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Album Reviews : Metallica – Hardwired…To Self Destruct

By on December 12, 2016

20160818_193928_7549_939483Looking back at Metallica’s career, from their (not-so) humble beginnings to their eventual monopoly on their heavy metal world, if there’s one thing that every metalhead around the world pays attention to, it’s the announcement and release of a new Metallica record. Whilst their 1980s material has garnered nothing but universal praise and admiration from fans and critics alike, the same can’t be said for everything that has followed, with a commonly-divided opinion on each release since 1991’s self-titled mega-record. Now 34 years into their illustrious career, Metallica have released an album that promises to not only return to the roots that made them great again, but also promises to explore new elements that fans are not so accustomed to.

I had the privilege of hearing Metallica’s latest record one week early (as part of an official EMI Music Listening Party) so today marks exactly one month since I’ve heard the new release. So it pegs the question “A month in, has your opinion changed on the album?”. Now with a month’s time to get my feelings on this album together, and as a Metallica die-hard since the age of seven, I can safely say that Hardwired…To Self Destruct tis not only a return to the promised roots of the band’s vintage sound, but is one t requires quit e a number of listens to really appreciate some of the more obscure elements of this album.

What has changed. Opening track “Hardwired”, at first listen, shows no mercy and is an omen for what is to be (hopefully) expected for the duration of the album. Full-speed ahead, Metallica look to make up for what many fans would refer to as years of disappointment by throwing everything they have into the three-minute thrasher. Whilst it certainly left an impact within the first releases, I struggle to view it as anything more than an appetiser for the (much) better tracks that follow in the album. The final two tracks of disc 1 – “Dream No More” and “Halo On Fire” on first listen, surprised me with their incorporation of well-crafted guitar harmonies, but as I got over the initial hype and excitement of hearing such vintage elements of Metallica’s classic sound, I began to feel quite bored with subsequent listens as besides those occasional hooks, very little was there in those songs to uphold a consistent quality.

Now I’m going to be honest. During my initial listen of Hardwired…To Self Destruct, I found the entirety of the second disc (with the exception of the final track) to be nothing but experimental hard rock tracks that were not only poorly written, but also lazy in delivery. I guess it was just seeing Metallica’s name on these songs that invoke a certain standard in me that I wasn’t expecting to hear songs so different from their back-catalogue. But as I start to view these tracks as separate entities, devoid of any affiliation with the band’s discography, the grooves and hooks within this disc, especially in “ManUnkind” and “Am I Savage?”, proved that this is an album that will need a few listens with an open mind to truly appreciate.

What hasn’t changed. Whilst I still struggle to understand these lyrics on a much deeper level, “Atlas, Rise!” still holds the same level of impact and ferocities that have coned the term “Metallica’s second wind” in reference to this album. Resembling qualities from 1988’s seminal record …And Justice For All, there’s enough on this track to grab me from the get go and still make an impact to this day. If there’s a few tracks from this album that I hope makes the live shows, this is definitely one of them. Following tracks “Now That We’re Dead”and “Moth Into Flame” still hold value and can still be enjoyed with the occasional listen or two, wit the latter being the more enjoyable of the two. Looking at the first disc of the album, my stance on the album’s ability to keep me entertained and enthralled is remarkable, almost astounding.

In what to me feels like the crowning jewel of Metallica’s work since 1991, final track Spit Out The Bone left me completely amazed at what I heard exactly one month ago, and to this day, it’s a regular feature on my playlist. For many Metallica fans to embrace a song from 2016 alongside the 80s classics is true testament to the fact that despite getting on with age, Metallica still have the ability to produce an absolute ripper of a thrash metal song.

In conclusion, there’s not much that can be said about this album that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll make it brief. This is an album that both die-hands and casuals will need to listen to a number of times before truly appreciating the level of musicianship and quality. For the first studio release in nearly over eight years, Metallica are still in fine form, and whilst their song-writing has gone downhill over the years, there are quite a few tracks of this album that give us all hope that metal’s biggest band will remain as such for a very long time. Now a month into this album, I can safely say that this is my favourite Metallica release since The Black Album.