After a relentless touring cycle, a 3D movie, multiple festival appearances, and whatever ‘Lulu’ was supposed to be, heavy metal titans Metallica finally deliver their long-awaited tenth studio album.
With ‘Hardwired…’ the band have stripped back the riff-after-riff mentality that swamped ‘Death Magnetic’ for a less is more approach. This is leaner. Meaner. With more direction and less distractions. Eccentricities are dialled back. It’s less random. Emphasising more control, Ulrich and Hetfield write songs that choose a path and follow it.
With that self-imposed sense of self-control in mind then, the decision to make this release a supersized double disc LP is a curious one.
Disc one contains the strongest material. ‘Hardwired’ smashes you in the face from the get-go. ‘Moth Into Flame’ is the best Metallica single in decades. And with its soaring chorus, ‘Atlas, Rise!’ also hits hard, although its similarities to Iron Maiden are jarring at first. Between chugging guitars, nightmarish imagery and a Cthulhu cameo, the twisted ‘Dream No More’ is another hit. ‘Halo On Fire’ is a less intense journey, but none-less impressive, ending a super strong first half in grand fashion.
In comparison, disc two struggles. There are decent riffs, but songs feel much longer than they are. Which is saying something. ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Am I Savage?’ in particular feel like filler. A stronger outside influence should have kept these songs in the studio. Thankfully, album closer ‘Spit Out The Bone’ shows up and saves the disc. This is a savage finale. Sounding every bit as raw as the ‘Kill ‘Em All’ days. Seriously. This thrashes harder than they have in forever.
Was this worth the wait then? Absolutely.
A pissed off again James Hetfield spits and snarls his way throughout. Rob Trujillo puts in a good shift, sharing a song writing credit with the bass-heavy ‘ManUNkind’. And despite taking a backseat in the song writing process, Kirk Hammett’s solos are still pure fire, shredding with a freedom and confidence that has been missing for a while. Even the Internet’s favourite punching bag Lars Ulrich silences some haters here. Every band member shines and everything sounds great, thanks in part to engineer-turned-producer Greg Fidelman ditching the loudness war that plagued ‘Death Magnetic’.
For better or worse, Metallica are a band that have always attempted to challenge their limitations. Yes, it’s too long. Yes, it’s top heavy. But ‘Hardwired…’ has some fucking brilliant songs on it.
‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ by Metallica is released on November 18th on Blackened Recordings.
Words by Joe Philpott (@joe_philpott