Courtesy: Blackened Records
Eight years have passed since Metallica released its most recent album Death Magnetic. That is a long time for any act to spend between albums. It’s also a huge risk because the longer an act waits, the greater the odds it might not be relevant anymore. What’s more, it also raises expectations greatly for said act’s new release. In many cases, said albums don’t live up to expectations. Guns ‘N Roses’ 2010 album Chinese Democracy is a prime example of that letdown. So waiting for such a long time between albums is a gamble to say the very least. For veteran hard rock outfit Metallica, the gamble to wait so long between albums paid off when it released its new album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct on Friday, November 18. This record is the band’s best work to date. It is a culmination of everything that the band has done over the course of its more than thirty year life. That is evident first and foremost through it musical arrangements. That will be discussed shortly. The record’s lyrical content is just as important to note in examining what makes this record stand out. It will be discussed later. The bonus live disc that was included in the record’s extended edition is just as important to note in the album’s presentation. Each element serves the record in its own positive way. All things considered, they make this record, again, Metallica’s best album to date and one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Metallica’s new full-length album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is the best work that this veteran hard rock outfit has released to date. It is also one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums without question. That is saying a lot considering how many albums the band has released over its life (10 counting this record) and the number of outstanding hard rock and metal albums that have been released so far this year. One of the elements that makes the album stand so proud is its collective musical arrangements. From one song to the next, the arrangements present elements of the band’s past, present and even its future. One of the songs that best exemplifies the arrangements’ reach is ‘Now That We’re Dead.’ Right from the song’s outset, its driving guitar line and drumming harkens back to ‘Enter Sandman’ from the band’s groundbreaking 1991 self-titled album (or more affectionately known by fans as The Black Album. That similarity stands throughout the remainder of its nearly 7-minute run time. Front man James Hetfield’s vocal delivery is just as powerful throughout the song as it was way back in 1991, too. When his vocal delivery is coupled with that solid musical arrangement, it makes the connection to The Black Album even stronger. It’s just one of the songs that serves to exemplify the reach of the album’s musical arrangements. ‘Spit Out The Bone,’ the record’s closer exhibits the arrangements’ reach just as much as ‘Now That We’re Dead.’
‘Now That We’re Dead’ exhibits a clear connection to material featured in Metallica’s 1991 self-titled record. It is just one of the songs included in this record that exhibits the reach of the album’s arrangements. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ exhibits that reach just as much as ‘Now That We’re Dead.’ It is a direct throwback to the band’s very first album Kill ‘Em All (1983) with its speed/thrash metal riffs and drumming. One could even argue to a point that there are hints of the band’s 1986 album Master of Puppets considering this arrangement and Robert Trujillo’s bass line. His bass line instantly conjures thoughts of Cliff Burton’s work with its style and sound. Obviously Burton died during the tour for that album, but would likely be as proud as the band’s fans to hear that similarity. Even Hetfield’s own vocal delivery throws so far back, too. Sure he’s much older now. But when he hits certain notes, audiences will instantly hear those hints of his days gone by. That is a big compliment to him. When each of the arrangements are brought together, they make this arrangement yet another standout composition. Even more important to note is that just as with ‘Now That We’re Dead,’ the song’s arrangements harkens back to the noted albums but does so with a certain sense of evolution, too. In other words, it doesn’t just repeat any of the songs from said albums. Rather, it merely exhibits the stylistic approach used in the noted albums. The same applies in the case of ‘Dream No More.’
‘Now That We’re Dead’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone’ are both clear examples of the reach of this record’s arrangements. One throws back to the band’s Black Album while the other throws back even farther. Both songs exhibit the influence of those albums through their arrangements, and do so without just repeating any of the songs included in those records. That is extremely impressive. They are just a couple of the songs that serve to exhibit the reach of this album’s arrangements. ‘Dream No More’ is another example of the arrangements’ reach. This song exhibits hints of the band’s much maligned albums Load and Re-Load. More precisely, with its combination of guitar and drum lines, it conjures thoughts of ‘King Nothing,’ which was one of the few truly good songs included in Load. But again, it doesn’t try to just rehash that song through its arrangement. Love the album or hate it (and Re-Load) the fact of the matter is that through this song, Metallica has taken the best of the album and evolved it into this song. It again shows the reach of the album’s arrangements. As if that isn’t enough, there are a couple of songs included in this record that even hint at what is probably the band’s worst albums (if not its worst), St. Anger. Even in those cases, the band somehow managed to take the best of the worst and make it something enjoyable here. There are also hints of each of the band’s other albums in the likes of ‘Hardwired,’ ‘Atlas, Rise’ and ‘Confusion’ just to name a few other standout arrangements. All things considered here, it is clear in listening to the album from start to finish that this albums’ arrangement present quite a reach. They present the band’s past, present and possibly even future. That reach will impress any long time fan just as much as any new fan. The reach presented in this record’s arrangements is clearly an important part of the record’s presentation. It is just one of the record’s key elements, too. The album’s lyrical content is just as important to note in examining the record’s presentation as its musical reach.
