REVIEW: METALLICA – “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct”
If there is one band that everybody has a love/ hate relationship with, it has to be Metallica. While they engender a venomous hatred in anyone who sees them present awards to members of the Mickey Mouse club at some sleazy MTV award show, the band simultaneously cultivates a sense of awe in those same people when they browse through their history, one that is filled with a wide range of innovative thrash influenced progressive odysseys. Metallica were the first band to make a living from a genre that traditionally leaned towards the unspeakable and circa 1988 became a household name (due credit given to the Grammy’s for bowing down before the throne of King ‘Poser’onius, making evident that they did not know what heavy metal was all about)
In the past decade and a half the band released movies, played at some of the coldest places on earth, celebrated their 30th anniversary, got inducted into the rock ’n’ roll hall of fame and engaged in a lot of other things but just came out with 2 albums, one being “The Album that should not be” and the other being ‘Death Magnetic’, their so called ‘return to form’. Following the result of the POTUS elections, the question on everybody’s mind was ‘When will ‘tallica release their next album??’
Post the shit storm that the release of the title track created in mid-August this year, the denizens of metalosphere have been anxiously biting their nails and waiting in plush anxiety for the 18th of November, the date set for the release of the 10th album of the kings of heavy metal, the aptly titled ‘Hardwired…to Self-Destruct’.
The album starts with the title track which is a thrash fest, with its double bass shred patterns (go Lars) and Hetfield’s buzz saw riffing, although the solo is extremely weak. The song is the shortest one on the album and is followed by “Atlas, Rise!” This song has a very progressive feel with its multiple time signatures and various riffs that are intricately woven to form a six and a half minute masterpiece that could have easily fitted into ‘…And Justice For All’. This song should be noted for its NOWBHM influences, influences leaning specifically towards Iron Maiden. “Now That We’re Dead” is the third track of the album and its intro reminded me of, as another critic rightfully pointed, Megadeth’s “Reckoning Day” (THIS PAGE IS NOT GONNA TURN INTO A WARZONE FOR THE MEGADETH VS METALLICA JUVENILES). The song continues into a structure that comes straight out of “Reload” accompanied by a whiskey tinged hard rock pre-chorus. The solo on this track is weak, something that continues throughout the album. “Moth Into Flame”, the second single of the album, is a track that incorporates a wide variety of riffs and that could fit in as a junction between ‘…And Justice For All’ and ‘The Black album’. The song kaleidoscopically oscillates between different tempos and Lars should be complemented for his drumming on the track especially for his complex fill right after the fast double bass pattern. “Moth Into Flame” is followed by “Dream No More” which again reminds the listener of ‘Reload’, more specifically ‘Devil’s Dance’. There were also hints of doom metal in the song. “Halo On Fire” is a track that imbibes the U2 version i.e. the hard rock nature of Metallica. The track has a catchy chorus and an abundant amount of melody with an acoustic section in the middle.
“Confusion” has a tad bit of the “Devil’s Dance” vibe in it, but different from ‘Dream No More’ and by this time one tends to get bored of the shitty sound and the pace of the album. There is a point in the track where you feel that something fast is going to happen, but the song again progresses in a monotonic mid-paced fashion. “ManUnkind” starts with a bass-infused psychedelic opening and then progresses into a riff structure having a very Down/Corrosion of Conformity vibe to it. The album starts to get monotonous with “Here Comes Revenge”, “Am I Savage?” (Oscillates between 6/8 and 4/4 time) and “Murder One”, all three songs sounding very similar with minimal variety. I was enthusiastic to listen to “Murder One”, being the Motorhead tribute and all, but other than the lyrical references, the track was a huge let down and James and Lars failed miserably in paying tribute to the man responsible for the latter wanting to start a band. “Murder One” is followed by “Spit Out The Bone” or rather “SPIT OUT THE MOTHERFUCKING BONE”!!!!!!!!! WHAT A TRAILBLAZER OF A FINISHER!!!!!! This song is the album’s answer to ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ with its thrashy hooks and melodic section and LARS ULRICH……HOLY SHIT! THE MAN HAS NOT DRUMMED LIKE THIS SINCE DAMAGE INC.
I remember Lars (or was it James?????) mentioning in an interview that the band had been listening to a lot of ‘Kill ‘em All’ which streamlined the band in an extremely thrash infested mind space. I, like everybody else, laughed at this remark and thought ‘Shiver me timbers, but is this not what Kirk said in an interview pre-St. Anger?’ I was obviously stunned after they released the title track and hearing ‘Atlas Rise!’ really got me looking forward to the rest of the album.
Sadly their homage to their pre-millionaire, NWOBHM worshiping days is just shown on 4 tracks in the album, those tracks being the title track, “Spit Out the Bone”, ”Atlas Rise” and “Moth Into Flame”. “Atlas Rise” is the track that stood out to me on this album and listening to it took me back to the old days. The track is a plethora of riffs and really backs Lars’ reputation of being a mastermind orchestrator. Sadly his arrangement skills are limited to that track and the rest of the album, even though it has a ‘Reload’ meets ‘Black Album’ character with a tad bit of thrash, is too dragging. Towards the middle of ‘Here Comes Revenge’, I lost interest in the album and even dozed off a bit until the opening riff to “Spit out the Bone” blared through the speakers. This album just does not have the same flare as ‘And Justice For All’, a sonic sledgehammer on the senses that runs for nearly 66 minutes without a millisecond of monotony, an album that is responsible for cementing Lars’ cult status as ‘the riff punisher’. Sure there are instances such as ‘ManUnkind’ with its Down/Corrosion of Conformity vibe or “Halo of Fire” with its eccentric harmonies which are interesting, but the album, coupled with despicable production (something that was Metallica’s strong suit back in the day), is extremely unarranged. One gets the feeling that the band James and Lars were trying to put every single riff accumulated over an eight year time period into an album without any appropriate editing, actions that actually assisted in corroding the band’s ethos.
It is ironic that Kirk Hammett thinks of Guns N’ Roses as a ‘nostalgia band’, when he himself is riding on the pay checks of past releases. I am not saying that this album is bad, but given the hype that surrounded it, it just does not live up to expectations, certainly nary for a band that has been studied extensively by the Berklee’s and the Juilliard’s of the world. This album is merely a decent effort and proves that other than a set of exemplary marketing skills, Metallica has nothing spectacular to offer and is a sinking ship. Listening to this album is akin to watching the remake of ‘The Magnificent Seven’: you watch the movie, have a good time, shrug your shoulders and forget about it in a couple of days as opposed to watching the original, a movie that stays in your mind forever and that possesses a grandiose comparable to that of their first five albums.