Grae Reviews: Metallica — Hardwired… To Self Destruct (Part 1)
Intro & Disc 1
Eight years on from Death Magnetic, Metallica have released their follow up album. The mammoth 2 disc project known as Hardwired… To Self Destruct. Seeing the state the band was in during the Some Kind of Monster documentary, it’s amazing to many that the band is not only still making music, but is still able to retain relevance as one of the biggest bands of all time in the face of an ever changing music scene. Death Magnetic was regarded as a giant leap in the right direction for a band that had seemed to be losing its edge with the Load/Reload era and the giant swing and a miss that was St Anger. Death Magnetic was unashamedly a blast from the past, the band looking back to carve their place in the future. A task absolutely aided by veteran producer Rick Rubin. With Metallica deciding to go it alone this time, and with their well documented want to evolve rather than risk getting stuck in a rut, how would the band manage to follow on from Death Magnetic without alienating fans who had been presented with a glimmer of hope that the legends may be back to what they do best? Lets find out!
Track 1 — Hardwired
Opening with unabashed thrash has always been a Metallica staple and this album is no exception. What’s new here is how concentrated this version of the thrashy opener is. Clocking in at 3:10 it is the shortest song Metallica has ever committed to record. The band have in their later years have been dubiously known for squeezing every inch of padding into a song that they can get away with, but this song is the exact opposite, gets everything in that it needs to, makes its point and doesnt out stay its welcome. James & Lars have pointed out that this was the final song written for the album and as we progress through this review, that’ll become more and more clear. This gets a thumbs up from me though.
Track 2 — Atlas, Rise!
This album represents a grand return for the Hetfield/Ulrich writing team, these two being solely responsible for all bar 1 song on the album. Rob Trujillo contributed to ManUNkind on disc 2 while Kirk’s contributions for the album were saved on a phone that he misplaced on tour and therefore was unable to add anything other than solo’s to the album. I bring this up here because it’s clear that James & Lars want to draw influence from their idols and their own legacy in the writing style. This song in particular screams Iron Maiden with the guitar harmonies in the chorus and bridge. Clocking in at 6:29 we’re back in familiar Metallica territory, meaning that the song has multiple points where it could have started or ended but if the song is strong enough to withstand that padding then it’ll get the thumbs up from me and that is the case here, in spite of the ending which definitely drags on too long.
Track 3 — Now That We’re Dead
The tempo comes down for this one and the chugging riff becomes the centre of attention once again. Which is probably for the best as this song presents the first dip in what is otherwise a quality lyrical contribution from James. Metallica (with the exception of Nothing Else Matters) doesnt really do sentimental too well and this is a shining example. Kirk’s solo on the other hand gets the chance to take centre stage and it definitely manages that. Thats not enough to give this song a thumbs up but its not bad enough to get the thumbs down either despite some more padding (especially the riff following the solo). Thumbs in the middle.
Track 4 — Moth Into Flame
In the build up to the albums release I reviewed the three tracks that were used to tease the album (this, Hardwired & Atlas Rise). I wish to make a correction to that review as I thought that this song was about internet fame, turns out (as James said in an interview) that the song was mostly inspired by the Amy Winehouse documentary. My thoughts havent changed much. In the context of the rest of the album, the song is padded a bit towards the end but nowhere near the extent of some of the others and Moth Into Flame is still in the running to be my favourite song from the album (I’m listening to album while I write this review and while I finished writing the one for this track pretty quickly, I refuse to skip to the next track, that’s how much I love this song!). Thumbs completely up.
Track 5 — Dream No More
A.K.A. The Thing That Should Not Be II. Long time Metallica fans will be amazed to see Lovecraftian influence return to a Metallica album. Cthulu (or as the band commonly spells it Ktulu) takes centre stage for it’s 3rd outing with Metallica. Harmonies return once again but this time its behind the mics rather than on the guitar. This song is drawn out but at least in this case the subject matter justifies it. Kirk is sadly near invisible on this track but the performance is otherwise solid and does just about enough to get the thumbs up from me.
Track 6 — Halo On Fire
Welcome to the Black Album homage! The intro gives the impression of a fist in the air style arena anthem before dipping down and turning into a Fade to Black/One style ballard. Those let down by the change in tone will enjoy the chorus though and this is by far the most sing-along friendly of the songs we’ve heard so far. This is the longest song on the album, giving Garage Inc’s Mercyful Fate medley a run for its money at 8:16 and while it doesnt do enough to justify that length in my opinion, it’s good points are good enough for a thumbs up.
In part 2 of this review I’ll look at Disc 2 and give some closing thoughts on the album as a whole.