METALLICA: Hardwired...To Self Destruct - The Definitive Review
I have to confess I that I didn't have much anticipation for this record. Despite my apathy, a wonderful conversation has ignited among long time Metallica fans from across the entire Metalsphere both young and old.
In the eighties, when I was just a wee lad, every release of a Metallica record was very special and important event for me. It meant that I was getting some tasty new riffs that I could spend hours in my bedroom hammering out. Perfection and metal glory was always the order of the day. I was an obsessed loner and could not put it down till I could play every note.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to inform you that the Bay Area bad boys are back and they are not taking any shit. This masterpiece was produced by Greg Fidelman, who also worked with the band on the previous album “Death Magnetic”. At last I have within my grasp a Metallica record that is everything I love about this band rolled into one.
Now for me to just simply jump into the fray with my best headphones and review this album would not be fair to these guys. This work of outstanding artistry and musicianship deserves the best review that I can do. I have listened too and studied this recording for weeks. But they deserve it.
Further, the band graciously released video's for each song a day before. With extremely well done short film movies to accompany each song that provide a wonderful point of reference as to what the song is about. This has been accomplished in a way that will certainly invigorate the relationship that the listener has with each song.
I listened and watched, if you will, in the same sequence that the tracks are presented on the record. I have to tell you that I have not been this excited about a Metallica album since the release of "And Justice For All", which was back in 1987. Most of these videos present a main subject (person), an antagonist element, and a conclusion that fits each song perfectly. I intend to review closely the composition, musicianship, and production of every song on this album with a particular focus on the thematic presentation of each of these videos.
Track 1. Hardwired(Video directed by Colin Hakes)
Begins with an onslaught of triplets from every single instrument then explodes into an up tempo slaughter appropriate for an album opener and title track. Right off the bat I have to say that James sounds fantastic with the vocals. I love the fact that I can hear all four guys on this record. Lyrically this song sums up all the bullshit that happened in 2016.
Track 2. Atlas, Rise! (Video directed by Clark Eddy)
The riffiness is back for sure. The arrangement of the guitar parts have lots of nice twists and turns. Whatever Kirk was unable to contribute the songwriting process he makes up for with astonishing lead guitar parts. The intricate work that was done on the composition as well as the performance is making the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.
Track 3. Now That We're Dead (Video directed by Herring & Herring)
This song has a very straight forward riff that digresses into a very well written metal tune. Every instrument sounds so fantastic on this record. James hasn't done anything this cool lyrically since the 'Puppets' record. Kirk just destroys the world when it's time for him to step up for a solo. The interplay I am hearing between both guitars is raw perfection.
Track 4. Moth Into Flame (Video directed by Tom Kirk)
This song is pure lightning. These guys have made a metal record that would be just as relevant in the late eighties as it is today. The only exception is that it is much more. The band is healthy and I can hear it. The lyrics that James has written for this song is just too cool. "Blacked out. Pop queen, amphetamine the screams crashed into silence. Tapped out, doused in gasoline the high times going timeless. Decadence, death of the innocence the pathway starts to spiral. Infamy, all for publicity destruction going viral". If I am listening to this right I believe it is about how celebrities can get carried away with chemicals. Mr. Hetfield my hats off to you. The lyrics and singing are so bad ass on this record. This is the best I have heard from you since ‘Puppets’ and thank you.
Track 5. Dream No More (Video directed by Tom Kirk)
This is the monster of the record. This one fits well in the ranks of "The Thing That Should Not Be" and "Sad But True"
Halo On Fire (Video directed by Herring & Herring)
This so far is one my favorite songs on this record. December is a very dark month for me. I have a lot of sad memories let's just put it that way. This song to me is about breaking free of those things about ourselves that hold us back. It makes me hope for that part of me that always shines in the darkest of times. "I fear to turn on the light for the darkness won't go away. Fast is desire. Turn out the light - Halo on Fire". Turning on the light can be akin to honestly examining one's self so we can later get our house in order and make things right. I don’t want to spoil the video. There’s a twist that I would like to avoid spoiling. You just have to watch it.
