Album Review: Hardwired… to Self-Destruct: Metallica’s Swan Song?

With Metallica releasing their 10th studio album in 33 years, it begs the question, is this the last album we are going to be seeing from the iconic metal band?

The album starts off fast and hard with the lead single and title track Hardwired, which takes listeners back to 1983, the year that they released their debut album Kill ‘Em All. Only 3:11 in length, this is the second shortest song they have ever written. This only furthers comparison between Hardwired! and the group’s debut album, as it was full of short, thrashing, double bass-kicking and fast solos – this sound is recreated in Hardwired.

After Hardwired the album takes on a sound somewhere in between Death Magnetic and their eponymous album Metallica, an album that was certified 16 x platinum in 2012. It’s an interesting line to walk, because, although commercially successful and critically acclaimed, many fans accused them of selling out on Metallica, a sentiment that still exists to this day. In fact many marked it as the start of Metallica’s decline. Their next two albums, Load and Reload, although commercially successful, were not considered by many to even be metal. When Death Magnetic was released in 2008 it was finally a step in the right direction, and metal fans were once again hopeful. That’s why in this album they have kept that sound, speed and intensity going in songs like Atlas, Rise! whilst keeping a few slow ballads like Am I savage? in the album in order to capture the sound that was so popular in the main stream.

Despite this being the 10th album, lead singer James Hetfield still manages to include some new dimensions in his lyrics. In the albums second single Moth Into Flame, Hetfield pays respect to the late Amy Winehouse. He was inspired after watching the documentary Amy, and said in an interview with Guitar World, that it made himsad that a talented person like that fell for the fame part of it. But, to some degree I see that mentality reflected in daily lives – people obsessively taking selfies and sending them to friends for validation.” Although it is nothing new for a metal band to criticise society, this sort of reflection has not been as prevalent in their previous work. These poignant lyrics show his growth and maturity.

On disc 2 of the album (this is the first multi disc studio album Metallica has ever done) elements of Ride the Lightning, the album that many say established the band, start appearing. Near the end of the album, the song Murder One directly and purposefully mimics their single One by using the same effect on the guitar in the intro as One used. But in all truth Murder One is a tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, who was one of the bands largest influences.

The highlight of the album comes at the very end of the album, in the song Spit Out the Bone which rocks in a way we haven’t seen in 30 years since Master of Puppets. And when I say we haven’t seen it, I don’t mean just from Metallica; I mean from anyone. Spit Out the Bone comes out the gate running with heavy drums and fast guitars, but is not simply your everyday thrash song. It is musically complex, and builds fantastically as a song. The tempo changes are perfectly timed and executed. It instantly grabs hold of you and doesn’t let you go till the phenomenal ending that leaves you wanting more.

But how much more are we going to see? This album took 8 years to come out, before that it was 5 years, and before that 6. This could very well be the last full length album we see from Metallica. Hetfield is 53 and theoretically the next album we see from them at this rate he would be in his mid-60’s. This album mixed a lot of sounds from previous albums, which means it would be a perfect culminating album for a band that has seen many ups and downs. The band now has their own independent label that controls their releases and so we may very well see a few singles or two, or even another album. They are however under no obligation to do so, so we won’t know if it’s going to happen until it does. I would tell metal fans not to hold their breath, but also not to lose hope, because Metallica has proven they aren’t ready to fade out of relevancy just yet.

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