Friday, November 18, 2016

Metallica - Hardwired...To Self Destruct (2016)

Well, guess I have to listen to this one again. Yeah, that's probably the worst way to start a review, but it goes especially for this one. Now we all know Metallica as a thrash act and we were even sold three songs by the mainstream media: “Hardwired” came first, followed by “Moth Into Flame” and finally “Atlas Rise” which came so close to the release date that it didn't matter. As “Hardwired” and “Moth Into Flame” were both clearly different than “Atlas Rise” (even though I thought it was a fairly strong Iron Maiden influenced track) the majority of the songs on the record that we were sold are vastly different than what many of us might have expected. When we get to the disc, we find that “Hardwired” is really just a three-minute thrash track. When I first saw the video, I thought that it had been edited and thought that Kirk's solo was just a little on the short side. I assumed that when I'd get the full disc, maybe it would be a bit longer. There were two discs after all. Alas, Metallica fucked us again. The full playing time for this “epic two disc release” is actually seventy-seven minutes, which would have fit perfectly on one disc. Not only that, several of these pieces are in fact blown out of proportion, which often gives them unnecessarily long intros and long instrumental breaks. Most of these should have been cut-down from their garage jam lengths into something a bit more bearable.

To be honest, listeners are actually getting what feels like a dose of Load/Reload in the vein of blues and groove rock tunes that aren't all that thrashy. Some say it might be the record in between ...And Justice For All and The Black Album, but I'm willing to consider it the album between The Black Album and Load. It isn't that the record won't be enjoyable to fans of Metallica's more mainstream material, but it definitely has more of a modern approach that sort of rides the coat-tails of their most celebrated moments in the limelight and not so much the early thrash days that metalheads know and love. In addition to that, James Hetfield really wants to try singing on this one, which is definitely done with a more commercial quality. Don't go into this thinking that you're getting any hint of a thrash disc. After all, the only other thrash cut you'll get is fan-favorite “Spit Out The Bone” which I didn't find as interesting as others did. I will say that on a second listen, I can kind of see the appeal that black-era songs like “Dream No More” might have for others, but I've already heard that kind of material and wasn't necessarily interested in a rehash.

I also found it odd that the Lemmy tribute song, “Murder One” didn't have any actual Motorhead influence. I would have at least expected something of a Motorhead style solo from Kirk on this one. I guess this is Metallica's attempt at another grab towards the mainstream after not hitting so hard with Death Magnetic even though I found a couple songs from that one, including “That Was Just Your Life” and “Judas Kiss” to be among some of the band's best. Unfortunately, I can't really say that about this one which doesn't feel like the Metallica album I felt that I was marketed – a thrash record. The band shot a video for every track on the disc, even the B-Side “Lords Of Summer” so it's a little odd that they would lead us on with two thrash cuts first. Why couldn't they just have skipped the whole “Hardwired” cut and given us “Dream No More” or “ManUNkind” instead? These songs would have been more indicative of what kind of experience we were getting and I was quite dissatisfied with what felt like it was supposed to be something that it was not.

Comparing this to a video game marketing campaign, No Man's Sky also showcased itself as a product that it was not and upset several fans in the process. Oddly enough, because there are two different types of Metallica fans out there (those who prefer the thrash and those who prefer the more modern hard rock) the dissent between these groups has almost gotten to a near-political level, with others saying that it is outright terrible and others claiming that it's one of the best albums they've heard all year. This second listen has made the record a bit more listenable, I think – but I'm not going to say that it's one of my favorite Metallica discs by any means. Once again, I think that if most of these songs had been cut by about a minute of two at least, we might have had a more soluble listen that could have even done a bit better with the fans.

Keep in mind, some people just outright hate Load, Reload and The Black Album so this isn't going to sit in their wheelhouse at all. I've also noticed online especially, that there's a lot of fighting between this and Exodus's latest album, Brotherhood Of The Snake. I haven't gotten a chance to hear that record in it's entirety to back up the proof that it is superior, but I can say that as far as a thrash record is concerned, Megadeth's Dystopia barrels over this one. Metallica do manage to prove that they still have it, but the problem is that it's nothing really all that new. Hardwired...To Self Destruct is very safe and doesn't even seem to blend musically well with it's moniker. If you see the cover and look at the title, you might even expect a thrash disc. But just remember, there's more crunch here than we've heard from Metallica since the mid-era and that might not necessarily be such a good thing. I don't hate the album, but I certainly wouldn't consider it something of a modern masterpiece. Since it's in the mainstream media pop/rock category, you can pick it up at Best Buy for ten dollars. Or you can just watch the whole thing online in video form, which might actually be better than listening to the record itself. Some of the videos I'm told are quite interesting, so that would definitely give this record a bit more merit than other albums without such a heavy visual component. Of which there are several.

Regardless of what I say, you're either going to listen to it, have listened to it, or will never approach it at all. So this is just my two cents and you can do whatever you like. Not terrible, but not mind-blowing either... and what in the hell is up with Lars' drum sound on this one? Seriously.

(2 Discs, 12 Tracks, 77:00)


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