Track 1. Confusion (Video directed by Claire Marie Vogel)
Sometimes the line between reality and fiction can become blurred especially when this is set off by a series of traumatic events. This video presents the reality of wartime trauma and how it affects the lives of veterans when they finally make it home. For these honorable men and women ‘war is never done’. The little things in life that you and I consider trivial can often times drag us straight into that time and place that is laden with terror and bewilderment. The sacrifice that our men and women in uniform make on a daily basis often follows long after ‘leaving the battlefield’. Adjusting to civilian life and healing the psychological wounds are without a doubt a daunting effort. This video gives a lens to which we can see a little bit of what it’s like. A hearty thanks to the Metallica family for honoring our heroes in this way. This visual narrative shows the main subject, a combat veteran, reconciling herself with the life she experienced in combat. I don’t want to spoil it. Just watch.
Track 2. ManUNkind (Video directed by Jonas Akerlund).
This whole video is a wonderful nod to the old shock rock metal of Northern Europe in the eighties. Visually I found this to be the funnest video to watch. I think what these guys are really trying to say with this video is that their music can stand up on it’s own even with actors playing the parts in their stead. The song itself has a very straight forward almost stoner metal appeal to it. The bridged breakdown it is off the hook. It doesn’t stop there. The on stage theatrics that are displayed toward the end is both comical and gruesome at the same time. We get to see the vocalist slice the shit out of his arm while he drips his blood upon the crowd in the front row. He then throws a pig's head out into the audience. This is immediately followed by the crowd taking huge bites out of it. I think the band is trying saying something about the expectations that are constantly being thrown at them. Metallica fans tend to expect a great deal from this band. I think it’s great that they have a great sense of humor about it. It’s like they are saying “Fuck You. Metallica is still gonna do their thing”. I dig it man.
Track 3. Here Comes Revenge (Video directed by Jessica Cope)
The animation in this video reminds me of the beautiful detail of some of the books I would read when I was a child. Particularly, “Where the wild things are”. We get to see animals wearing plain clothes, the main subject being a wolf who lives alone. He is a serial killer that likes to keep the head of his victims mounted on the wall with their clothes hanging up on display as if they were trophies. Well we all know that Karma is a son of bitch, this visual narrative closes with the the lone wolf’s body-less head mounted on the wall while his victims sit at table consuming his flesh while he watches. Very gnarly indeed.
Track 4. Am I Savage? (Video directed by Herring & Herring)
This video was a bit of a head fuck for me. I have people very close to me that are JUST LIKE the main subject in this video. I texted it to a particular family member of mine weeks ago with the message “Does this remind you of anything”. Let’s just say we haven’t spoken much since then even through the holidays. Yeah….no shit. This video is about narcissism on blast. It offers a view of what it’s like in the mind of a sociopath - a person that is constitutionally incapable of empathizing with others. Outwardly he puts on a show for his friends, family, and co-workers, but inwardly he is a screaming mess because his relationships and identity as a man is so plastic and superficial that he cannot even deal with himself. If you want to understand this condition more completely please watch this video.
Track 5. Murder One (Video directed by Robert Valley)
I have read somewhere that James Hetfield has said that if there was never be a Motorhead there could never be a Metallica. This video is an amazing tribute to the late godfather of thrash Lemmy Kilmister. It even has the swagger of a well done Motorhead song. Myself being a guitar player, Motorhead was a stepping stone for me so I could move on to the study and mastery of the first four Metallica albums. To Lemmy, may your memory be eternal.
Track 6. Spit Out the Bone (Video directed by Phil Mucci)
This is the double bass skullcrusher of the album in the same vein as “Dyer’s Eve”. The video features a post apocalyptic vision of the future where machines are used to control the population. They do so by hovering above those that are derelicts and instantly consuming the flesh and leaving the bones of any non-conformer that comes within its view. The main character, a vigilante of sorts. Is racing these steampunk spiked balls that fly through the air looking for people roaming the streets. I love this because on of my favorite bands Sepultura released an album shortly after this one called “Machine Messiah” which carries a similar theme. This is not at all surprising because this is something that has been on everyone’s mind lately. There are some beautifully done shots of these flying robots juxtaposed with vintage film clips of what appears to be a Nazi occupation. Fascinating! Last we get to see this stunningly beautiful woman beating the holy shit out of these cyborgs who are dressed up like something out one of the shittier Star Wars movies. This darling specimen of womanhood gets it on in true “Kill Bill Vol. I” fashion. Uma Thurman would be very proud indeed…..as would Mr. Tarantino.
