I can think of no other way of describing Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, Metallica’s newest album than what it is; a smashing success.
A double album that the stars almost aligned for to happen, the album was preceded with the unsuccessful Death Magnetic, which was followed by Kirk Hammett losing his phone that had nearly 250 riff ideas and quite poetically, the US Presidential Elections.
With the album, Metallica has redeemed themselves in the eyes of the purists and skyrocketed metal to the Billboard charts again, opening at No. 1 in 35 countries. Hardwired… has the biggest opening only behind Drake and Beyonce’s albums this year and gives the heavier dimension of world music, a much needed shot in the arm.
The release of the album was preceded by 3 singles; the title track Hardwired, Moth Into The Flame and Atlas, Rise. Then in a ballsy move, the final week saw videos for all the songs come out in which there were a few significant standouts.
Moth Into Flame
The madness of Confusion is carried by the harmonies of Am I Savage but first, there was this classic in the making.
That opening harmonised riff of Moth Into Flame just makes your head turn towards the screen, and makes you listen with a little more attention. By the time James reaches “..seduced by fame!” You’re singing along. It is a song that has a simple video and keeps the focus on the music. There is a want for that 80s classic nostalgia that seeps in and sets you up for the entire album.
Moth Into Flame is a throwback to the Metallica we found back in our school days. It is a song that is significant because it is after the release of this single, that people actually started going, “This could be good.”
There is a lot of musical loss to reflect upon this last year. But Lemmy passing in December, 2015 marked the end of a roller coaster of a life that inspired many to just follow their dreams. Here was a man who saw the birth of the Beatles in the 60s, was a roadie to probably the most infamous guitarist ever in Jimi Hendrix and then a pioneer for a genre we call Metal. Lemmy Killmeister was/is/will be a legend and all of which I have just said; is captured with ferocity in Murder One.
“One Man Doesn’t Give A Damn…” and that bite in Hetfield’s voice is near hypnotic. And to be fair, James Hetfield has done brilliantly behind the mic for the entirety of this album. The reanimation of Lemmy for the video is one that also beautifully encapsulates all the man’s likes for the 70 years he was on this planet. Lots of drugs and scantily clad women; Lemmy was a force of nature that left an impression on the music culture of the world, ones that even generations from now will be reaping the rewards of.
An amazing send off, Murder One is an instant classic!
The Metallica logo in its darkest incarnation will give you some indication as to what is to follow. Jonas Akerlund, who has worked with Metallica before as well as being the drummer for Bathory one of the first black metals bands ever, takes the helm to direct a video that is…gory and disturbing at times.
Something you would not generally associate with Metallica, ever.
In times when being politically correct is more of a law than a choice, ManUNkind tells the story of Mayhem, one of the biggest Norwegian black metal bands that gave this sub-genre of metal global infamy. The song itself is ruled by a powerful riff throughout, one that pays ode to the music it portrays with that slow melodic start before bursting from its seams in both sonic and visual manifestations.
ManUnKind races by as the music rises and falls to end at a bloody crescendo.
The first single, the cover track is the shortest song on the album. In a 2 Disc Album that makes 77 minutes of music with almost every track over the 7 minute mark, Hardwired is 3 minutes 18 seconds of pure intent. It is Lars Ulrich thundering on his throne, it is a storm of riff and rage and it begins:
We’re so fucked
Shit outta luck
To Self Destruct
The single came out when the Trump Hype Train was in full swing and if there ever was a song that captured all of this surreal, surreal façade of what leaders look like in 2016, of how we look at the word in 2016; by god Hardwired could be a global national anthem at this point.
It is the perfect opener for the album and the almost vile raw beauty of the lyrics is magically captured by the music.
Word Association: Sick!
Spit out the Bone
The final song on the album, is probably one of the best finishes to any album. The term ‘Thrash’ has been divorced for a long time from Metallica, so when you hear this barn-burner of a track right at the end, you can’t help but shed a tear of happiness.
A song from top to bottom that races like a hellhound and refuses to stop, even the dirty riffs in the end barely let you catch your breath before speeding off again into one of the best Kirk Hammett solos in recent memory.
Special props to Lords Of Summer that is a bellowing war cry of a song and was put out in the deluxe 3rd disc that also has live bootlegs by the band.
Make no mistake, Hardwired… is a landmark album, one that will be fondly looked back upon by our generation decades from now as we’ll say to our kids: “There! There’s where they found some of that old lightning again.”
(The author is a musician based in Kathmandu.)