Metallica prove that they can still play Metal.
Eight years is a long time lapse between albums, and when it takes a band that long to put out new music, you expect it to be well worth the wait, right? Those expectations rise considerably when you're dealing with a band like Metallica. Since the release of Death Magnetic in 2008, it seems Metallica redeemed themselves (after 2003's disastrous St. Anger), and now they're actually serious about trying to get back to what they do best. So without further ado, let's dissect their long-awaited new album, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct.
Consisting of twelve songs clocking in at just over 75 minutes of music, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct is the product of roughly sixteen months of recording in the studio. The four horsemen (no pun intended) obviously put a lot of work into what can be considered a pretty solid effort. What's most impressive is you can actually hear their dedication and energy in the songs themselves, most of which are over six minutes long. Overall -- in my humble opinion -- this is more "Metal" than Metallica have been since the Black album in 1991. Many of the tunes in the selection pack a real punch, with plenty of Thrash elements mixed in to show that the band still mean business.
Album opener Hardwired is a pure Thrash-infused onslaught, complete with crunching riffs and Hetfield's signature vocals. Hoorah! This song has some attitude! Ulrich does a good job of reminding us that he is still a good drummer too, but it's a little overdone. Atlas, Rise! -- easily one of the best tunes here -- is a head-banging good time with more patented Metallica hooks and grooves. Spit Out the Bone and Moth Into Flame are two other great thrashers. The latter features some nice time changes and beefy riff/solo work by Hetfield and Hammett. It's not all full-speed ahead, however. Mid-paced tunes like Confusion and Halo on Fire add some diversity to the mix, and show Metallica aren't afraid to experiment with some melodic elements when it's appropriate.
On the flip side, there are a few lack-luster efforts to take note of. Murder One -- a song the band wrote about the late Lemmy Kilmister -- has great music, but it's overshadowed by Hetfield's muddled vocals. It's a shame because this one had real potential. It's not nearly as bad as Am I Savage? though. The guitar riffs almost sound like they are out of tune and the vocals are all over the place, making it really hard to listen to. This one is a real lemon. Pass the sugar, please!
Maintaining their iconic status was a struggle for several years, but Metallica have managed to create something they can be content with. They've poured their collective heart and soul into this album and fans should be relatively satisfied with the outcome. Hardwired... To Self-Destruct is not perfect by any means, nor is it a return to the sound of classics like Master of Puppets of Ride the Lightning, but it's probably the best we could hope for at this point in the band's career. These guys are now all over 50, and to be able to still produce this kind of music at this stage of the game is an accomplishment.
Images courtesy of Blackened Recordings and Warner Music.