Track One. Lords of Summer (Video directed by Brett Murray)
I thought Metallica was done making anthems after the release of “And Justice For All” in 1987. This song as well as many others on this record is definitely the exception. The riff during the verse reminds me of the epic “Whiplash” off their first record. There nothing wrong with delving with the same energy that they had back in 1982. I dig it man. This song is clearly about being on the road, going to a city, destroying it, then moving on to the next venue. I love you guys (Kirk, Robert, James, and Lars) and I wish I had your life. I mean that sincerely.
Track 2. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light in the Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill the King.)
I have to tell you guys something. I cried like a bitch when we lost Ronnie James Dio. I remember taking a few days off and going through the entire…...yes the ENTIRE catalogue of his work with Rainbow, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and DIO). I miss him very much. His music brought me through some hellacious dark times and I am grateful for that. There will never be another like him. Right in the ranks of Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jim Morrison, and Freddy Mercury. What’s crazy is Mr. Hetfield is pulling it off with a lot of class and making no mistake about hitting the notes. I am awestruck with how well these songs were woven together. A fitting tribute indeed. Very well done guys!
Track Three When a Blind Man Cries (Deep Purple Cover)
This is a depressing dirge indeed. So if you wish to avoid the near occasion of suicidal ideation skip to the next track. I think it was a good call to only include this track only on the Deluxe Edition. The only thing cool about this track is the super bitchin’ solo from Kirk. \m/ Dude you’ve got so much soul. Here’s four horn’s for ya my brotha! \m/
Remember Tomorrow (Iron Maiden Cover)
The mix on this song reminds me of some of the b-sides that were that were released during the “And Justice For All” era. I dig it. The heavier parts of this track definitely worth listening to.
The live tracks were recorded at Rasputin Music, in Berkeley, California. Though I appreciate the fact that I get to listen to live performances of songs that are rarely played live I won’t write about these tracks. Realistically, it is impossible to duplicate the experience of Metallica show in a recording or with words. Sorry folks. You’ll have to get off your ass and go to a Metallica show when they roll through your town. I’ve seen them twice and trust me my friends you will not be disappointed.
Hit the lights
The Four Horseman
Ride the Lightning
Fade to Black
Jump in the Fire
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Hardwired - Flawlessly executed and recorded at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN. Best thing in the world is when Lars' kick (bass) drums are punching you in the chest.
A FINAL WORD
I cannot get over the amazing songwriting, performance, and sound that has been coming through my headphones. This is best that I have ever heard James sing. Melodically he has taken these song to a place that is greater than anything he has ever written and performed. The Kirk Master has certainly outdone himself as a guitarist. In more ways than one his contribution really made this record soar. Awe fuck it…...Kirk Hammett’s presence and precision really made this record for me, largely because he is one of the best in the genre and partly because I am a brother axeman. Let’s get real folks. Hendrix would appreciate his playing prowess on fretboard.
Without a doubt this album is going to be celebrated and studied by metalians for many many years to come. The past 15 years or so I wondered if Lars was sliding but shiiit no! Lars got better……way better than ever. I humbly take back every shitty thing I have ever said about him. Last but not least, as I beat my fist upon my chest in true warrior fashion, Mr. Robert Trujillo proved an astonishing groove and bottom end on every single track on this album. The bay area bad boys did good when they added him to the roster years ago.
Lastly, if you haven’t purchased this album yet it’s highly probable that you are probably an intrinsically disordered pansy. Link HERE to purchase.
James Hetfield - Rhythm Guitar and Vocals
Lars Ulrich - Drums
Kirk Hammett - Lead Guitar
Robert Trujillo - Bass Guitar
Cliff Burton - Spiritually present and providing inspiration. \m/ Eternal Memory and Blessed Repose. \m/
To the band,
Hey guys, pretty please come to Kansas City so I can catch up and see how your tour is going. I promise you won’t get a boring interview. I’ll bring donuts…..I promise.