Hardwired... To Self Destruct - Metallica
By Benjamin Irons
Steadiness and enthusiasm have always been brought to the fore when Metallica head into the studio; never fraying from traditional thrash metal roots, never submitting to major-label demands and, more importantly, always going at their own pace – no matter the trend. Couple towering expectations from the bands’ plethora of singles post Death Magnetic (2008), along with their 30-year establishment as veterans among metals elites, and you get an album that need not be approached anxiously or with uncertainty. Though, if you apply “expectation as the root of all disappointment” to the band’s now tenth, heavily teased studio entry Hardwired… To Self Destruct, you may come away having actualised just that. And while it may be a departure from the blunderous ReLoad (1997) or 2003’s St. Anger, it’s subsequently an indifferent exploration of their 2008 full-length.
Album art direction by Herring & Herring; a collaboration between renowned international fashion photographers Dimitri Scheblanov and Jesper Carlsen.
Howbeit, the first of the album’s two parts reeks of adrenaline in every aspect of the instrumentation – a feature of their style that has adorned nigh on every record in their lengthy discography. Opener “Hardwired” is thus the meat and potatoes of Metallica’s accustomed thrash-metal persona; a continuation of their conventional breed of rattling snares and destructive riffs; a resurgence of their “stick-it- to-the- man” tendencies. Followers “Atlas, Rise!” and “Now That We’re Dead” even channel much the same knee-jerk lyricism that decorated most of the subject matter on 1988’s …And Justice For All of a society in mutiny, seemingly in disrepair - and with the results of the US presidential election coming just days after the record’s release, these matters at hand become terribly credible. But even with pace lost, “Dream No More” chugs along at a “Sad But True” pace and explores that corporate metal sound that gave The Black Album (1991) its critical acclaim. Side 2 enters in a typical mid-paced fashion, weaving bluesy-metal licks and pounding percussion on “Confusion”, but is quickly driven off the beaten path by its funkier successor “ManUNkind”, which, although doesn’t pertain to the band’s conventional caffeine rush of metal ferocity, is one of the more standout tracks on the album. But, despite the 7-minute footslog endured on “Here Comes Revenge” that moreover appears to drag the tempo of the album considerably, culminating track “Spit Out The Bone” rejuvenates that early 80’s Metallica haste that has – disappointingly – only presented itself periodically throughout the records hum drum 77-minute run-time.
With years to their name, and acclaimed records conceivably a thing of the past, keeping the pace was never going to be easy. Where St. Anger seemed to get lost in translation with fans and critics alike, and arguably marked the band’s departure from the studio setting, at least Death Magnetic silenced critics that weighed their history against them by being able to stand on its own as a brilliant record. And although Hardwired… did give listeners glimpses of the Metallica we’ve known to associate with, it never quite appealed more than just another blasé Death Magnetic spinoff. With that said, it’s easy to see why this record may not appeal to fans of the band, let alone metal fans in general.