METALLICA - Your First Look At Hardwired...To Self-Destruct
November 3, 2016, a year ago
The world’s biggest rock band is about to get bigger on November 18th, when Metallica's Hardwired...To Self-Destruct is unleashed in the east, west, north and south! BraveWords was invited to an exclusive listening session recently, but keep in mind this was a quick first impression, which they say always lasts the longest. So stay tuned for a more thorough synopsis of the album in the coming days once we soak in multiple spins.
But notice that I stamped them rock. Of course they are metal to the core, but they’ve truly risen to a level akin to U2, Guns N’ Roses or a Rolling Stones. But bigger. Metallica resonates with the widest of demographics. All shapes, sizes, ages, colours and cultures. Especially the “broken, beaten and scarred.” It’s a beautiful day.
And I only dwell on it because I was one of the few kids that believed early on, when the term thrash metal was a frightening prospect. So I’m proud to say that I’ve been part of the club since import copies of Kill ‘Em All arrived in North America in 1983. So here we stand 33 years later with studio album #11 looming in the wings. Thus far we’ve been introduced to three songs, the punishing “Hardwired,” “Moth Into Flame” and this week’s “Atlas, Rise!.”
And I gotta say, the first track we heard and the intro to the album, “Hardwired,” is one of the finest slabs of speed metal the band have ever spewed from the garage! So what else is on offer? Of note, each member is firing on all cylinders. I’m not sure if James Hetfield’s mastery of the mic has ever shone brighter. And Lars… the man is a monster around the skins, each song marching to his pinpoint beat. And both shine on “Now That We’re Dead,” a great stadium rock tune with a whole lotta NWOBHM love. “Atlas, Rise!” is a more disciplined and traditional Metallica tune with that old school chorus line, along with a bit of Maiden’s classic dual axe influence. “Dream No More” features a dark and dirty intro, and alas it’s another lengthy beast with Hetfield’s menacing voice raging on. The song emerges as one of the stand-out tracks on the record, leaning to such glorious inspirations as “Sad But True” and “The Thing That Should Not Be.” I’ll take Metallica in 2016 any day if it sounds like this!
“Halo on Fire” is the longest track on the record, clocking in at over eight minutes. Hammett and Hetfield’s dual intro carries the tune into an acoustic flurry, then transitioning into a speedy outro. But this is where tediousness sets in. Where, you might begin asking, is the near perfection of the band’s first five albums? And also keeping in mind 2008’s Death Magnetic was no slouch, albeit contrived. Maybe not to the point that Iron Maiden’s The Book Of Souls needed a scissor job, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct does require edits at points—its 88-minute girth could have been pared back to an hour. Moving along,“Confusion” shines a light back onto Britain with a heavy duty “Am I Evil” influence, with the lyrics “All sanity is beyond me,” not being the first time mental health is referenced on the album.
“ManUNkind” is introduced by Robert Trujillo and is punchy and full of force with a definite Sabbath vibe (Sabotage era!). But yet again, this is one of six tracks that time in at nearly seven minutes! “Here Comes Revenge” continues the theme at over seven minutes with Hetfield holding the reigns as the stallion is kept at bay, offering more varied rifferama sure to prod fans globally into gleeful air-guitar mode. “Am I Savage?” is more simplified Metallica, slithering along and ready to strike, although truly it never does.
“Murder One” is a shorter tale about the man in black, the late Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. “Aces wild, aces high, aces until you die,” makes for an emotional tribute as the band (like all of us) were hit so hard by his loss. “Daylights fading, the iron horse rolls on and on”... this rhythm-heavy track is Jack Daniels soaked in Motörhead song references. The song closes with an addictive solo and, quite fittingly in honour of deceased drummer Philthy Animal Taylor, an “Overkill”-esque outro!
“Spit Out The Bone” is the final track on the album and we exit as fast as we entered, with a nod to “Metal Militia” and “Damage Inc.,” this one featuring pounding drums, those ever-urgent riffs and Hetfield spitting blood! Trujillo jumps into the fire again at the three-minute mark with a memorable spot of Cliff Burton-style bass reverb. This is thrashing genius from one of the originators.
When the album ends I feel the need for fresh air, my head is dizzy and my senses are overwhelmed. And despite its lengthy downfalls, the record took me back to another era, sitting in the parking lot of Warner Music in Toronto in 1991 with my M.E.A.T accomplice Drew Masters cranking the advance cassette version of the black album weeks before its release. I could barely walk from the car. That was 25 years ago. Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is Metallica’s strongest album since.