Eight years after their last full length studio album Death Magnetic, the biggest metal band ever returns with a purposeful vengeance. Hardwired...To Self-Destruct has been endlessly hyped – and with reason. The songwriting is tight, and chugging riffs, breakneck guitar solos, and screaming vocals help pull together influences from throughout the band’s long career.
The album opens on the blistering punk-metal of title track Hardwired and the momentum carries through to Moth Into Flame – perhaps the first songs since 1988 to fully revive the frenetic energy of the band’s early days. Atlas, Rise! features thoughtful lyrics and complex rhythm work – and a chorus that seems crafted for arena crowds to shout along to. Now That We’re Dead is built around a catchy, meaty riff. Halo On Fire is an obvious reboot of Metallica’s 90s ballads, with Hetfield almost crooning into the verses, but the pace picks up by way of Kirk Hammett’s guitar solo, backed by solid rhythm guitar work and well-placed drum fills from Lars Ulrich.
It’s impossible to resist the urge to listen for snippets of Metallica’s past, especially on the second side. Hetfield’s distorted vocals pay tribute to cosmic entity Cthulhu over twisting riffs in Dream No More, mounting to a standout guitar solo in the vein of The Black Album. Sadly, Here Comes Revenge and Confusion veer off into cliche territory, predictable within the first minute. The fact that Hetfield’s voice sounds strained doesn’t help either. By this time, the fact that nearly every chorus repeats its title twice starts to grate.
With the exception of Am I Savage? the latter half of the album is plagued by overly simplistic lyrics. Spit Out The Bone rounds off the album with the frantic, all-out thrash metal that heralded Metallica’s arrival, and features a rare moment in the spotlight for bassist Robert Trujillo. Heavy, thoughtful, and curiously uplifting at times, Hardwired...To Self-Destruct is a true return to form that proves Metallica have earned their title as one of the biggest names in rock music. This is one album that diehard metalheads will be proud to rally behind for years to come.
Edited by Ginny Wong