Metallica overcompensates with “Hardwired…”

The newest release from metal’s greatest success story has its moments, but only reaches competency.



Maxwell Heilman , Writer

Metallica has become one of those bands everyone knows about. Beyond the fact their 1991 self-titled mega-hit still pushes 5,000 copies per week — adding to their 110 million cumulative record sales — no other heavy metal band has reached their level of success. They even took their position as the only band to perform on every continent with their infamous concert in Antarctica.

a more lumbering approach

The horrible production and tired songwriting on “St. Anger” and “Lulu,” their most polarizing release, left their artistic longevity in question. Metallica spent the last five years recuperating before releasing “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct.” This double-LP will not change the opinions of those who dismissed the band as irrelevant, but the band provides a competent, if overindulgent, outing.

Hardwired” kicks the album off with the most Metallica-esque Metallica song in years. The band’s Bay Area thrash metal roots take center stage with galloping guitar riffs and a surprisingly energetic drum performance for the presumably out-of-touch Lars Ulrich. It has enough testosterone to get circle-pits started, although it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Sometimes hearing a band play the style with which they made a name for themselves brings warm feelings regardless of the fact it pales in comparison to their back catalogue.

The rest of the tracks take a considerable plunge in momentum. Averaging at 6 minutes, they do not merit their length. Long songs worked fine on albums like “…And Justice For All” because the songwriting rose to the occasion and drove huge songs forward. “Hardwired…” does not throw enough curveballs to keep one’s attention over its 77 minutes.

The best decision Metallica made on this record was holding to a more lumbering approach. Tracks like “Now That We’re Dead” take advantage of Ulrich’s caveman groove to a compelling effect, while the barrel-chested powerchords of “Am I Savage?” culminate in a breakdown worthy of ‘90s hardcore kids. With colossal production and hard-hitting delivery, many moments on “Hardwired…” maintain a certain charm. This ultimately makes the album’s overarchingly boring songwriting and bloated runtime that much more painful.

a major nuisance

Halo On Fire” does not need a 40-second-long intro any more than the seven-minute “Here Comes Revenge” must endlessly repeat one section. Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield still churn out crunchy riffs throughout the album, but the bite loses its teeth as each song wears on. Some of this falls on Ulrich, whose playing quickly becomes monotonous. “Moth Into Flame” avoids this pitfall, where the guitars and drums sync up powerfully, but the album succumbs to cuts like “Dream No More.” This particularly lackluster song actually sounds like an outtake from Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail The King” — a painfully ironic comparison considering Avenged essentially replicating Metallica’s “black album” with that release.

The underuse of Robert Trujillo becomes incredibly frustrating on this record. Only the intro to “ManUNkind” sports any bass features, yet another lost opportunity for a truly masterful player with the potential to revitalize this band’s style.

Hetfield’s vocals become a major nuisance for “Hardwired…” His range and conviction has vanished, leaving boring phrasing and monotonous melodies behind. Some notes resonate, so does his age. Though not substanceless, his lyrics lack cutting edge.

Granted, Metallica has nothing to prove after conquering the music industry. “Hardwire…” released under their vanity label featuring music they like playing. While not great, and arguably poor in comparison to modern upstarts and the band’s previous work, longtime fans and casual listeners certainly will not cringe like they did in 2011.

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