For most in my immediate circle, we grew up with Metallica. They weren’t discovered by us at a time when they had already made their mark in the world, but we found them way back in 1982 when record contracts were a figment of the band’s imagination, and the only way they could get their music out was via the tape-trading circuit.
The thriving tape-trading scene of the day reached fever pitch on a global scale when the “No Life ‘Till Leather” tape began doing the rounds. It is so incredibly hard to imagine (and remember!) the world without the Internet and thus instant communication, but this was a time when if you wanted to hear new music and discover new bands the deep underground Metal zines and your postman were your best friend. Anyone remember Metal Forces magazine? [comment below plz]
In my young teenage years, I was working for various Metal fanzines back in the day with regular articles in Metal Pussy and Heavy Duty fanzines. I struck up a relationship with fledgeling independent record label Metal Blade and their owner Brian Slagel who would regularly send me the latest vinyl from the label. (Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Slayer, Bitch, Fates Warning, Trouble) and the debut Metal Massacre compilation album featuring demos of new bands.
Ending the “Metal Massacre” compilation on side two was a band called ‘Mettallica’ (SIC) with a song titled Hit The Lights. Yep, two t’s in the name and a truly horrendous version of the song with Hetfield sounding like a prepubescent skater boy. The vocals sucked, the production was 4-track woeful, but there was one thing prevalent and in-your-face and completely unforgettable. And that was energy. Raw, blistering energy and a song that chugged along at a frenetic beat and pace.
By the time the aforementioned “No Life ‘Till Leather” began to infiltrate traders’ hands and blasted boom-boxes, Metallica was being eyed as the next big thing.
The rest is well-defined history which has been documented so extensively over the past few decades. Many of us were there to ride all the bumps with the band. I remember it as if it were yesterday when my closest mate called to let me know about Cliff’s passing. There have been tragedies to overcome and a band which for most of the last 20 years has appeared lost and way off the point and on the verge of self-destruction as witnessed in the “Some Kind Of Monster” expose.
Metallica’s fan base was created and maintained over the lean times by those first four albums: “Kill ‘Em All”, “Ride The Lightning”, “Master Of Puppets” and “…And Justice For All”. By the time the self-titled (aka. ‘Black’) album came and went, their best-selling album of the last quarter century, they had long surpassed their contemporaries and peers. Bands which Metallica drew influence from, being Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Diamond Head and plethora of NWOBHM could only quiver in their collective boots at the juggernaut Metallica had since become.
Metallica have teased and played with fans along the way, for as masterful as the “Black” album was, and is, it was originally met with some distrust, hatred and cries of, “Sell-out” by the diehards, “Metallica on MTV? Are you fucking kidding me?”
Now, we have their latest release, “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” in November, 2016.
When the first single Hardwired was released, the first thing, the very first thing I was listening for was the production. Let’s face it the brick-walled “Death Magnetic” was annihilated with the worst sounding mix I have ever heard committed to. It turned me off the album for the longest time, and it wasn’t a year or two later that I could even appreciate some of it. And the less said about “St. Anger”, the better hey? And we won’t ever, ever, ever, ever mention the utter wankfest that was “Lulu”? Fuck! In my opinion, the guys were lost and so far up their collective arses that it was embarrassing being seen outside with a Metallica t-shirt on!
Back to, “Hardwired…” it has arrived. Do I even bother giving these guys another chance… again? Well, I need to listen to it at least don’t I? I owe it to the legends… One more chance. Ok… Here we go!
Listen to it here while you read on:
“Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” Disc 1:
1: Hardwired (Hetfield, Ulrich)
2: Atlas, Rise! (Hetfield, Ulrich)
3: Now That Were Dead (Hetfield, Ulrich)
4: Moth Into Flame (Hetfield, Ulrich)
5: Dream No More (Hetfield, Ulrich)
6: Halo On Fire (Hetfield, Ulrich)
Whoa! Bass! I can hear the bass. It grooves! It breathes! It actually reminds me of something that could have fit nicely on either Kill ‘Em All or even the better moments of the “Load” duopoly! There’s anger! Real anger as Hetfield spits out the lyrics with purpose and vigour! Holy mother of God, I am digging this!
By the time the third single, Atlas, Rise!, has been released, the band’s marketing machine has created a frenzy of anticipation in the metal and rock communities. The band begin an intense press and media campaign, and whether you liked it or not, you had pencilled in the release date on your calendar; November 18 could not come soon enough!
The album kicks off with the three aforementioned tracks and is inter-spread with the plodding chugga-chug of Now That We’re Dead. All four of these opening tracks are some of the strongest on the album and lay down the foundation for what lies ahead.
