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Review: ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ – Metallica

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In light of all the animosity and hostility that has sprung up around campus, sometimes people just need to sit down with some nice, light listening material and enjoy some gentle strums on the guitar. You know, from a band like Metallica.

That’s right, the California-based heavy metal quartet has returned with its 10th studio album, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, just in time to give America the much needed breath of fresh angst it needs in these turbulent times.

Blackened Recordings

Blackened Recordings

The double album is Metallica’s first in eight years, following up 2008’s Death Magnetic. While that album was billed as a “return to form” following 2003’s disastrous St. Anger (feel free to look up a YouTube video of drummer Lars Ulrich’s awful snare sounds from that record if you are in need of a good laugh), Hardwired does not have much of a narrative around it. The band isn’t attempting to reinvent themselves or push an innovative concept. And that’s okay.

As a whole, the album is not particularly mind blowing. If you’ve heard a Metallica record before then you know what to expect. But that does not change the fact that Metallica is pretty fucking good.

The band wastes no time in reminding you who they are. Right out of the gate listeners are treated to the militant roll of Ulrich’s drums, chugging guitar riffs from James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, as well as the kind of thrilling solos the band has become known for. It is nothing revolutionary, but it scratches an itch that few other bands can reach.

The album’s first half is home to three of the band’s best written songs since the 1980s — album opener ‘Hardwired,’ the exceptionally catchy ‘Atlas, Rise!’ and ‘Moth Into Flame.’

‘Atlas, Rise!’ will likely be the album’s longest enduring song, as its punchy riff and indisputably memorable chorus blend well with Hammett’s shredding solo that takes the song over the top.

But unfortunately for Metallica, the album’s bloated runtime and lack of real standout tracks make this whole thing run a bit too long. Too many songs adhere strictly to the trademark formula and the album’s second half definitely begins to drag.

Furthermore, Hetfield and Hammett have regularly tried to cover up the fact that Ulrich is a sub-par drummer with inventive song structures. But considering that Hammett has no songwriting credits here for the first time in his career with Metallica, it seems that Ulrich was more susceptible to moving out of step with the band such as on ‘ManUNkind,’ a clunky lowpoint on the album.

Furthermore, to say that Hardwired has three of Metallica’s best written songs since the 80s isn’t much of a compliment considering the band hasn’t written an all-time great tune probably since ‘Enter Sandman’ from 1991’s self-titled record, affectionately known as The Black Album.

Still, Hardwired is far from the embarrassment that St. Anger was. The album is littered with solid tracks and finishes strong with the vicious and violent zeal of ‘Spit Out The Bone,’ a testament to the band’s metal creds. It feels like a largely uninspired Metallica record, packed predominantly with telegraphed blows rather than mind boggling shreds, but if Metallica does it for you, then give the album a spin. Not many bands can put it down like these middle-aged thrashers.

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