Album review: Hardwired…To Self-Destruct – Metallica

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I’ve pondered this review for a few days now. This is the first Metallica album I didn’t rush out to buy on the day of release! Let me start by saying that I love Metallica. I’ve been a fan ever since I purchased ‘Master of Puppets’ on cassette many years ago and have bought every album they’ve put out before that metal masterpiece and since. Ever since the infamous ‘Black album’, Metallica have had a few ups and downs. I loved ‘Load’…yep, you heard that right. I. Loved. ‘Load’. ‘Re-Load’, not so much. With the exception of a couple of tracks it sounded like a bunch of b-sides to me. ‘St Anger’ was a mess. The production was awful, the songs even more so and my disappointment was increased further with the release of “Death Magnetic’ – an album that confuses me still to this day. It’s like the band didn’t really know what to do with themselves. The production (again) was weak, far to clean sounding and Hetfield’s continued use of “ahhh” at the end of every word drove me insane. The less said about ‘The Unforgiven III’ the better. Truly one of the worst songs the band has ever recorded.

And so we arrive at ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ an album that is much improved and for me their best release since ‘Load’. It isn’t without its faults so let’s get them out-of-the-way. It is too long for a start. Two discs filled with songs around the seven minute mark is quite draining and though there are some great musical passages, a couple of songs drift off into nothing but self-indulgence. A more focused ten song single album would’ve worked much better in my opinion. A couple of the tracks are simply awful. ‘Now that we’re Dead’ being the worst offender. After two great opening tracks this track sounds really out-of-place and just doesn’t work for me at all. It sounds like something left-over from ‘Death Magnetic’. Similarly with ‘Murder One’ – a track I can’t seem to remember anything about…at all.

There are some great tracks that have taken me some time to truly appreciate. ‘Atlas, Rise!’, ‘Halo on Fire’ and ‘Dream No More’ after repeated listens I’ve found that I really dig them, particularly ‘Halo on Fire’ which builds and builds into an epic track. Disc 2 isn’t quite as cohesive as the first but there are some gems in the form of ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and the closing track ‘Spit Out the Bone’ which really gets the head moving. The production is much better on this album than the previous ‘Death Magnetic’. The guitars have more crunch and don’t sound as flat in the mix, Hammett in particular seems to have a renewed energy with his soloing. Hetfield’s voice is also much better and the bass work is as good as it needs to be, complimenting the guitars well. Lars’ drums are…as expected, average. I’ve always found him to be a very limited drummer that lacks imagination and although he keeps things tight, most of the drums sound very similar.

There is a great energy about the band with this album and though I don’t believe it will ever go down as a classic it is much improved over their recent output. I don’t think ‘Hardwired..to Self-Destruct’ will win over any new fans. It isn’t meant to. It could win back a few of the old ones who had perhaps lost faith in the metal behemoth that is Metallica.

4/5 stars

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