The musical reach that is exhibited throughout Metallica’s latest full-length LP is a hugely important part of the record’s presentation. That is because the record’s arrangements present influences from each of its previous albums and even hint at the band’s future. To an extent, one could say that makes this record career-spanning. While the record’s musical arrangements are so clearly important to its overall presentation, they are not its only important element. The album’s lyrical content is just as important to note as its musical arrangements. ‘Atlas, Rise’ is just one example of the importance of the record’s lyrical content. Hetfield sings in this song, “Bitterness and burden/Curses rest on thee/Solitaire and sorrow/All eternity/Save the earth and claim perfection/Deem the mass and blame rejection/Hold the pose, feign perception/Grudges break your back/All you bear/All you carry/All you bear/Place it right on, Right on me.” He’s not signing about the literary Atlas. This comes across as using Atlas as a metaphor for someone who loves to put the problems of the world on himself or herself, but not for noble reasons. That is evident as he sings, “Grudges break your back/All you bear/All you carry/All you bear/Place it right on, right on me.” This becomes even clearer as Hetfield sings, “How does it feel on your own/Bound by the world all alone/Crushed under heavy skies/Atlas, rise!” The song goes on very much in similar fashion in terms of its lyrical content. It leaves just as little doubt as the song’s early lines. It definitely is a powerful song considering all of that. When the song’s equally powerful musical arrangement is set against those lines, the song becomes even harder hitting. It is just one of the songs that exemplifies the importance of the album’s lyrical content. ‘Moth Into Flame’ is another of the album’s songs that exhibits the importance of the album’s lyrical content.
‘Atlas, Rise’ is a prime example of the importance of the lyrical content presented in Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. It comes across as a damning indictment of those people who prefer (for whatever reason) to put the world’s problems on themselves and make themselves virtual martyrs, all the while holding grudges against the world. Everyone knows or has known someone just like that. It is just one of the examples of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. ‘Moth Into Flame’ is another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. Hetfield sings in this song, “Blacked out/Pop queen, amphetamine/The screams crashed into silence/Tapped out/Doused in the gasoline/The high times going timeless/Infamy all for publicity/Destruction going viral/Light it up/Ah, light it up/Another hit erases all the pain.” He goes on to sing, “Bulletproof/Ah, kill the truth/You’re falling, but you think you’re flying high/High again/Sold your soul/Built a higher wall/Yesterday/Now you’re thrown away/Same rise and fall/Who cares at all/Seduced by fame/A moth into flame.” As with ‘Atlas, Rise,’ the lines presented here are their own damning indictment. This time, it comes across as an indictment of celebrities and their lifestyles. The lines presented here are just a portion of the support for that argument. The song continues in similar fashion lyrically speaking, which strengthens this critic’s argument even more. Keeping that in mind, this song’s lyrical content becomes yet another important example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content. It’s hardly the first time that anyone has ever crafted a song that goes after celebrities and their lifestyles (if that is in fact the focus on the song’s lyrics). But it is still a biting approach that audiences will appreciate greatly. It isn’t the last song that exhibits the importance of the album’s lyrical content. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ is one more example of the importance of this record’s lyrical content.
