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Metallica - "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct" (CD)

Metallica - "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct" CD cover image

"Hardwired...To Self-Destruct" track listing:

Disc One:
1. Hardwired (see music video here)
2. Atlas, Rise!
3. Now That We’re Dead
4. Moth Into Flame
5. Am I Savage?
6. Halo On Fire

Disc Two:
1. Confusion
2. Dream No More
3. ManUNkind
4. Here Comes Revenge
5. Murder One
6. Spit Out The Bone

Reviewed by on November 22, 2016

"'Hardwired…to Self-Destruct' may not be the 'Master of Puppets' you want, but please don’t fall into the brilliantly unintelligent trap of believing an album isn’t good because you decided that making money in music dictates that it’s crap."

What to do….what to do. Every time the single most polarizing band in the history of heavy music releases anything the world collectively holds its breath. “Will they return to glory?” “Will it be just another nameless, faceless album like all the ones in recent memory?” Love Metallica or hate them, everything they do makes waves around the world in a blink of an eye. They are the JP Morgan Chase of metal – “too big to fail.” However, there has been a very dangerous element circulating around fans of music. Have we become so used to, so programmed, so “Hardwired…” to hate Metallica because they are so big and so mainstream that even when the band releases an album of quality material it is automatically cast aside with nary a listen.

Holding Metallica to a higher standard is one thing, but dismissing material outright due to the fact that a band can make money is well beyond an epidemic. “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct” may not be the “Master of Puppets” you want, but please don’t fall into the brilliantly unintelligent trap of believing an album isn’t good because you decided that making money in music dictates that it’s crap.

Despite my personal aversion to almost every album issued since the Black Album, save for “Death Magnetic” (which was met with ludicrous criticism despite being a solid album), I always held out a special hope that Metallica will once again create quality material. With “Death Magnetic” that hope was rewarded and on “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” the 25 year payoff has finally arrived. Right off the bat, I’ll address the internet warrior critics that hold Metallica to a standard that they can’t ever attain: no, this isn’t “Master of Puppets.” There will never ever be a “Master of Puppets” again. It’s time to put that pipe dream to bed. “Hardwired” isn’t just good because it’s so much better when compared to the drivel from the mid-90’s to the mid-00’s. It is good because the songwriting combines the precision of “Justice” and the Black Album sprinkled with added elements from ALL eras of Metallica…yes, including the thrash era.

It’s hard to start comparing eras of Metallica with other eras, because the band has evolved and de-evolved more times in the last 25 years than I can ever count. It is a challenge to not allow the past to influence the present when it comes to music. It’s inherent in everything we hear, hence the typical reactions: “Its not as good as the first,” or “It will never be as good as (insert album name).” It is also easy to fall into the typical nonsensical trap that even if the album is good, it will be hereby deemed horrible or mediocre because the band makes “a gazillion dollars.” To think for a number of years, I subscribed to that bullshit line of thinking. For the first time in as long as I can remember, Metallica has issued an album that means something more (and unencumbered by horrible production), taking nothing away from “Death Magnetic.”

Back in 1988, when “…And Justice For All” was issued, I remember hearing the song “Harvester of Sorrow.” It struck me because it was the first song I heard from Metallica that did those precise lines of tempo misdirection within a mid-paced song with a new element of smacking groove. Up to that point, I had only been entertained by that incredible misdirection on the band’s thrashier material. Apart from songs like “Dyer’s Eve” and “Blackened” it was the perfect complement of heavy and groove. It represented a re-defining sound for Metallica, which continued on songs like “Eye of the Beholder,” “Of Wolf And Man” and most especially on “Don’t Tread On Me,” “The Judas Kiss” and “The End of the Line.” That redefined sound was mostly lost in the releases from 1995-2003, but for a small smattering of songs. That returns in spades on “Hardwired.”

A non-disgruntled Metallica fan from any era will find something on this album to enjoy. The more thrashier numbers come via “Moth Into Flame,” “Spit Out the Bone” and the title track – which are gloriously some of the best Metallica songs ever. Smacking groove with elements from the “Load” and “ReLoad” days comes in the form of the deadly “Dream No More,” “ManUNkind” and “Murder One.” But all throughout is that “re-defined” sound of the late 80’s and early 90’s – misdirected melody littered with well-placed pauses, which is truly the Metallica niche for a much, much longer period of existence than the all-out thrash assault of the band’s youth. The perfect example comes via “Atlas, Arise” and “Confusion.”

There is also a real ode to classic metal that Metallica has promoted for as long as they’ve been around. In a long career of defining moments, the band has never come off so egotistical that they believe they invented everything. On songs like “Am I Savage” and “Dream No More” there is a prevailing Black Sabbath vibe. Lying underneath songs like “Now That We’re Dead,” you can hear the rock vibe of Budgie. Metallica always pays homage to influences.

Metallica will always be an incredibly polarizing band for reasons that are both legitimate and ludicrous. Sadly, we live in a world where albums are outwardly dismissed with either a cursory or zero listen and bands are judged solely on whether they are too large in mainstream society. If you want to hold Metallica to a different standard because after a real listen to new material you believe they are better than that, then fair enough. If you hold Metallica to a different standard because they make a “gazillion” dollars, you need to grow the hell up and re-prioritize your life.

“Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” is by far the best material the band has released post Black Album. To certain degree it is even better than the Black Album, due to a smattering of the good parts of those styles that came after. The album is highly recommended. Please don’t dismiss it outright based on reasons that have no real basis other than auto-programmed hate.

Highs: Incredible return to "Justice" and Black Album form with bits and pieces from all Metallica eras

Lows: Thrash era lovers might be disappointed that not more than half the album appeals.

Bottom line: Don't be so "Hardwired...to Hate Metallica" that you miss out on a truly good release.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)