Metallica just released their tenth album “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct”. Depending on how you got into Metallica, it was a eight year hiatus since “Death Magnetic”….or 25 years since “Metallica” (aka the black album). If you grew up listening to Metallica, you surely have in mind “Master of Puppets”, “Ride The Lightning” or “Kill’Em All”. You also have some rancor when the band decided to explore novel artistic directions after their black album, enough to classify Metallica as “before” or “after” such album.
I will be sincere: “Load”, “Reload”, “St.Anger” (certainly one of the most hated album) or “Death Magnetic” are simply not in my Metallica discography. The question you may ask if you have growing with the Metallica of the 90s is “why so much hate?”
For me, it is simple. Metallica sound had its own trademark that set the sound of the US metal back in the early 80s. Back in the days, UK metal bands were acting like a tsunami on every single continent with what we call the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM) with bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Ronnie James Dio. These bands were great by bringing melodics (using two lead guitars and a bass) and the tell-tale lyrics from charismatic front singers (like Bruce Dickinson, Dio or Rob Halford. It was a clear distinctive sound, much more complex and captivating than the punk from the Sex Pistols or The Clash.
In the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, some bands were fueled by the rebellious attitude of punk but also considered the melodics are an important part. However, neither the punk nor the NWOBHM could fit their style. This is how bands like Motorhead, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax blended into two genres: speed and thrash metal.
The distinctive feature of these bands is their fast drums pace, the aggressive guitar riffs and the incendiary lyrics. This was the staple of such bands with albums such as “Whiplash” or “Reign in Blood”. Listening to them would provide you with superpowers, fully pumped on adrenaline rush.
But Metallica was also something else, capable of remarkable guitar ballads thanks to the work of Kirk Hammett and late Cliff Burton. Listen to “One”, “Sanitarium”, “Orion” but also to complex songs such as “One”, “Master of Puppets” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
By the time the band released “Metallica/the Black Album”, you could already hear the transition the band was but really was obvious with “Load”, as Lars drum sets were pitched to higher frequency and to different tempo pattern. Metallica soften up their style and by the same time infuriated their hardcore fans. This was also the time I kind of dropped from Metallica asI grew up from my teenage years. It was 1995. Grunge was dead with the suicide of Kurt Cobain and had an heavy toll on the classic heavy metal.
Now you either secluded into something more brutal (with bands such as Pantera setting up the death metal genre with “Vulgar Display of Power”) or more melancholic and slow-paced with the appearance of gothic and doom metal (with the pioneering work of Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride). As I grew up from my teenage rebellious mind and entered college, I also transitioned from Metallica to gothic and doom.
So, after 20 years of waiting and several disappoint albums, the arrival of their last album was setting high expectations on Metallica: Will they purse on their post-black direction or will they re-discover their pre-black composition?
Luckily for me, Metallica being Metallica (they still sell 5000 copies of the black album each month!), I could grab their album as a physical copy (the 2CD version) straight from the nearest Best Buy. A bliss considering the anemic metal section in my local Best Buy.
What I can tell? It’s good, honestly. Sure it is not a natural child of a “Master of Puppets” but you are still faring way better that anything post-black. There are some very good songs and some okay songs.
Lets go through the 12-track album, note the average song is lasting 6-7 minutes. Sometimes it was a pleasure to keep listening, sometimes it was “okay now it is sounding repetitive”. A special for this review, Metallica has a video for EVERY SINGLE songs of the album on Youtube. An interesting twist considering the outrage of Lars Ulrich that costed Napster its final blow and created the P2P file sharing system.
First track: “Hardwired”. It sets the tone. We are in the thrash metal, baby! A very good primer for the rest of the album reminiscent of “Kill’Em All” and “Ride The Lightning”
The second track is “Atlas, Rise!”, that is less aggressive than “Hardwired” but reminiscent of something from “Metallica”. Nice track but I have heard better.
The third track is “Now That We’re Dead” that sounds okay but a bit hollow. Again, as “Atlas, Rise!”, sounds a soften Metallica.
As you feel a bit asleep with track 3 and 4, here comes “Moth Into Flames” that comes and raise up the bar, a damn good song with fast-paced drums and good guitars that is certainly a song you would not mind hearing in a rock FM radio.
Then comes track number 5 “Dream No More”, thats is also okay, feeling something a bit something you would hear in any post-black album.
Track 6, last track of Disc 1: “Halo On Fire”. The metal song! My favorite of this disc, with nice guitar solos and slow-paced. Not thrash but sounds damn good.
There comes the Disc 2, that in my opinion contains the meat of the whole album and really excited much.
Here comes track 7, that starts with an air of “Mars, The Bringer of War” brining some good old metal sound (almost feel like in the tunes of Ghost) and discussing about post-traumatic stress disorder. The videoclip is awesome.
In track 8, Metallica is taking up a “black metal” paint on their clip but kind of in dissonance in the song. I would have appreciated something much heavier.
The track 9, named “Here Comes Revenge” is my most favorite track of the album by its song and by its videoclip. The video is simply insane.
Track 10, “Am I Savage” is nice, starting with Kirk Hamett solo guitar and getting crescendo.
Track 11, “Murder One”, is a special track. A whole hommage to Lemmy, in particular the video was absolutely fantastic.
Finally the album concludes on “Spit Out The Bone”, the “plat de resistance” and one favorite of the album. A fast-paced song straight from a “Kill’Em All” coupled with a damn gore video. This is the Metallica that I know: brutal!
My take? Dang it is good to listen to Metallica that not something that I have been picking from a pre-black album. 35 years later and Metallica show they can still kick some ass. Sure, we are not having another “Master of Puppets”, but for me it completely reset anything for the past 25 years.