It’s been the best part of a decade since ‘the world’s biggest metal band’, Metallica, released their last full-length album, Death Magnetic. Since then there have been live records and concert films like Through The Never, reissues galore on as many formats as you can shake a stick at, a 30th anniversary celebration like no other, but, with the exception of the Beyond Magnetic EP of off cuts from Death Magnetic and one-off single Lords of Summer, no substantial new music.
Then, on 18th August 2016, a new single appeared on their Facebook and YouTube pages along with the announcement of a new album, Hardwired… To Self Destruct, due for release in November.
Of course every utterance from Metallica is discussed and dissected by their fan base with opinions ranging all extremes; from those who think the band ended with the death of Cliff Burton in 1986, to those with an affection for their supposed wilderness years of the mid 1990s, to those who are just interested to see what they’re going to do next following the public breakdown that was St. Anger and the film Some Kind Of Monster. If I’m honest I fall more into this latter group.
To make it clear I would call myself a fan of Metallica but one on the verge of lapsing. While Ride The Lightning remains one of my favourite albums, the surrounding hubbub of the band in recent years has pushed me away in the absence of new music – so when Hardwired appeared my interest was, to say the least, piqued.
The four-minute track and accompanying video were instantly a shot in the arm for my fandom. The song fires out the blocks with a blast of fairly classic thrash style, through a similar filter to the one that led Death Magnetic, with a Flying V filling the screen on the video. All this harks back at the band’s 80s heyday and continues for the duration of the song.
Hardwired is a precision assault fuelled by the kind of anger Metallica have made their own, though its source these days is surely questionable coming from such a seemingly self-contained outfit of some of the most successful musicians in the world, but it still comes across strong in a surprisingly visceral form.
The song has an urgency that was missing from much of the band’s more recent, overlong, efforts. This is great to hear giving it the spiky, arguably hardcore, edge the band always maintained was a major source of inspiration.
The lyrics and delivery are reminiscent of Death Magnetic’s Broken Beat and Scared, though with a more potent feel thanks to songs comparatively brief length. Although I was left wondering whether vocalist James Hetfield would be able to deliver this live as his voice does seem to have been waning in recent years (not surprising given the abuse it must have taken in three and a half decades).
Production-wise the song suffers a similar issue to Death Magnetic with the spiky, top-end heavy, sound seemingly built around showing off Lars Ulrich’s snare more than anything. It does, however, feel slightly tempered compared to the last album, though the low-end and a lot of the potential ‘heaviness’ seem lost – a shame considering Robert Trujillo is an excellent bass player.
Hardwired sounds like a promising extension of the Metallica that made Death Magnetic and, if it’s a taster of the album to come its showing promise and I, for one, am listening closely once more…