Album review – Metallica – Hardwired… To Self Destruct
By ANDREW McKAYSMITH
METALLICA are one of only a handful of bands where objectively reviewing a new album is near impossible. Straining against the legacy of albums that not only defined a genre … Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets are essentially two of the most continuously influential albums in recorded music history.
I’ll get what many of you will want to know out of the way first up- Is the new album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct any good? Yes it is. As in it’s easily their best since “Black”. At times it’s seriously good and raises the ghost of past glories. But there’s also some serious flaws…
So what works well? The opening quintet of songs are absolute bangers. The kind of songs you just knew that they had in them for so long. “Dream No More” is the standout, its early days yet this track could enter the pantheon of ‘tallica’s top 10. Just about everything works well on these songs and I found myself unconsciously nodding along and smiling- the arrangements, Kirk’s solos, Robert’s (barely audible but definitely there) bass runs, James’ vocal cadence and most importantly great heavy metal riffs… it’s all there. Of the remainder of the album the same could almost be said for “Here Comes Revenge” and “Spit Out the Bone”.
What doesn’t work well? Lars’ drums are yet again far too high in the mix. At times the bass drum sounds like a cardboard box (e.g.: “Now That We’re Dead”) and the snare often cackles like some insane cartoon witch. The intro to “Confusion” is almost certainly written to accommodate Lars’ penchant for overtly simplistic rhythmic patterns and the riffs in “Murder One” are cruelled for the same reason. I kept thinking that if Chris Adler could do for Metallica what he did for Megadeth…. What an album we would be listening to.
Enough about Lars, and in spite of what you have just read, there are genuinely no “weak” songs in the album. There are peaks in each but no real valleys that bottom out to canyons- and sonically it sounds as though it has more in common with Garage Inc than anything else in their catalogue. Passages in some of the tracks sound as though they could have been written by any of their NWOBHM hero’s- “ManUNkind” is the best example of this.
The deluxe version contains 12 tracks proper that are followed by well over a dozen bonus tracks comprising of covers, live tracks and a re-arranged “Lords of Summer”. This is the version most of you will have access to via the plethora of streaming services out there