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Metallica, ‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’ – Album Review

Blackened Recordings
Blackened Recordings

Take metal’s most successful band, couple that with an eight-year gap between albums, and add in almost universally positive response to the singles released so far and you have sky high expectations for Hardwired…To Self Destruct. But the expectation are always high for Metallica, who don’t pay much attention to outside influences and work at their own pace.

While their early albums were fairly streamlined, they have all been at least an hour long since 1988‘s …And Justice For All. The new effort, Hardwired…To Self Destruct, is actually a double album, with its 12 songs clocking in at more than 77 minutes. Only 1996‘s Load is longer.

The opening track “Hardwired” is by far the shortest, blazing by in just over three minutes. The song’s lyrics weren’t meant to describe it, but the refrain “we’re so f–ked, s–t outta luck, hardwired to self destruct” resonates with many after the presidential election.

All three of the songs released so far (“Hardwired,” “Atlas Rise” and “Moth Into Flame”) are on the first disc, which is stronger and more straightforward than the second disc. “Moth Into Flame” is one of the album’s best songs. The deliberate “Dream No More” has a similar intro to “Sad But True,” and also mentions Cthulhu, a reference longtime fans will recognize.

The first half of the album wraps up with the eight-minute epic “Halo on Fire,” which alternates between straight-up rock and intense metal, and sees James Hetfield crooning in places, and singing in his more typical aggressive style in others.

This the first Metallica album where Kirk Hammett did not contribute to the songwriting since he joined the band. However, his presence is felt throughout the album with his creative solos. Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich carried the load when it came to the songwriting, with bassist Robert Trujillo receiving a co-writing credit on “ManUNkind.”

The second disc is longer than the first, with a more progressive but darker vibe. Opener “Confusion” is a mid-tempo groover packed with great riffs and killer solos from Hammett. “Murder One” is a tribute to the late, great Lemmy Kilmister, name-checking numerous Motorhead song titles.

The album is a bit too long with some filler (especially on the second disc), and could have benefited from cutting a song or two. However, for the most part it does hold the listener’s attention, and any fatigue from the previous 70+ minutes is instantly erased by the ripping closer “Spit Out the Bone.” It’s a dose of intense thrash that has galloping riffs and thundering drums from Lars Ulrich. It’s the heaviest track on the discs, the perfect bookend to the opening song “Hardwired.”

While their last album Death Magnetic was criticized for sounding overly compressed, that’s not an issue with Hardwired…To Self Destruct. Greg Fidelman, who was an engineer and mixer on Death Magnetic, was the producer this time around. He has worked closely with the band over the past several years, co-producing Lulu and overseeing the live soundtrack to Through The Never.

One song that’s not on the album is “Lords of Summer,” which was released as a single in 2014. However, the deluxe edition of the album includes a third disc with a re-recorded version of the song that’s a bit shorter than the original. The deluxe edition also the “Ronnie Rising Medley” that originally appeared on a 2014 Ronnie James Dio tribute album.

Covers of Deep Purple’s “When a Blind Man Cries” and Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow” are part of the deluxe edition along with remastered versions of nine songs performed live at Rasputin Music in Berkeley, Calif., during this year’s Record Store Day. The final track is a live version of “Hardwired” recorded at the inaugural concert at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Hardwired…To Self Destruct finds Metallica building on what they did on Death Magnetic instead of starting from scratch, while also incorporating elements from earlier albums ranging from Kill ‘Em All to Master Of Puppets to Load. The result is an album that’s familiar and comfortable, but also propels the band forward.

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