New Metallica albums come around about as often as NASA attempting to landing robots on Mars or some far-off comet. So the fact that Hardwired To Self-Destruct, the first new album from Metallica since 2008’s Death Magnetic, is getting released tomorrow is a pretty big deal. Is it worth the wait? What have James, Lars, Kirk and Rob cooked up for us all after this time?
At this point, for a moment I’m going to abandon all pretense of impartiality in this review (as well as a few house style rules). Metallica are my favourite band, and probably always will be. I was desperate for this album to be a success and not be viewed as a disappointment. The news that it was going to be an 80-minute, double disc album only added to the nerves around this.
Therefore, the relief upon hearing the album’s title track was palpable; a three minute blast of thrash metal with a memorable main riff that marries some of the band’s early style with the Death Magnetic approach. James Hetfield sounds like the fire is back in his belly (more on Papa Het in a minute), and as a result it’s the best Metallica album opener since Enter Sandman. The album’s second single, Moth Into Flame, is almost everything one could want from a Metallica song in 2016; Multiple riffs that hit the spot, some great drumming (yes, really) from Lars, Kirk shredding like his life depends on it, Hetfield flexing his vocal muscles again and a stadium-sized chorus.
Each of the six songs on the first half of the album all stand very strongly on their own merits, and so it is not a surprise that the second disc doesn’t quite manage to continue the excellent standard of the first. Songs such as Confusion and Am I Savage are by no means ‘bad’, but the album probably would have benefited from them being left off in favour of streamlining (but Metallica have never been the best at self-editing, as most fans will know). The closing track Spit Out The Bone is, however, immensely enjoyable and aside from its stomping bridge section, is one of the fastest songs Metallica have ever released, which will satisfy some of the oldest fans.
Almost unquestionably, the standout performer throughout this album is James Hetfield. His vocals are on point at an amazingly strong level throughout, hitting and holding the high notes on Atlas, Rise and capturing the mood with his delivery perfectly on the doom-filled, Sabbath-esque Dream No More (“Cthulhu awaken!”). He captures an almost bluesy tone in places on Here Comes Revenge, while the aggression and fire from his delivery on Hardwired also returns in spades on the aforementioned Spit Out The Bone. His guitar work in tandem with Kirk Hammett also deserves praise as every song contains at least one riff that will get the head moving.
Is it a return to the sound of the first four albums? No, and if that is truly all you care about, then I’ve got news for you – that Metallica isn’t coming back. What Metallica have done with Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is, particularly on the first half of the album, to blend the styles that have seen them achieve so much success over the last 30 years in a really enjoyable way. I feel confident in saying that the large majority of Metallica fans will find Hardwired… To Self-Destruct very enjoyable. The Metallica family can breathe easy, eight years was not wasted. They’re back, and they’re as relevant as they ever have been. For that, we should all be very grateful.
Hardwired… To-Self Destruct will be released on the 18th of November through Blackened Recordings. Order the album from HMV here.