like the album cover, which is decidedly atrocious, or the fact that Lars can’t pull off the same tempos as he used to. Hardwired
is far from perfect, but these trivial faults can be forgiven in the presence of legends. Metallica are a defining metal band, and if they want to ride out the rest of their days rocking out like it’s still the ‘80s, who the hell are we to stop them?