Metallica – ‘Hardwired To Self Destruct’ [Review]
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Metallica’s world is an odd one. Collectively, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Rob Trujillo have pioneered and evolved the sound that literally defines metal as a genre – and as a result, they’ve attracted and maintained the most die-hard of die-hard fanbases. At the same time, their proclivity for experimental creativity has seen Metallica torn apart in the past, metaphorically flayed alive by legions of gleeful haters.
Few bands have experienced the level of pressure that Metallica do. Even when not pushing the envelope, the Californian masters are expected to blow everyone away whenever they put something new out. Given that Hardwired To Self Destruct is not only Metallica’s first studio effort since Death Magnetic back in 2008 but also a double album running at an hour and seventeen minutes, it feels more like make or break than ever before.
Hardwired (the opening song) voices the opinion held by about half of America and more or less the whole of the rest of the world as Hetfield declares “We’re so fucked / Shit outta luck / Hardwired to self destruct”. With President Trump no longer a nightmare but a nightmarish reality, those words are sure to be repeated many times over the coming years; they’re perfectly timed and timely, too. Back them up with idiosyncratically thrashy, ultra-tight riffs, and you have an instant classic Metallica track.
With Hardwired To Self Destruct, Metallica have decisively returned to their roots while focussing on making their efforts scale like never before. Only three of twelve songs – namely Halo On Fire, Here Comes Revenge, and Murder One – feel like weak spots, leaving nine cuts of prime-cut metal to dig into and through. The message is clear: Say what you like about certain albums lurking in Metallica’s back catalogue, but these guys can still kick your ass. Don’t forget it – and don’t fuck with them.
Hardwired To Self Destruct leans hard on the groove-metal end of Metallica’s signature style, with out-and-out thrash pushed to the fore most effectively on Hardwired, Atlas Rise, and the fucking rabid Spit Out The Bone, the last of which is easily the best song on the whole album. Personally, groove metal is my favourite kind of metal – so for me, the likes of Now That We’re Dead, Moth Into Flame, Dream No More, and Am I Savage? proved easy winners.
Of course, double albums are synonymous with prog – and so it feels entirely natural that at Hardwired To Self Destruct’s mid-point, Metallica opt for some brilliantly off-the-wall moments. Confusion, sick as it is, is in the end a warmup for ManUNkind, where Rob Trujillo gets a rare moment in the spotlight, his arpeggiated bass chords setting up a hectic rampage through mangled time signatures aplenty that is, for me, just as perfect as album closer Spit Out The Bone. When Metallica pull out all the stops, nothing can stop them.
All in all, Hardwired To Self Destruct has something for every Metallica fan. From the peaks of ManUNkind and Spit Out The Bone to the aforementioned low points – which are still good, but stand out sorely amongst so much genuine greatness – Hardwired To Self Destruct is a double album that doesn’t outstay its welcome or for that matter feel like a double album in the first place. It’s massive, immersive, and monolithic – everything you could possibly ask for from one of the greatest metal bands of all time.
TMMP RATING: 96% (Essential Listening!)
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