Metallica – ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ Album Review

It has been nearly a decade since the legendary Metallica last released an album. ‘Death Magnetic’ (2008) was met with mostly positive reviews, and won several Grammys. 

Then a few years passed that were filled with touring, celebrity appearances, and the ‘Through the Never’ (2013) concert film… but no new music, save for a demo called “Lords of Summer” (2014).

Understandably, metal fans chomped at the bit once the newest effort from the Biggest of the Big Four was announced.

The first single, “Hardwired,” hearkened back to the band’s early days, with tinges of “Seek and Destroy” from their debut album. It showed promise, but how would the rest of “…Self-Destruct” hold up?

It’s not phenomenal, but it’s not terrible. It’s a pretty decent album that pays homage to all eras of Metallica, especially that of the 90’s.

“Hardwired” and “Atlas, Rise!” kick off the album with some old school sensibilities. As was said before, the first track hearkens back to “Seek and Destroy” off ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (1983). “Atlas” sounds a bit more Iron Maiden-esque, with plenty of twin guitar harmonies.

“Now That We’re Dead” brings us to the 90s, with tinges of the ‘The Black Album’ (1991), ‘Load’ (1996), and ‘Reload’ (1997). Most of the remaining songs on ‘Hardwired…’ sound like they could have been from any of those albums. It has a more mid-tempo feel, a contrast from the speedier stuff that opened the LP.

“Moth Into Flame” sounds like it could have been from ‘Death Magnetic’ (2008), but it is slightly thrashier and has better production. When I first heard the band play this song on The Tonight Show back in September, I honestly wasn’t blown away. But hearing the tight studio version made me gain more appreciation for this track. Kirk Hammett’s guitar lines are very melodic and memorable, and James Hetfield’s voice sounds better than it has in years.

“Dream No More” brings us back to the 90’s Metallica style with another heavy mid-tempo stomper. I might even dare say that it is in the same key and tuning as “Sad But True” from ‘The Black Album’ (1991). The high-pitched vocal harmonies add an additional nostalgic stamp to this song.

My first experience listening to “Halo On Fire” was while watching the bizarre music video that accompanied it. It featured the band playing to an overenthusiastic crowd that was smiling and headbanging to the mellowest track on the album so far. (Granted, if I had been invited to be in a Metallica video, I’d probably look and act the same.) The mini-concert eventually becomes the venue for a fight club and features a female fighter kicking the asses of people of all genders and ages.

The song itself is great, with plenty of tempo and key changes that will keep the listener guessing. I only wish that my first experience listening to it had not been by watching the video.

“Confusion” starts with an intro similar to that of Diamond Head‘s “Am I Evil?” The riffs seem to borrow from “The Frayed Ends of Sanity” and “Eye of the Beholder” from ‘…And Justice For All” (1988). Judging from the lyrics and the music video, the song seems to be about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The protagonist is a female veteran that has flashbacks about her combat days while she is working in a corporate setting. Out of the entire collection of videos, I felt this one carried the most important message and wish it had been featured more prominently in the album release campaign.

Like “Halo On Fire,” I also wish that my first experience listening to “ManUNkind” had not been by watching the music video. The video, directed by Jonas Akerlund (ex-Bathory), serves as a trailer for the upcoming black metal documentary ‘Lords of Chaos’. This was not known when the video was first released. All audiences were treated to was a Mayhem tribute band, complete with corpse paint and a pig’s head, lip-syncing to “ManUNkind,” which is frankly far from black metal. Understandably, reactions were mixed.

As for the song itself, it’s another mid-tempo track. This seems to be a common theme with ‘Hardwired…,’ but this track is arguably the weakest on the album. It frankly sounds more like country rock than black metal.

“Here Comes Revenge” has an intro similar to “Leper Messiah” from ‘Master of Puppets’ (1986), but ends up sounding more like something off ‘The Black Album’. It is faster than most of the mid-tempo songs, has great driving riffs, and will probably end up as a live favorite once the band starts touring for this album. Songs like these are the reason why Avenged Sevenfold are often accused of lifting Metallica‘s ideas.

“Am I Savage?” is yet another mid-tempo stomper, which defies expectations of the song sounding like “Am I Evil?” One of my main gripes with this album is that some of the songs have similar tempos and feels, which make them nearly indistinguishable, save for the vocals. Another gripe is that most of those songs were over six minutes long and seemed to drag on a bit. At this point, I’m wondering when the album will end.

When it was announced that Metallica would release a song in tribute to Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, fans were ecstatic. “Murder One” is yet another mid-tempo song, with the only difference being that the lyrics make references to Motorhead songs. I honestly expected a tribute to Lemmy to sound somewhat like the speedy, raucous Motorhead I am accustomed to. “Murder One” sounds like a song that didn’t make it to the final cut of ‘The Black Album’, but it’s the thought that counts.

The standard edition of the album ends with “Spit Out The Bone,” arguably the best track on the album. It has a fast, thrashy 80’s feel, which I’m sure many fans wanted to hear more of on ‘Hardwired…” (myself included).

If more of the tracks had sounded like “Spit Out The Bone,” and less like mid-tempo leftovers from the band’s 90’s catalogue, I think it could have been one of the best metal albums of the year.

That being said, it’s not a terrible album by any means. The band sounds better than they have in years, both musically and vocally.

Being a fan of Metallica‘s early thrash metal material, ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ falls slightly short of my expectations. However, it is still a good album and is worth a listen or two. It is likely to grow on you.

‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ was released November 18 via Blackened Recordings.


‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’ Track Listing:

  1. Hardwired
  2. Atlas, Rise!
  3. Now That We’re Dead
  4. Moth Into Flame
  5. Dream No More
  6. Halo On Fire
  7. Confusion
  8. ManUNkind
  9. Here Comes Revenge
  10. Am I Savage?
  11. Murder One
  12. Spit Out The Bone

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  • Metallica - 'Hardwired...To Self-Destruct' - 7.5/10

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