METALLICA — Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (review)

METALLICA — Hardwired... to Self-Destruct album cover Album · 2016 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Death Magnetic in 2008 was obviously a lengthy step in the right direction following the all-encompassing nadir of the St. Anger era, but I've always had a problem with the well publicized Rick Rubin mindset of re-living the past instead of looking to the future and evolving. Maybe that was what they needed to do to get back on track and win back some credibility as a creative act, but as a fan of the Load era I was disappointed that they almost completely shut down that avenue.

But on Self Destruct Metallica act their age and embrace not only their thrashing days, but their entire history. The early part of the album is dominated by the faster side of their toolbox while the second is heavy on mid-tempo numbers very much reminiscent of the early-to-mid 90s output - you can even hear a hint of St. Anger in the screeching heaviness of parts of Am I Savage?

Hardwired continues right where Death Magnetic left off with the title track joining My Apocalypse as the most straightforward thrash tunes they've written since maybe even Kill 'em All. The other songs reaching back to the proggier side of 80s - namely Atlas Rise, the absolutely superb Moth into Flame and the furious closer Spit Out the Bone - are extremely effective and convincing. Other fairly strong pieces are the Sad-But-True-meets-The-Thing-That-Should-Not-Be mashup Dream No More, the heavy epic Halo on Fire, the dirt and spit juggernaut Am I Savage? and the pretty basic heavy rock of Confusion that I still for some reason enjoy quite a lot, despite the directionless improvised noodlings behind the second verse.

Apart from the aforementioned improv part and the clumsy beat holding back the pre-solo section of ManUNkind this album thankfully lacks the head scratching arrangement and quality control blunders that plagued parts of Death Magnetic and the sound production is also vastly superior. The excellent Ronnie Rising medley recorded for the at the time recent Dio tribute album, and again included here on the special edition, gave some promise of slightly slicker sound than what's been heard on most of their output this century, and those promises were indeed fulfilled with Self-Destruct sounding like an album with production values thought beyond a mere "this is what we sound like in our garage". For the first time in his time in Metallica, Robert Trujillo is taken seriously as a ballsy kick ass bassist, and he provides a perfect fat rumble as a foundation for all the Hetfield riffs. Lars limps his way through the faster thrashy beats, but is very very solid most of the way when the tempo is taken down to Load era levels.

With the new album 72 Seasons announced I thought I'd get back to the old review draft I left unfinished around the release of Hardwired, and I find that my respect for the album has diminished somewhat. While in the beginning I was very much enjoying the whole scope from straight up thrash to the sludgy Load soundalikes, now years later I find that the songwriting especially during some of the slower songs on the second half just hasn't stood the test of time that well. On the other hand Atlas Rise and especially Moth Into Flame are hands down some of the finest Metallica tunes from the last 35ish years and the production is leaps and bounds better than anything since Garage Inc.

I always wanted them to release a varied album like this as I felt that the Rubin-led thrashier approach of Death Magnetic was a bit forced and the slower mid-90s sound was the one they were naturally evolving into, but looking at it now I see I was wrong since it's the former that produces the greatest highlights here. It will be interesting to hear what kind of balance they strike on the upcoming 72 Seasons.
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Pekka wrote:
52 days ago
Yeah DM is mostly good apart from the production and some really clumsy stuff here and there, notably in The Day That Never Comes.
Tupan wrote:
53 days ago
Oh, I like DM. I listened to it some days ago, many good and some even great songs! St Anger is horrible indeed
Pekka wrote:
53 days ago
Thanks! I can't hear any Load on St. Anger and on DM maybe only Unforgiven III.
Tupan wrote:
54 days ago
Good review, I think this is a fair rating. They never really abandoned the Load influences, right? I'm not complaining, though


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