Album review: Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct
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It’s been eight insanely long years since the last full-length studio offering from heavy titans Metallica. Truly, the road to what would become Hardwired… to Self-Destruct has been a long and patience-wearing one for all involved. With ventures like the bizarre Through the Never (2013) film and the band starting (and stopping) their own festival called “Orion Music + More”, it seems that the Californian quartet has been doing everything bar making a record for the best part of the last decade. But, after years of build-up, Hardwired… is now mere days away and to make up for the long studio hiatus, this album is made up of almost eighty minutes of adrenaline-pumping rock. Opening with the thrashing title track ‘Hardwired’, the record truly picks up steam early, with open E-string guitar chugging from axe-wielders James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett as well as a flurry of punishing blast beats from Lars Ulrich. At roughly three minutes, ‘Hardwired’ is all-killer-no-filler, refusing to relent in its speed and aggression for even a second. It’s simple, primal thrash, adhering to the sub-genre’s most basic ideology of “shred first, ask questions never”. Follow-up ‘Atlas, Rise!’ maintains a small portion of its predecessor’s speed but, for the most part, is closer to mid-paced, setting the precedent for the rest of the record to follow. That’s right: Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is not a thrash album. Rather, it is a release that utilises the conventions of a number of heavy styles, from NWOBHM to melodic death metal to thrash to doom metal, all of which become apparent as the album proceeds. ‘Atlas…’ ditches the blast beats from ‘Hardwired’ but retains some of the open-string guitar-work, while also adding brilliantly melodic riffs during the chorus. On ‘Atlas…’ especially, there is a great synergy between the riffs and the vocal delivery from Hetfield, exemplified perfectly as his pre-chorus bark of ‘Die as you suffer in vain’ is complemented by a brilliantly harmonic guitar behind it. Furthermore, speaking of Hetfield’s vocals, they are doubtlessly at a peak right now. Metallica’s front-man lays out a near-flawless performance on Hardwired…, creating some truly empowering melodies over the course of the record’s two discs. From thrash-tinged shouts to soaring clean notes to even some pulse-pounding growls, Hetfield can do no wrong here. Moving on, ‘Now That We’re Dead’ takes the record on a stunning left turn, sounding closer to Metallica’s Load (1996) era than anything else the band has made since. The mid-pace remains, the blast beats are once again absent and the powerhouse shredding from Hammett and Hetfield now becomes more chord-based. While the similarity to the band’s ‘90s output is by no means overt (and is certainly not intended as a criticism), it’s doubtlessly the closest they have got to that sound since they adopted a more “raw” style on St. Anger (2003) and then the “pure, noisy thrash” approach on Death Magnetic (2008).
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