Metallica strikes back with Hardwired… To Self Destruct (hereafter simply referred to as Hardwired), their first full-length studio album of original material in eight years. Headbangers around the globe have been eagerly awaiting new material from the group, and the initial tracks from this release that were streamed via the Internet certainly got them excited.
In terms of personnel, nothing has changed in the Metallica camp; we still have vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo, the latter of whom certainly does not feel like the new kid on the block any longer.
Following Cliff Burton’s passing in 1986, Metallica tended to veer away from their thrash metal roots and head in more mainstream directions musically. Some would argue that this has been a “hit and miss” era for the band as a result, but none can deny their sheer popularity and worldwide record sales. Sure, there have been some tragic missteps, including the underproduced and underwhelming nu-metal of St. Anger, and Lulu, a collaboration with the late Lou Reed that may very well be the single worst thing ever created by the human race. But the post-Burton Metallica has still given us some gems, including the self-titled “Black Album” from 1991, and more recently, a fantastic return to form in 2008 with Death Magnetic. Even the oft-maligned Load and Re-Load still had their share of excellent tracks.
We have been waiting eight years for a new Metallica record. Is Hardwired one of the hits, or one of the misses in their often scattershot discography?
Rest assured, their new album kicks ass and rocks hard.
Hardwired does not really give the listener any surprises, or anything completely unexpected. It is just an album of “Metallica being Metallica,” and for most fans, that is going to be just fine. If you are looking to get the horrid taste of Lulu out of your mouth, Hardwired is the proverbial mouthwash you have been seeking.
I would not quite call this a return to a “thrash” sound with the exception of a few cuts, but it is straightforward, balls-to-the-wall hard rock as only these aging heavy metal superstars could bring to the masses. Of course, I use the word “aging” quite loosely; these guys still rock hard and heavy, and only contribute to the old adage that age is just a number. The album is nowhere near as good as Death Magnetic; an instant classic that more or less redeemed the band after the horrid St. Anger, and stood as their best post-80s effort. But even a merely “good” Metallica record is still better than most artists’ “great” albums.
The sound quality is still quite raw and underproduced (why do these guys seem insistent on sounding this way?) Many of the songs are still way longer than they need to be. But at least this time, the band comes out swinging and takes no prisoners. If you call yourself a Metallica fan, the record will make for a good addition to your collection. Even if you are a disenfranchised fan who is questionable about the band these days, I would still recommend giving it a listen. It may be the release that wins you back over.
The album is broken into two discs with six tracks on each, for a total of twelve songs (no idea why they did this; the songs all would have fit on one disc). A Deluxe Edition of three discs is also available, the third disc of which features the non-album cut “Lords of Summer,” some cover songs done for tribute albums (though the cover of The Ramones “53rd and 3rd” is sadly MIA), and some newly recorded live songs. Many stores are offering the three-disc version for a steal of a deal, so be sure to get that version. The extra material here more than justifies the purchase.
Sure, we had another long ass wait between Metallica records. But this is a band that can still deliver, even with the members in their 50s. The material on Hardwired is not the band’s best, but it definitely satisfies and is a worthy addition to the collection of any fan. Recommended.