When I was introduced to my favorite musical genre (metal), I was in the middle of my junior year of high school in 2011. My Chemistry got side-tracked, (a common occurrence), and was talking about some of the concerts he had attended in his late teens and early twenties. I remember him saying that seeing Metallica in Cleveland on their “…And Justice for All” tour was “Excellent,” and that prompted me to go search who Metallica was on YouTube. My search landed me on “Enter Sandman,” and my introduction for what would become one of my biggest obsessions had taken place. Since then, I have regarded Metallica as my favorite band of all time and have listened to their first five albums countless times.
So after years of teasing their fans, and two days before I was seeing them for the first time, Metallica finally released the song “Hardwired” in conjunction with their new album coming in November. The news was almost too much for me to take while I was on break at work. After hearing Hardwired, many of my worries were laid to rest: Metallica still knows how to write a hard-rocking song that never lets up, the literal years of writing material seems to have been good, and the upcoming album should be promising. However, these were also countered with questions like: “What if Death Magnetic would be their last good album?” “What if Hardwired is the only good song on the album?” After releasing Moth Into Flame and Atlas Rise!, I had been given faith that the new album would be good, but the only way to be sure would be to listen to it. I have listened to it in full five times while starting my sixth as I type this. I have to say that my review of the album is beyond satisfied.
1) As I eluded to earlier in my review, Hardwired is an excellent lead single and album opener. Hardwired is an attention-grabbing three-minute thrasher that never relents. This song also claims the title of being the shortest track on the album, with the next song being 5 minutes and 45 seconds in length. I should also mention that I attended the live premiere of this song so that probably biases my review as well. 10/10.
2) Atlas, Rise! is the first of two songs on this album to reference Greek Mythology, and in using this, Metallica relates to their audience. By using the Atlas metaphor, Metallica sings about bearing burdens and dealing with them, something every person needs help with. Typically, Metallica’s songs are not that relatable unless you know someone suffering from insanity or did a lot of drugs in the 80’s. An interesting step for Metallica that I quite like. This song also features a solid solo from Hammet as well as a chorus I find myself singing more often that I thought I would. 9/10
3) Now That We’re Dead is arguably the catchiest song on the album, and that is a very good thing. As soon as the main guitar riff kicks in I stop whatever I’m doing to play air guitar and headbang. The instrumental portion of this features a breakdown and a very extended, but excellent, guitar solo. I’m not sure if a Metallica song can be considered “fun,” but if it can, then this song is easily the closest it comes to that. 10/10
4) Moth Into Flame is probably the most honest has been about their past drug addictions since Sad But True was released. It is a perspective I have always found interesting and this song is no exception. All of the instrumentation is excellent (particularly the guitar solo) but the lyrics are at the forefront here. 10/10.
5) At some point in their life, almost every Metallica fan has asked the question “What if St. Anger had been good?” Well, folks, Dream No More is the answer to that question, and HOLY SHIT is it something special. This is easily the most experimental song on the album and everyone who listens to the album will be grateful Metallica decided to try it. This is easily the most amount of noticeable distortion Metallica has put on their guitars, and it is absolutely filthy. I’m also a sucker for a good Cthulu reference. 10/10
6) Halo on Fire is probably the second-best song on the album in terms of the lyrics. This song is very dark, brooding, and it fits perfectly within the album. It should also be mentioned that this song contains arguably the best guitar solo on the album, which is saying quite a bit considering the solos on tracks Atlas, Rise! and Moth into Flame. Awesome guitar solo plus strong lyrics earns this song a 10/10
7) Confusion is probably the most difficult song to review. Nothing about the song particularly stands out as absolutely amazing, but nothing sounds mediocre. Everything (lyrics, instrumentation, song structure, etc.) is just right, and all of the pieces work together to make a rock-solid song. 7/10.
8) ManUNkind This song suffers from the same problem its predecessor does until the guitar solo happens. With the exception of the brief (but attention-grabbing) guitar solo, nothing stands out. However it is not a bad song: all of the pieces work together and make something good, and it just happens to have a solid guitar solo. 8/10.
9) Here Come’s Revenge’s title is self-explanatory: the song is about gaining revenge against someone. If someone’s ultimate revenge fantasy would ever be written in song format, then this song is almost certainly it. 10 years from now, this song will be the go-to song for action movie directors to use during vengeance-fueled training montage sequences. The lyrics on this song are the angriest Metallica has been since St. Anger and are further exemplified by James’ vocals. The main guitar riff is absolutely monstrous and the chorus will be stuck in your head for days to come. 10/10.
10) Am I Savage? is, unfortunately, the weakest song on the album. This song does nothing wrong; it is simply overshadowed by the other songs on this behemoth of an album. Despite being the least interesting song on the album, it is better than the majority of metal songs being written today. Once the instrumental section of the song kicks in, the song does take a major step up and salvages the song. 6/10
11) Murder One is the second shortest track on the album and coincidentally is the second to least interesting song on the album. Similar to its predecessor, Murder One does nothing wrong, it is simply overshadowed by the other ten songs on the album. If I’m being honest, though, I found this song to be a bit more engaging as a whole than Am I Savage?, so I will rate it a little higher. 7/10.
12) Spit Out the Bone is easily the purest thrash song Metallica has written since “Master of Puppets”. Just when I had thought the album was firing on all cylinders with tracks 1, 3, 5, and 9, Metallica hit their largest home-run since “Enter Sandman”. This song deserves to be put into every set list at every concert until Metallica retires. Similar to the opening track, this song grabs your attention from the first second and never lets up. Providing yet another massive guitar riff and arguably the best drum-work of Lars’ career, this song exceeds all of the hype you have heard about it and then some. Around mid-way through the chorus I asked myself, is there any way that this song could get more bad-ass?” and then James answered my question by snarling out “SPIT OUT THE BONE!” This song is easily the crown jewel of the album. 10/10.
Clocking in at around 90 minutes, this is easily the longest album of Metallica’s career. Considering the album’s length, going 8/12 with the other four songs being mediocre at worst is definitely one of the most impressive feats of Metallica’s phenomenal career. If an album lasts longer than 55 minutes, the artist has to know exactly what they are doing otherwise they will lose the attention span of their audience. And while the length is one of “Hardwired…to Self Destruct’s” strengths, it is also one of its weaknesses. This isn’t an album where you can just plug it in and listen to the whole thing on a whim. You actually have to set aside time to listen to the whole thing in one sitting to fully appreciate it. While this certainly is one of Metallica’s strongest efforts, it is also not an album that would appeal to newcomers of the metal genre. These criticisms do not reflect badly on the album at all, they are merely things that need to be understood. As a whole, the album earns a 9/10 and I would recommend every established metal fan to check this album out.