Metallica has been thrashing and riffing the metal world for 35 years! I was born in 1983, and they have been making history since 1981. Needless to say, they’ve literally been with me for my whole life.
First exposure: I must have been 4 or 5, and this kid with a mullet and a skateboard constantly had his Walkman blasting. He wore his headphones around his neck, and you heard pulsing riffs as he skated around our neighborhood!
I was on my front porch, and he skated up to me, looked down at me, raised his fist and yelled, “Metallica KILL EM ALL!!”
Then he took off.
Then later, I was about 7, on the bus riding home from school. There was this older high schooler sporting a leather jacket and banging his head. His Walkman was always playing and I heard heavy riffs bleeding out of the headphones as his volume was always full blast! Finally my curiosity took over and I asked him what he was listening to. I was obviously just a little annoying kid, but he excitedly said “Metallica!” He gave me the headphones and for the first time, I heard “Hit The Lights!”
I was shocked and floored at the speed and the ferocity of their sound! It had me hooked, and before I ever discovered punk rock, hardcore, and even Nirvana; I had Metallica! Every time “For Whom The Bell Tolls” came on the radio, the volume was cranked. It was “Enter Sandman” to pump us up before every football game! “Nothing Else Matters” was every graduating classes theme song. “Fuel” was cranked and blasted from every car stereo as we raced along gravel roads. “Master of Puppets” was and still is the greatest metal song of all time! Metallica was everywhere. They not only were (and still are) the worlds biggest metal band of all time. They were THE band! Ac/Dc was there. Iron Maiden and Kiss and Van Halen where played…
but it was always Metallica that took over.
Vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitar Kirk Hammett, and bassists Cliff Burton (RIP), then Jason Newstad and now Robert Trujillo have been the band that have shaken the world over and over, despite a rough patch through the 90’s and that 2003 album.
I got to witness them play live in 2009, and it was by far, by a very long shot, the greatest live show I’ve ever been to! I paid way too much to be right at the stage barrier, but no regrets! Worth every penny!
Now, 8 years have passed since their last release Death Magnetic. In 2016, Metallica has released their 10th LP to us, so how does it stack up to their other releases?
I’ve always been more of a fan of their first five, but I have always appreciated how they have evolved, except for St. Anger. Just forget that ever happened.
Hardwired…To Self Destruct … let’s take a look.
The first track “Hardwired” is quite literally a fast and brutal punch in the face! The punch is being delivered to the systems that bind our freedoms, politically and creatively, and to anyone that stands in the way of truth. This all comes with the accompaniment of some very fast beats and heavy riffing. They may be old(er), but they still got it (all you speed metal fans)! It has all the elements of what made this band so visceral back in the 1980’s; punk speed, metal riffs, blasting bass and pissed off lyrics! A return to old school form in the finest of modern production. This title track is a good opener to an album that showcases Metallica’s growth and present creativity.
“Atlas, Rise!” is a steady and solid song that has that sweet groove that Trujillo brings with his octopus-like fingers. He truly seems to be the most talented musician in the band! It is a mid tempo song with a broken up chorus, and some solid melodic drumming. Lars is still not the best drummer ever, but he is still making Metallica what they are. Kirk’s solo is loud and fresh; nothing overly technical but definitely an ode to the 1980’s.
“Now That We’re Dead” shows off something this band has done forever: an intro, or even a pre-song that rolls right into the main song. Right away you can’t help but feel ‘it’ … that beast that Metallica made back in the day with songs like “Trapped Under Ice” or “Creeping Death.” It grows and grows and sinks it’s teeth into your flesh. This song might not be their heaviest, but it has that quality that has always propelled Metallica to that top spot among their peers.
At 7 minutes you may expect it to dry out, but when you hear Kirk’s solo and the preceding bridge and building riff, it takes on some new life.
The next song “Moth Into Flame” has some pretty awesome opening riffs! Hetfield sings the lyrics in that pop pop pocket that made songs like “…And Justice For All” so catchy and interesting. The music has that underbelly heaviness and the vocals soar atop it like a bird flying above an erupting volcano. Throughout, this song has some of the best guitar riffs on the whole record. Super catchy and groovy, and heavy at the same time. This is a solid and well put together song. One of the better songs for sure.
“Am I Savage” is a song that you’ll have to hear yourself to make your own determination if it belongs on this album, or is one you will want to hear over and over. It sort of vaguely has that “Until It Sleeps” vibe, but this is a terrible song. The video for it will help piece it together, but definitely not the strongest tune on the album, in my opinion. Although maybe this connects to “Am I Evil” off of Kill ‘Em All?
Now before I get into “Halo On Fire”, do not forget that it has been almost a decade since 2008’s Death Magnetic. Some have already complained that this new album is too long! What? Too long? It has been 8 years! Don’t we want more, and not less? You decide, but I would say … less is more.
Anyways, this song is 8min and 29s long, and it takes us on a journey lyrically and musically that actually turns out to be kinda cool but also too long. Some with shorter attention spans, and an addiction to click on their social media notifications as soon as they pop up, will not quite let this album sink in, but that is what Metallica wants. Let this song sink in and grow on you; so far this record is a “grower.”
As the listener dives into “Confusion” you may connect it to “The Day That Never Comes.” Partly due to the musicality, lyrics, and new video for it. It is a decent song with some sweet riffing, but again, too long. Even for Metallica.
“Dream No More” is something new for Metallica. It has an Alice In Chains vibe to it, and definitely ups the heaviness. Not speed, but it pulses with some nice distortion and bass. James Hetfield sounds different on this one in particular, as he grasps to find more vocal tones. Also, this is the song that continues the story of the ktulu!
“ManUNkind” is an aggressive track that pushes up the energy a bit. It also blends well with the other songs a bit too much though. It still is awesome to keep the energy level up, but at this point in the record, a little more diversity would be appreciated; but hey… We are getting new music from 52+ year old metal legends. Maybe we can’t complain that much?
The first minute and a half of “Here Comes Revenge” builds up rather intensely. This song is sinister and mean, stays true to the title, and has a dark undertone that serves the instrumentation well. Not bad but not great. A little too predictable.
The ode to the late Lemmy Kilmister of the legendary rock and roll band Motörhead, “Murder One” is kind of monotonous at this point in the record. Not a terrible song itself, but this deep in the track list, and we all want another banger! The lyrics give plenty of respect and remembrance to the old hard rocker, and the dark heavy music pounds it in even more.
“Spit Out The Bone” is the track that stands out the most! It is heavy, fast and brutal, and satisfies those of us who may have thought Metallica went a little soft; because evidently, they did. This one even bangs harder than track one! It is longer and more coarse and raw. I love this song, definitely my favorite on the whole record, as it takes me back to the 80’s era of the band.
Despite what Hardwired…To Self Destruct turned out to sound like, Metallica is still a legendary band that can pretty much do whatever they want.
They are still touring the world, giving back to their fans in huge ways, and kicking ass with huge riffs and head banging tunes!
Apparently this album is #1 in over 100 countries, so I guess that means something.
This album reflects that Metallica thankfully has a lot of energy left, and can still bring it. Hopefully it is not another 8 years until their next record (which I hope is heavier and faster), and that they can keep up a fairly heavy tour schedule; between botox treatments, hip replacements, pancreas inspections, and bowel movements. Them old guys still got it… for the most part.
Overall, I kinda like this new record. It definitely is a grower and will take a while to set in, but it has some very beastly chops. I still have to regularly spin their first five records, but maybe this will find a special place in my heart. Maybe. There are a few tracks that could have been scrapped, and I do not see myself listening to this from front to back.
It definitely is cool to have a band that has spanned my life with me, and many others!
Long live Metallica.
Rating: Heck, this thing gets a 4/5 just because these guys are still going strong, and have created another batch of heavy riffs.
Right now on their home page, they posted all the songs/videos of the new album. Enjoy!
Also make sure to listen to the B.G.M. Podcast, as several of the authors on the site weigh in with their thoughts on the new record, and Metallica’s legacy.