Metallica fans in general are not a very forgiving bunch. Understandably so as the iconic band has produced some of the most genre-defining records in their over 4-decade reign as metal royalty. Whether by default or by circumstance, their fans have set ridiculously high expectations for them. While lesser bands would’ve crumbled under the weight of such challenge, Metallica has welcomed it, embraced it even; albeit with mixed results.
In a musical landscape that’s rapidly changing, 8 years between records is unthinkable—especially when musical relevance is to be considered. But not to Metallica. They’ve certainly earned the right to take their time and work at their own pace. Reasonable if you ask me as it’s better to release a deliberate, well-thought out album than going at it half-assed in blazing speed just so they can release a record every few years or so.
‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’ is Metallica’s 10th studio album and a follow up to ‘Death Magnetic’, the widely regarded successful return to form of the band that for most die-hard fans, has lost its way in the 90’s and early 2000s. Composed of 12 songs and clocking in at a monstrous 77 minutes, this album is a long-winded response to that success and dare I say has built and improved on it. If you’ve listened to the 3 singles so far (‘Hardwired’, ‘Moth Into Flame’ and ‘Atlas Rise’), you’ll be treated to some of their best works in years.
The single opener ‘Hardwired’, is an uncharacteristically short grab-you-by-the-collar offering (the average track in this album is 6 minutes) that harkens back to their early thrash era roots with its razor sharp riffs and James Hetfileds frenetic barking. The second single ‘Moth Into Flame’ is perhaps my favorite track because it’s the most forward-thinking offering in this album with its progressive guitar riffs and face-melting solos. It sounds distinctly Metallica but doesn’t sound dated is all I’m saying. ‘Atlas Rise’ on the other hand, is the most ambitious of the three singles because of its rousing chorus and inspirational instrumentation.
The rest of the album is a hodgepodge cacophony of killers and fillers. I don’t wanna dwell too much on each single as the album is better judged when assessed in its entirety—by the sum of its parts. It is an unrelenting record that doesn’t let up from start to finish and just when you thought that you’ve had enough of its frantic, ear-shattering 70+ musical ride, the album closes with a bang via the ultra-heavy, post-apocalyptic thunderous anthem in ‘Spit Out the Bone’. It is a satisfying ending to an already ruthless musical journey across space and time.
‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’ is a bridge between the old and the new, between the die-hard fans and the disillusioned ones. It sounds familiar but it interjects some progressive elements seamlessly and in a more organic manner. It might not become as iconic as the pre-Black albums but ‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’ will undoubtedly propel the band to a new, much more contemporary and realistic heights.