Ladies and gentlemen, the eight year wait for a new Metallica album is almost over. Hardwired…To Self-Destruct will be hitting stores on November 18th via Blackened Recordings, and although it took 2989 days to get here, the heavy metal icons are about to release their best record in over twenty years. As a die-hard Metallica fan, with each new single they released, my excitement level for the new record got higher and higher, and now that I’ve had a chance to sit down and fully dive into the new material, I’m completely blown away. Hardwired…To Self Destruct is a celebration of their influences, their previous albums, and their evolution as a band. While seemed to take forever to get here, this eighty minute double album delivers unlike any of their records since The Black Album.
Just like the rest of the world, the first taste of the new material I heard was the ‘Hardwired’ single, and it sets the tone for the first disc perfectly. The riffs are compact, tight, and to the point, and holy hell, James Hetfield is pissed off again. We haven’t heard this rage in his voice in years, and with everything going on in the world today, the lyrics “We’re so fucked, shit outta luck, hardwired to self-destruct” seem more relevant than the band could have ever imagined when they wrote it. Just like everyone else, I was shocked and amazed when I first heard this song, but this is only one track, yet the attack continues into ‘Atlas, Rise!’ With an obvious nod to the new wave of British heavy metal in the chorus, this track features an onslaught of riffs that any old school fan can raise their horns to. The rawness of this song really stands out to me, as the guitar work sounds almost dirty at times, but it’s cleaned up by everything else going around it. It’s definitely a track that I love more and more with each listen, because when you really sit down and listen to all the moving parts, it’s over six minutes of classic heavy metal from one of the greatest to ever play it.
‘Now That We’re Dead’ follows up the riffage on ‘Atlas, Rise!’ with a crunchy groove that will have you headbanging from start to finish. This is a track that could easily come from their Load and Reload days, but it has a certain rhythm that reminds you of the Garage Days as well. Lars Ulrich truly shines on this track, and while the thrash isn’t very present in this song, it could easily be added into the set list, because I can only imagine how huge it would sound in an arena. We’ve already heard how ‘Moth Into Flame’ sounds live, but I can’t say enough about this song. The heavy riffs, the catchy chorus, the unorthodox solo, it really has it all. This is, not only one of my favorite songs on the record, but one of my favorite Metallica songs ever. It’s an instant classic, and one of the brightest moments on the album.
The first disc closes out ends with ‘Dream No More’ and ‘Halo On Fire’, which are both stellar tracks in their own right. ‘Dream No More’ is very reminiscent of their classic, ‘Sad But True,’ but also has a very Alice In Chains vibe as well. It features one of Kirk Hammett‘s best solos on the album, and one of the heaviest moments two minutes in. The riff is simple, yet so heavy, and helps transition the verse and chorus sections perfectly. As record flows on into ‘Halo On Fire,’ the clean element returns with an ominous verse, but the heaviness comes back with one of the best choruses on the album. As you’ll hear on the whole record, Hetfield’s voice sounds stronger than it has in years, and the guitar harmonies that ride out the song are just brilliant. It’s the longest song on the album, but it’s okay, because it features some of their best songwriting.
As the first disc ends, you realize that it’ll be hard to top those first six songs. They really brought it out of the gate, and after you hear the second disc, you wonder if the track listing could have been more varied. The second disc is very strong, but some songs seem to get lost with the power of the others surrounding them. That is not the case with the opener ‘Confusion’ though. Lars showcases a mighty drum attack behind the crunchy riffs, and although it has a ‘Holier Than Thou’ feel, it’s their attitude and confidence that carry the weight in the song. Once again James’ vocals shine on the track, and Kirk delivers yet another solo that reminds you why he is considered one of the best on the planet. ‘ManUNkind’ follows ‘Confusion’ well, although the atmosphere of the sound is repetitive at times. The heavy, bluesy riff is evident throughout the track, and while it’s cool to hear Robert Trujillo shine, there is something missing that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe I just have to listen to it more, but it didn’t grab me as much as the previous songs, but thankfully it’s followed by one of my favorites. ‘Here Comes Revenge’ is an evil, atmospheric track that features some of the best parts on the record. The main riff is just killer, and it flows into the slow verse and the heavy chorus brilliantly. Once again Lars is playing at a level we haven’t heard him at in years, and it features another simple, yet necessary and smart solo from Mr. Hammett. If they play this live, it’s simply going to pummel everyone in attendance.
After that high, we head into the two tracks that most fans are having issues with. It’s not that they are bad songs, but there’s a feeling that something more could have been done on ‘Am I Savage?’ and ‘Murder One.’ While the tracks feature great riffs and memorable lyrics, the tone is very set in stone, and lacks that certain “holy shit” factor that the rest of the tracks on the new record have. Especially with ‘Murder One’ being their tribute to Lemmy, I was expecting a pure rock ‘n’ roll classic or an emotional ballad, and even though it’s neither of those, it has it’s power, but nothing like the power of the last track. ‘Spit Out the Bone’ closes the record, and is easily the heaviest masterpiece on the record, and the one with the biggest “holy shit” factor. Just as the record seems to somewhat slow down, they end it with a furious and relentless track that could easily come from the Kill ‘Em All days. The riffs are insanely quick, the bass is thundering, Lars is somehow nineteen years-old again, Kirk’s solo is as classic as it gets, and it’s all captured in seven minutes. While that may seem long for a thrash song, it’s not. Hell, I would love to hear a thirty-minute version of this track. It’s pissed. It’s heavy. It’s one of the best closing tracks they’ve ever written.
So is Hardwired…To Self-Destruct worth the eight year wait? HELL YES. Metallica has proven, once again, why they are one of the biggest bands in the world with this new record, and they’ve done it in an all-encompassing way. No matter which decade you got into Metallica, there is something on this record for you. As I said before, the vocal performance by James is exceptional, Lars has returned to excellent form, Robert is a constant and smartly executed presence, and Kirk shines like he hasn’t done in many, many years. The guys are back to having fun, and writing the music they love, and you can hear it with each song. While some tracks are better than others, this is still, undeniably, the best Metallica album in twenty five years. Get it.