High octane filled riffs mixed with soaring melodic guitar solos and machine-like drums and bass: Metallica’s new album smashed the Billboard Top 200 these past weeks. Released on November 18th, “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” marks the 10th album in Metallica’s long catalog of iconic heavy/thrash metal albums that contain some of the most memorable songs of all time. Set apart by two discs, the album certainly has two sides to its’ personality that explores new territory while also staying in touch with what Metallica is known for (a la melodic solos).
Right off the bat from Disc 1, we are greeted into the album by the title track- a fast-paced 3-minute thrash fest where the whole band shines as a whole. The second track, “Atlas Rise”, differs significantly from the previous track as it delves into territory Metallica has not tapped into in a very long time; the scope of the song is quite epic, as it is apparently inspired by Iron Maiden through various meddlings that fill the song and for the lyrics centering on the Greek god, Atlas.
However, as we head towards the other half of the first disc, it is evident what direction most of the songs are moving towards a HEAVY, but medium tempo type of structuring similar to Metallica’s “The Black Album” and “Load” albums. This is made clear in the last song, “Halo On Fire,” of the first part of “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” , since it mixes emotional melody with heavy riffs lead by bleak lyrics about the evil within all of us; personally, it is a favorite of mine as it technically fits the model of a Metallica “ballad” and almost brought me to tears ( it has an operatic closing akin to “Fade To Black”), while still being a song is made to be played live.
So, all in all, the first disc to Metallica’s new entry touches on realms they have already explored upon in the previous album, but still manages to feel fresh by slowing the pace down.
Groovy. Experimental. Homage. Dark. Evil. Bleak. Destructive. Hard-pounding. These words somewhat describe the second half of the album, as I feel it does not even come close to the experience of listening to these new batch of songs on your own. Hitting on topics such as PTSD, the savage within, revenge, evil A.Is, and the death of Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead fame- I knew while listening to it that this was a beautiful beating of dark subject matter embedded with Metallica.
The band managed to defy expectations by having fans think that “Hardwired,” the first song from the entire album, was the only fast paced track that they created through the creation of 5 groove-based songs in the second half of the album. For example, we haven’t heard a lot of Robert Trujillo’s bass playing on the forefront until now- like the beginning of “ManUnkind,” which serves as a tip of the hat to late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, and the middle of the last song.
Another example of Metallica experimenting with different tempos/genres is “Am I Savage?”, which heavily involves blues influences and serves as the lighter song of the album- even if it is about having a Jekyll and Hyde persona.
“Murder One”, a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister (a role model for James Hetfield, Metallica’s frontman/rhythm guitarist), manages to create a metal version of the blues while hitting fans on the head with tasty riffs that made me headband in approval; however, “Confusion”, the first song from the second half also succeeds in experimenting with grooves similar to bands like Pantera.
What about the last song of the entire album? Why did I not mention it previously? I feel this song, “Spit Out The Bone,” is probably the most important song in Metallica’s later years of their musical career. It is also my new all-time favorite Metallica song and it is delicious with different layers of metal greatness that soars like an eagle while thrashing through the air, savagely destroying everything in its’ path.
“Spit Out The Bone” is the fastest song Metallica has had in over 20 years, while at the same time being massive and a destructively satisfying conclusion to the album. It immediately starts out with a marching beat from the whole band, later quickly meshing around in a thrash frenzy and then going back to the heavy marching beat by introducing an awesome lead riff from Kirk Hammett. Then comes the vocals. James Hetfield has never sounded more monstrously pissed off at mankind for it’s blindness, as shown through his vocals that hinge on the verge of the early Metallica days (listen to the way he yells “SPIT OUT THE BONE!”).
Keeping up the fast tempo with thrown-at-your-face riffs and quick solos- the main mini solo leading to the crescendo is ultimately the highlight of the whole song. Out of nowhere, we are also introduced to quick bass solo by Trujillo which adds more icing to the cake that keeps on building and building. As James spits out (literally) words of termination of all mankind, the double bass drums shine through the grandiose riffing all the way to the unexpected head-banging inducing beatdown before the full guitar solo, which also power-houses through an already astounding rhythm section.
Everyone who has ever doubted Metallica for being capable of still attaining the heaviness they once had in their glory days- will bow down in shame for ever doubting the gods of thrash metal. The real Metallica never left. They were just exploring other aspects of themselves and expressing their tastes through music.