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Hardly worth eight years of waiting - 52%

Silicon Messiah, November 19th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, 2CD, Blackened Recordings

It’s been quite some time since Death Magnetic hit the shelves; eight years of wait has built up some serious expectations for Metallica’s tenth studio album. Now, I’m not the kind of person who decided before I heard it that I’d hate this album - and I don’t, because there are some great moments on it - nor am I a fanboy who will worship every single thing the band puts out. The event was further built up by the singles three, which sadly contain two of the strongest tracks on this album.

‘Atlas Rise!’ is without doubt one of Metallica’s fleshiest and coolest tracks in 25 years, hitting every note right - in spite of a section that blatantly rips of Maiden’s ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. Hetfield carries some quality vocal melodies throughout the album, but mostly there’s nothing very invigorating there. The same goes for a sometimes bland bass, and of course Ulrich’s drumming - sometimes on point, but mostly just nailed for the studio effort. Don’t expect some of these songs to be played live, as Ulrich will have a hard time recreating it.

Still, the Bay Area legends do put in some heavy instrumental parts that go way beyond the mere ordinary. Moth Into Flame and emotive Halo On Fire both carry this mark, where the music seems more real and genuine than on some of the duller tracks. Most songs are overlong, dragging the album up to almost 80 minutes. There’s plenty of mid tempo tracks that invoke a ‘90s feel, but with a heavier production that’s - thank the lord - gives more depth and diversity than that of Death Magnetic (2008), and the sound is definitely heavy and crunchy. However, the lacklustre parts are in the song writing itself. The songs drag on for too long, mostly carrying anonymous riffage, boring rhythms and cringe inducing lyrics.

Simply put, too much on here sticks to mid tempo, especially on the second disc, where most every song is forgettable. The mid tempo wall can work rather well, if you incorporate some sludge or groove sense to the music (which Metallica has not) to give the slowness purpose. It works in ‘Dream No More’, which while slightly too long clearly beats crappy tracks like ‘ManUNkind’ and ‘Am I Savage?’. The aforementioned ‘Halo On Fire’ is also track worthy of mention in that it carries some trademark Metallica movements, emotive and deep. You just keep waiting for that full on explosion to carry the song off into the stuff of legend, but it never comes and then the song just kind of... disappears into the back of your head.

As I stated earlier however, there are some great moments on Hardwired... To Self Destruct. ‘Atlas Rise!’ being the obvious highlight, but also ‘Moth Into Flame’ with its flashy guitar work and instrumental passages. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ then ends the album on a high note, showing marks of the thrash everyone wanted but didn’t get. Fast, aggressive and hard, it’s exactly the right way to end an album. Even Ulrich is on point. Why more of the album couldn’t go in the same vein I know not. I do know that this album does carry too much of the Load/Reload feeling in style and feel, and carries on the Death Magnetic vein of being too fucking long, but the few moments of excellence do show here and there. Had the album been scaled down to carry the bare essentials, the quality had been increased and the experience drastically improved. Musically, Hardwired... To Self Destruct won’t go down in history, although the album cover certainly might in the “Ugliest” category.

Standout tracks: Atlas Rise!, Moth Into Flame, Spit Out The Bone