For the first time in my life, I actually found myself excited by the prospect of Metallica releasing a new album. I'm as much a fan of their first four albums as anyone, and I quite like the self-titled so-called Black Album too, but I was born in 1986, the year Master of Puppets came out and was only five by the year of the Black Album, so there hasn't really been anything to change that in all my years since. Death Magnetic didn't excite me too much, though I do enjoy the record. However the singles leading up to the release of Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (Hardwired, Moth Into Flame and Atlas, Rise!) made me pay attention to what was going on in Camp Metallica. James Hetfield sounded his best in years and it seemed like we were going to get the closest we ever were to the classic Metallica of old.
Those singles though, in my view at least, were deceptive.
Hardwired... to Self-Destruct isn't a bad album. I'd say it's about on par with Death Magnetic, which is to say it's good but not great, with a few true smile moments. It's more worth owning than most of Metallica's post-Black Album output. The trouble with this album is that Metallica seemed to choose the singles that would most appeal to old school fans, meaning the thrashiest stuff, but when you get the full album in your hands, you find that as a whole, the music on Hardwired... to Self-Destruct doesn't reflect what the singles lead you to expect. In reality we find an album that is much less thrash metal than expected or advertised, which draws strongly on heavy metal and even some hard rock, really putting it closer in style to the Black Album than anything.
It's still a decent release from Metallica; this probably still in their best since the Black Album to be honest, but they built this up in such a way that I expected the album I'm sure other fans have wanted to hear from them for years and then didn't deliver.