Wednesday 7 December 2016

Review of 'Hardwired ... To Self-Destruct' by Metallica

Brimming with chugga-chugga riffs and double-bass drumming, the thrash metal vets’ new double album is a firm return to their roots. Why then am I still left underwhelmed?

This album should be everything a hardcore Metallica fan like myself ever wanted. There’s none of the wishy-washy commercial rock of Load and Reload.  There’s none of the trashcan snares and painful repetition of St Anger. There’s none of the ‘I am the table’ lyricism of Lulu. And there’s none of the crappy overcompressed production of Death Magnetic. Shouldn’t this be a masterpiece in the league of Master of Puppets?

Admittedly Disc 1’s opener ‘Hardwired’ is a convincingly solid start - mean machine-gun-like triplets paving the way for some speeding thrash and some sweary passionate yell-singing from Hetfield. ‘Atlas, Rise!’ follows with an epic And-Justice-For-All-esque intro and sexy lead riff.

But then things start to falter. The songs gradually lose their playfulness, settling for a relentless mid-tempo pace. Despite their bold and exciting intros, the likes of ‘Now That We’re Dead’ and ‘Halo on Fire’ slowly dissipate into demo-quality riffs and brief passages of wah-wah abuse courtesy of Kirk.

The album cover's quite something too. LOOKS LIKE YO MAMA!

Of course, there are memorable moments and golden tracks sprinkled throughout. ‘Dream No More’ packs some Black-album-esque groove, even if its Audioslave vibe and vocal delivery is a little jarring. ‘Am I Savage’ features a brilliantly brutal harmonic-laden riff towards the back end that almost has a Machine Head quality. Closing track ‘Spit Out The Bone’ meanwhile is a monstrous mosh anthem, set at breakneck speed and featuring some of the band’s most satisfying guitar duelling for decades.

It certainly all has a sense of Metallica authenticity, and the production is infinitely better than its predecessor. But you can’t help but wish it had the pacing of Death Magnetic, a return-to-form album that evenly distributed speedballs, midtempo headbangers and ballads. I guess it's good we didn't get an 'Unforgiven IV', but where's the album's signature soft-turns-heavy number? Where's the instrumental track? Perhaps its these missing ingredients stopping Hardwired from feeling wholesome, even if individual tracks are worth jamming.