When Metallica released Hardwired, the lead single from their 10th studio album, things were looking good. That track felt like a reenergised band, harking back to their prime but with a newly rediscovered power and intensity.
Now the album itself, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct has been released on the world, it appears things aren’t quite as straightforward.
Once you’ve got past the album cover which looks like it may have had a good idea behind it, even if the execution doesn’t quite live up to that, the double album (going by the CD version) starts well with the aforementioned titular single and the inventively heavy Atlas Rise!
Now That We’re Dead and Moth Into The Flame aren’t too bad either with some nice groovy passages reminiscent of the band’s mid-90s era, but it is around here that a few problems start to present themselves.
Other than Hardwired every track clocks in at over five minutes and, while this has been a trademark of the band throughout their career, that trademark used to include an inventiveness that saw the songs evolve and transition.
This was most notably heard on …And Justice For All, but here they just seem to repeat the same passages without development making it feel like many of these songs could be cut in half and remain just as, if not more, effective.
In the same way as Ride The Lightning & Master of Puppets in the mid 1980s and Load & Reload in the mid 1990s, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct very much feels like a partner to Metallica’s last studio album Death Magnetic.
Unfortunately while Ride and Master were the band hitting their creative peak and Load and Reload saw them trying something new, what this pair of albums seems to do is hark back to the past, particularly that mid-80s heyday, which unfortunately demonstrates a once highly innovative band treading water and, potentially, falling foul of too high a level of fan service than really is required.
The second disc of the album continues this largely forgettable feeling that sadly, while not actually bad, simply isn’t very good either. For a band as historically divisive as Metallica this is a real shame – in many ways I’d rather hate this record than simply feel largely ambivalent to it.
A highlight of a sort of the second disc is Murder One, a tribute to long time friend of the band Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, but even this feels a bit too forced and passionless in its rendering here.
In the end then Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is, for the most part, an overlong set of songs that feel like Metallica are repeating themselves and stuck in some kind of loop of searching to relive past glories and keep fans happy while essentially failing to do either – at least St. Anger got people talking…