Metallica – Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (Blackened Recordings)Tuesday, 6th December 2016
Metallica hasn’t been a creative force to be reckoned with since the back-side of The Black Album. Songs like “Don’t Tread on Me,” “My Friend of Misery” and in particular, “The God That Failed” were powerful exercises in meaty commercial metal songwriting, feats the band saw fit not to repeat on the subsequent Load/Reload, the completely unlistenable St. Anger, and the messy Death Magnetic. A thrashed-up, speedy Metallica wasn’t going to do the trick; a tout, rigid Metallica would, and on Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, it appears the band has come to realize where their strengths lie.
A double-disc offering featuring 12 songs at over an hour of playing time, Hardwired gets going once the rather pointless opening title track is out of the way. The swinging groove cut on “Atlas, Rise!” is an instant winner, with Hetfield’s ever-formidable right hand doing the work, even weaving in some Maiden-like harmonies. “Now That We’re Dead” is a near-certain live set candidate, but watch out for Lars’s clumsy tom-work that nearly spoils the intro. But again, it’s lead-weighted main riff that carries the song. The thrashy “Moth into Flame” (excellent staccato riff) and down-and-dirty “Dream No More” (is that a “The Thing That Should Not Be” nod in the chorus?) highlight the back-end of disc 1.
“Confusion” leads off disc 2, a crisp, bouncy cut with Hetfield rolling out some quality harmonized vocals. “ManUkind” features (apparently) an opening bass tribute from Robert Trujillo to the late, great Cliff Burton, demonstrating the type of melodic touch that has been absent from the band’s sound, while “Murder One” offers up another tribute, this time to Motorhead’s Lemmy, a profound influence on Metallica. Although “Here Comes Revenge” fails to gain any traction, album closer “Spit out the Bone” is a propulsive ending in the spirit of “Damage Inc.,” in which the crash-bang-wallop of Ulrich holding down the pace (for once).
Appropriately, Metallica had to go through years of being stalled on the songwriting front to come up with something like Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. They couldn’t have written this album after The Black Album, nor at any time in the ’90s or the last decade. Here in the now, Metallica are vital once again.