‘Atlas, Rise’ and ‘Moth Into Flame’ are both key examples of the importance of this record’s lyrical content. Both songs come across as very biting commentary about their given topics. While both pieces are key in exhibiting the importance of the lyrical content in Metallica’s new album, they are not the only songs that show that importance. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ also serves to show the importance of the album’s lyrical content. This song presents some very heavy content. Hetfield sings in the song’s lead verse, “Come unto me and you will feel perfection/Come unto me and dedicate/Come unto me and you’ll never feel rejection/Come unto me and terminate/Remove your heart, it’s only good for bleeding/Bleeding through your fragile skin/Remove your thought cause it’s only for deceiving/Deceiving thoughts destroy within/Disappear like man was never here/Long live machine/The future supreme/Man overthrown/Spit out the bone.” The technology theme continues throughout the song, but shouldn’t be misinterpreted. This isn’t one of those songs that audiences have come to expect from Fear Factory or other similar acts. It comes across more as a piece about people’s reliance on technology, not about robots overthrowing mankind. That’s even despite the fact that Hetfield sings “Long live machine/the future supreme.” It comes across more as a commentary about how mankind has allowed technology to become its new God. That is evidenced in the song’s second verse in which he sings, “Plug into me, I guarantee devotion/Plug into me and dedicate/Plug into me and I’ll save you from emotion/Plug into me and terminate/Accelerate, utopian solution/Finally cure the Earth of man/Exterminate, speeding up the evolution/Set on a course, a master plan/Reinvent the earth inhabitant/Long live machine/the future supreme/Man overthrown/Spit out the bone.” It comes across as saying man’s reliance on technology and devotion to technology will eventually turn man into machine. It comes across as a sarcastic, yet still very biting commentary in its own right. Again, when this content is coupled with the song’s musical content, the whole of the song stands out even more. It is hardly the last song that could be cited in exhibiting the importance of the album’s lyrical content. ‘Dream No More,’ ‘Confusion’ and ‘Am I Savage?’ could each be cited in exhibiting the importance of the album’s lyrical content along with the rest of the album’s songs. All things considered, the album’s lyrical content proves in whole to be just as important to its presentation as its musical arrangements. Even as important as its musical and lyrical content proves to be, these two elements are not the album’s only important elements. The bonus third disc included in the album’s extended edition is just as important to note as its musical arrangements and lyrical content.
Both the musical arrangements and lyrical content presented throughout Hardwired…To Self-Destruct are key to its overall presentation. The musical arrangements take listeners to the band’s earliest days as well as its present and even future. The album’s lyrical content addresses a variety of topics including celebrity, people who make themselves martyrs, and much more. While both elements are clearly important to the album’s overall presentation, they are not its only important elements. The bonus third disc included in the album’s extended edition is just as important to note in examining its presentation as the previously noted elements. The disc features four more songs including a medley of Ronnie James Dio covers in the form of ‘Ronnie Rising Medley’ and ten live songs. The studio songs bring the album’s total song count to 16. That is counting the medley as one big song. The live songs, recorded during the band’s 2016 – ’16 tour are important in their own right both because of the songs that are featured and the band’s performance thereof. The live songs featured in the record’s bonus disc are some of the band’s most beloved classics. They include’ ‘Hit The Lights,’ ‘Ride The Lightning,’ ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and plenty of others. They are so important to note because they are a perfect fit with the album’s new studio tracks, which themselves lift from every era of the band’s life. The band’s performance of the songs is just as impressive because of its energy throughout each song. The band hasn’t lost even all these years later. It is still just as enjoyable to experience here as it was when the featured songs were still new. If that isn’t enough for audiences, the fact that the performances sound so good adds even more enjoyment to their overall presentation. The proverbial cherry on top for the live recordings is that save for just one performance—‘Hardwired’ recorded live at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN—each of the songs featured here were all recorded at the same place, Rasputin Music in Berkeley, CA on April 16, 2016. So rather than just having a group of random recordings, audiences get nearly a full live recording on this disc along with four bonus studio recordings. It is a great finishing touch to an album that already stood out on its own musical and lyrical laurels. When it is set against those elements, the whole of the elements leaves no question that Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is Metallica’s best effort to date and that it is one of 2016’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is Metallica’s best new album to date. It is also one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums. That is evidenced through musical arrangements that will take listeners throughout the band’s body of work. Its lyrical content is just as certain to leave listeners thinking and talking. The bonus disc included in the album’s extended edition adds even more enjoyment to the record’s overall presentation with its four extra studio recordings and ten expertly produced and engineered live recordings. The live recordings will entertain audiences not just because of how well they were handled but also because they run the gamut just as much as the songs presented in the album’s main body. The band’s performance of the songs is just as important to note in their enjoyment, too. Each element noted in this review is important in its own right to Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. All things considered, they make this record the band’s best work to date and one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal offerings. It is available now in stores and online. More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:
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