Album Reviews

Metallica – Hard Wired… to Self Destruct (REVIEW)


Metallica performs at CBS’ The Night Before, AT&T Park, San Francisco. Photo by Clay Lancaster.

Hard Rock and Metal fans can rejoice this week, as Hard Wired… to Self Destruct, Metallica’s first album in eight years, hits the public. The San Francisco Bay Area band has been teasing their fanbase over the last number of weeks with singles “Hardwired”, “Atlas, Rise” and “Moth Into Flame” showing a youthful and re-energized group.

Metallica sure is no stranger to lengthy waits between releases; five years between Metallica (the Black Album) and Load. Six years between Reload and St. Anger. But this gap marks the longest musical drought in the band’s career since 1983’s Kill ‘Em All.

Ok, down to business. Many many people have been waiting for this new album, and I’m here to confidently say that I think it will satisfy. I think. It sort of depends on what incarnation of Metallica you preferred in the past.

To start, Hard Wired… to Self Destruct is not a rehash. Yes, it is very much “Metallica” and on the surface might start to seem par for the course, but it also attempts some subtle new ideas that set it apart at its own, new direction. There are of course familiarities from records past (as should be expected), just hopefully not enough to make anyone say “oh this is just a repeat of ______”.

The production value is raw and gritty, akin to 2008’s Death Magnetic, only with proper mastering this time. If you’ve heard the few singles already, then you know what kind of tone to expect.

Other than that aspect, songs like “Dream No More” and “Halo on Fire” have tones and melodies that harken back to a Load-era vibe. Other tracks are long enough (6-8 minutes) that they incorporate enough riffs to cover the gamut. “Confusion” and “Spit Out the Bone” contain some parts that sound like they could have been written for …And Justice for All. “Am I Savage” has a pretty big Black Album tinge to it. Each of the more mid-tempo songs have some fantastic rhythms going on, like the last break near the end of “Now that We’re Dead”, or the main riff of “Here Comes Revenge”.

James Hetfield’s vocals are strong, and his guitar playing is certainly the highlight of the entire release. Lars Ulrich largely sticks to his 4 on the floor drum style here, with his snare fills being the most interesting part of his playing. Yes, the double kick comes into play on a few occasions. Kirk Hammett’s solos thankfully lay off of the wah pedal at times (but just at times), although he still keeps his trademark trills. He does have some pretty inventive runs in some of these tracks. Trujillo holds down the fort, with a few standout licks here and there, but his bass position doesn’t get much time to shine. This is a very guitar-heavy Metallica record.

Bottom Line: Hard Wired… to Self Destruct is quite good. It lacks the majesty of songs like “One” or “Nothing Else Matters”, and the cohesion and intensity of “Master of Puppets”  but it hits its mark with the heavy riffs and certainly shows that the 8 year break has these guys refreshed and ready to go.  This 2016 Metallica is an inventive approach to a familiar sound.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracks to Check Out: “Spit Out the Bone”, “Dream No More”, “Am I Savage”