Metallica helped millions of fans worldwide kick off their weekend with the release of their 10th studio album, Hardwired… To Self Destruct. A mix of passionate, energetic, thrash metal and thoughtful, relevant lyrics, Hardwired is Metallica’s perfectly timed release, uniting fans both young and old with their tried-and-true signature sound. In a scarily chaotic sociopolitical climate, heated, angry, and reflective Metallica is just what the world needs.
The album comes eight years after the epic Death Magnetic, their last studio album. The band quenched its fans’ thirst for more material, releasing a new, original music video for each and every song off of the new album, hitting millions of views on each in less than a day after publishing. Although some critics have complained that Hardwired doesn’t push the band’s boundaries or offer a new sound, when you have such a distinguished, perfected sound in the way that Metallica does, you don’t need to evolve it. They have mastered what they do, and this album, which is a conglomeration of sounds from Load/Reload, Metallica (The Black Album), and Death Magnetic, further reinforces their solidified status as one of the biggest names in rock and metal. It reminds us all why we grew to love the band in the first place.
The opener and one of my favorite tracks, “Hardwired” kicks off the energy with the band’s signature, speedy thrash metal sound. As James Hetfield’s vocals and Kirk Hammett’s solos come in, we once again begin to fall in love with their sound. The track introduces the overall theme of the album, and quite a relevant one at that - that we humans are hardwired to self-destruct. Next follows “Atlas, Rise!,” and another one of my favorites, “Now That We’re Dead.” The latter starts off with slightly slower riffs, very reminiscent of The Black Album (especially “Enter Sandman”).
“Moth into Flame” brings back some heavy Death Magnetic vibes, picking up the momentum of the album with Hammett’s slightly experimental solo mid-song and speedier rhythm during its second half. “Dream No More” features a sexy groove with steady, heavier riffs throughout, with apocalyptic, literarily and mythologically informed lyrics that are so classic for the band. “Halo on Fire,” the longest track on the album at just over eight minutes, concludes the first half of the album, as Hetfield sings, “I fear to turn on the light, for the darkness won’t go away.” This song’s intricate melody and rhythm changes keep the listener engaged throughout - perhaps even more so than with some of the shorter songs on the album.
Delving into the second half of Hardwired, “Confusion” echoes its military theme with systemic, machinated riffs throughout. The music video covers the topic of PTSD, paired with lyrics like “My life… the war that never ends.” Next, “ManUNkind” paints an appropriate picture of the recent sociopolitical scene, reminding us how the “Blind lead blind / Quest to find / Faith in man(un)kind,” paired with an incredible solo by Hammett. Following the track is “Here Comes Revenge,” which features a pleasantly disturbing animated video, and then “Am I Savage?” serves as the album’s ballad with a slower, heavier tune.
The band pays homage to the late and great Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead with “Murder One,” and the music video is absolutely incredible, featuring an animated Lemmy crashing into the Rainbow Bar & Grill where he orders his signature Jack Daniel's. The album concludes with another one of my absolute favorites from Hardwired, “Spit Out the Bone,” with a return to the speedy thrasher sound that essentially is the Metallica sound. It features some of Hammett’s best guitar work on the album, and the dystopian horror music video, which portrays a deus ex machina-type figure from The Matrix trilogy, reminds of the “All Nightmare Long” video as Hetfield blatantly declares the death of mankind, the future of the machine: “Long live machine, our future supreme, your man overthrown, spit out the bone.”
Overall, Hardwired… To Self Destruct is an exceptional album with a solid, perfected sound that remains loyal to Metallica’s mastered formula. Along with all of its newly released music videos, the band has given its fans a lot of amazing material, and at over 35 years into their highly celebrated career, one thing is undoubtedly certain - the boys still got it.
By Pauline Pechakjian