It is their number 10 in over thirty years, right? Well, fuck me running. This feels like yesterday when we first started to listen to their sound.
And Hardwired…To Self-Destruct – managed through Metallica‘s vanity label Blackened Recordings – comes along some 8 years after their last full-length record. They are taking their sweet time, don’t they? But then, they always have.
When Metallica started their run for fame with their debut Kill ’em All we thought that this was about it. Seemingly confirmed by their unimpressive sophomore Ride the Lightning, the excellent #3 called Master of Puppets surprised back then and still does so today.
Metallica then realized that speeding along this thrash highway forever would land them on the cold shores of Antarctica with zero warm clothing and no booze. So, they changed course to a more melodic, kind of a more mid-tempo approach. And in came Enter Sandman in their self-titled album Metallica. Just think back to tracks like The Unforgiven (I), Nothing Else Matters or Don’t Tread on Me. The band followed this up with a less stellar album called Load, but boy did I like tracks like Bleeding Me.
Then The Unforgiven (II) came along in Reload that was something of a confirmation that they still had it in them after the former record. I mean already their first track Fuel put a smile on my face. Now, this leads us to the weirdness of Death Magnetic and The Unforgiven (III). I was never convinced by that specific record, albeit many fans think otherwise.
To wait for no man and do things their own way and by their own timing always was a strength or quirk of Metallica. This also meant that they sometimes jumped off proverbial cliffs before asking the right questions first. Resulting in a few hard landings without a parachute. To this, records like St. Anger comes to mind.
Now, will Hardwired…To Self-Destruct live up to the past?
The track Hardwired opens the album thrashily as we would expect it from a band like Metallica. This is followed by a rockier Atlas, Rise!, kind of slowing down to Mach 2, but still unmistakably signed Metallica. I must say these two tracks really raised my hopes that we were going to get a stellar and varied album of all flavors known from the band.
But then as the jagged 3rd track Now That We’re Dead unfolds, things start sliding slowly from stellar to mainstream. That this would happen already after track #2 in a double-disc production is amazing. And with this, I mean the lack of oomph and excitement that other records were able to incite.
Now, add to that a tendency to pretty much structure their tracks to juice up the live fan crowd. To illustrate, the aforementioned Now That We’re Dead kind of heavily lumbers forward with the same riff for a felt eternity. Only at minute 1:34 do we get James Hetfield‘s first screamed vocal. The somewhat ubiquitous and at times out-of-synch drumming of Lars Ulrich is not helping matters either.
Whilst I am sure that this album will sound great on stage, we are surfing near to the boredom kingdom after a while. And boy are there a lot of tracks to listen to. All of the above kind of flows into an amalgam of same-same, but different. And at this point, it seems that things become predictable.
Or do they?
So hold on a second: Not all is lost. Halo on Fire almost gets the spirit working again that was so prevalent on Metallica – the self-titled album – and on Reload as well. Then you’ll find some meaty riffing on the somewhat confused track called … Confusion. The track redeems itself after a wretched start later with adding a few decent solos too.
And for you thrashers out there?
You kind of need to relax and enjoy after the first three tracks or so. Until Spit Out The Bone hits your eardrums. Oh yeah, the very last track really lets loose one more time. With a pretty stellar solo in the middle and sturdy riffing to go.
We got ourselves a mixed bag of goodies, as hardwired as it may be.
The more I listened to Hardwired…To Self Destruct, the more I grew disheartened in a way. The album almost feels like a kaleidoscope of stuff. Things we already had before, but gracing us in newly spiffed splendor.
Mixing good material with more mediocre tracks. And then thrash and burn some down to boring levels does not necessarily help. That said, to serve blinding-hot thrashers over a record of almost 80 minutes to quench the trve metal thirst of the die-hard fan crowd would be a stretch for any eardrum. The variety of flavors on this disc thus makes sense.
Yet this kick in the gut that other records delivered is sorely missing. Now, the album still mostly errs on the good side of things. And this will earn them a somewhat reluctant 6/10 from this reviewer.
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