ROCKET REVIEW: METALLICA – “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” (2 CD)

TMD Rocks!

American thrash metal giants METALLICA have returned in 2016 with a new double studio album entitled “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” and while many critics have already begun to hail it as the band’s best release in 25 years, I’m not so sure I totally agree with them. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, this collection of heavy rockers is no doubt filled with some cool musical moments but for me there is a lot of time that lags or where the songs start to sound alike, becoming rather redundant… and frankly, some of the tunes are trying too hard to be epic and really fall flat. As the story goes, lead vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich did all of the main songwriting (except bassist Robert Trujillo’s co-written credit on “ManUNkind”) due to the fact that lead guitarist Kirk Hammett lost 250 riffs he had recorded on his cell phone. This is the very first time since he joined the band in 1983 that Hammett has not contributed anything other than his solos. Let me be the first to say that his ‘lead’ moments are totally boring and predictable on this record, arguably the most forgettable of his career.

The opening song is the title track. While it certainly cooks and is by far the best out of them all, for me everything pretty much goes down hill from here. Where 2008’s ‘Death Magnetic’ album was more raw and explosive, ‘Hardwired’ sounds like a much more progressive rock album than an all out thrash assault. Produced by Greg Fidelman, along with band’s legendary founding members, Hetfield and Ulrich. The good news is they didn’t do anything stupid to Lars’ drums sound like when they turned the snare off on ‘St. Anger’ and the ‘compression’ itself seems to be on point so there will not be a problem with ‘clipping’. The following cuts “Atlas, Rise”, “Now That We’re Dead” and “Moth Into Flame” are slightly better than average head banger’s at best. Nothing that will put you to sleep or make you want to skip to the next track… but nothing that leaves you blown away or makes you want to listen to it again and again. Their brand of music by now seems almost too familiar and simplistic. I hate to say it but it now looks like they could have seriously used Hammett’s writing input. Somewhere a homeless guy who recovered Kirk’s phone is digging what this album could have sounded like.

The other perplexing thing for me is that as damn talented as former SUICIDAL TENDENCIES bassist Robert Trujillo is, his fantastic finger picking chops are nowhere to be heard on this album, in terms of ‘technical fills’ or any kind of extended solo or even a killer intro… which this album desperately needed to give it more dynamic bottom-end layering. Up next are “Dream No More”, “Halo On Fire” and “Confusion”, and I could swear they altered James’ pitch dramatically on the middle of the three, because I know for a a fact he cannot sing in that high range any longer. Just watch any recent performance of the band performing live on YouTube. The next two tunes are the stronger “ManUNkind” and “Here Comes Revenge”.

Track 10’s “Am I Savage?” proves my point on how tired the songwriting has become, and although it is not a clunker at all, this song is not a classic by any stretch of the imagination like the similarly titled “Am I Evil?” off their truly epic debut record entitled ‘Kill Em All’. A lot of the song sounds more like an improvisational jam session with James annoyingly singing “Ooohhh” over and over again. Whereas this band was once dangerous, I am afraid all these years later they have morphed into nothing more than a group of fifty year old millionaire rock stars with truly nothing left to say. I was really expecting some depth in the songwriting, more intensity, and darkness in the lyrics, but James doesn’t seem interested in that kind of challenge, instead he is clearly more into playing it safe. Sure he tackles a little political subject matter, but overall, the lyrics are nothing special or terribly intriguing. The album really doesn’t say very much to me at all. Okay, you don’t have much faith in mankind, we get it. Who does? It is a very dangerous time we live in and I think it’s safe to say we are all on edge.

The album concludes with two of the stronger tracks, “Murder One” (A tribute to the late great Lemmy) and “Spit Out The Bone”, but a little too late to try and pull this one out from the mediocre bin. Since it took 8 years to record between their last album, we can expect Lars and James not to be back until they are in their 60’s… will they even attempt to release another album or is this possibly the last one in their truly historic rock music career? If it is, it’s not at all ending on a sour note, it’s just that a longtime fan like me can’t help but imagine how much better it could have been.

Three and a half
“Hardwired… To Self Destruct” (2-CD)

(Blackened Recordings/2016)

1. Hardwired
2. Atlas, Rise!
3. Now That We’re Dead
4. Moth Into Flame
5. Dream No More
6. Halo On Fire
7. Confusion
8. ManUNkind
9. Here Comes Revenge
10. Am I Savage?
11. Murder One
12. Spit Out The Bone

Leave a Reply