Featuring 12 tracks across two discs, all lyrics were penned by Hetfield with songwriting credits being split between Hetfield and Ulrich. Bassist Robert Trujillo gets a co-writing credit on one track title ManUNkind. Guitarist, Kirk Hammett, has no credits famously losing his iPhone with a tonne of riff ideas he had recorded on it! “It’s a bitter pill to swallow!” [from a YouTube clip] says Hammett to the non-participation in the songwriting department.
Dream No More pegs things back a little and it is here where one can hear moments of the “Load” and “Reload” albums. As chastised as those records are the diehards, they do feature some stellar moments, and I was immediately reminded of them while listening to this track. Vocally, Hetfield shines on this track and throughout the course of the entire record.
Hetfield drives this album with superb backing from Lars and co. Seriously, no snickering in the back there, this is some of Ulrich’s finest drumming. Simple. Concise. And for once, he lets the songs breathe with no unnecessary fills and cymbal crashes. He may have called this ‘stock’ drumming a few years ago, but for these ears (and ex-drummer!) he plays it well here.
Wrapping things up on disc one is the plodder, Halo On Fire, which takes a while to kick in but increases to another level from the mid-mark onwards. Clocking in at over eight minutes long; the album’s longest song with some fantastic vocal stylings and solid, steady drumming from Ulrich. The song is almost divided into three parts as it changes and evolves again at the tail end of the track.
Disc one is incredibly strong. Some of the band’s finest work in a long time so as you take pause and digest what you have just experienced in this intermission period of either loading the new disc, flipping the vinyl or clicking your mouse, I am sure the question in everyone’s mind is, will disc 2 be just as strong?
“Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” Disc 2:
1: Confusion (Hetfield, Ulrich)
2: ManUnkind (Hetfield, Ulrich, Trujillo)
3: Here Comes Revenge (Hetfield, Ulrich)
4: Am I Savage (Hetfield, Ulrich)
5: Murder One (Hetfield, Ulrich)
6: Spit Out The Bone (Hetfield, Ulrich)
Whereas I found most of disc one more accessible and easier to get into, the second disc seems to be riddled with more of the grower songs. Like me, you’re going to have to spend some time before these tracks successfully wrap themselves into the sinews of your mind. I am sure Metallica HQ pondered long and hard on the sequencing of this record.
Whilst the first half takes you on a journey of classic-era Metallica, the second begins with big guitars and drums on the track Confusion which has an Am I Evil? type of feel with the band locked in tighter than Hammett’s jeans during the mid-80’s!
ManUkind follows and it is clear this is where the album starts to linger a little. Don’t get me wrong; I like the track and its sexy Blues swagger but with the next track, Here Comes Revenge, that frenetic bombastic edge of the first disc is beginning to be missed. All of these first three tracks do have some wonderful moments scattered throughout, but one wonders had one or two of them been left off the album, would they have at all been missed?
The same can be said for Am I Savage? Another plodder which just adds to the morose vibe of disc two. It is almost Black Sabbath-esque in its pace and delivery with some fine wailing over the top. It’s heavy! Heavy as fuck, and it sounds so much like it could have been at one with the “Black” album quite easily!
Murder One stands in tribute to the fallen Lemmy of Motörhead. Let’s face it, without Lemmy’s influence there would never have been a Metallica in the first place and while both bands have had a lasting friendship over the course of Metallica’s history, I thought it was so damn cool to immortalise Lemmy in song. Lemmy’s famous Murder One Marshalls have long rendered Motörhead fans deaf for many, many years.
Lyrically, the song is killer, but musically as with the aforementioned tracks of disc two, I am beginning to wish this was a shorter album. Disc two is nowhere near the excellence of the first, and I would imagine most listeners of this album would feel the same.
And so we wrap it all nicely with the frantic Thrash goodness of Spit Out The Bone. Old-school ‘tallica thrash from start to finish and the perfect bookend to the entire Hardwired project.
It’s not perfect. But, it is the best piece of work the band has released since the “Black” album. I wanted to like it even more, but as of today, as of right now, I need some more time with disc two. I like the songs on there; I like ’em a lot. But, not as much as the first half for the release.
It is an album by a band who has now, finally fully realised just where they have fucked up in the past and returned to a sound they know their fans want. Is it album of the year? No, not for me, but, it is certainly up there, and I am guessing it is going to sell like nobody’s business the world over.
With a masterful marketing campaign and promotion machine in full effect, months before the album was due for release, the Metallica conglomerate has left nothing to chance. Not a thing.
Welcome home, Metallica!
BUY “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” HERE:
[UPDATE] New video clip from the delux version of the album, Lords Of Summer.
_____________Toning it down a notch or two, some solid drumming through Hardwired Hardwired is Hetfield’s album! Vocally and lyrically he is sublime!
Review and Photography by John Raptis buy and see more photos by John here: