On Sunday (27), you’ll probably see the headline: Metallica’s 10th studio album, Hardwired… To Self Destruct, will become the band’s sixth consecutive album to debut at #1. For the last two months, the album’s been unavoidable. From the defiant straight-ahead thrash of the title track to “Moth Into Flame” and “Atlas, Rise!,” the buzz was unmistakable. Then leading up to the album’s release, the band put out a video for each track on the album every two hours. The band know how to build hype, that’s for sure. And even better, the singles out there got fans excited, moreso than they’d been in years. Heavy but still with melody, the NWOBHM dual guitars of “Atlas…” and the opening statement of “Hardwired,” seemed to sound like a band not trying as desperately sound like their past as they did on the still solid Death Magnetic eight years back. So does the album live up to the hype? In short, absolutely.
A lot of the story leading up to the release was that this would be the band’s first studio double album (Garage Inc., S&M and Lulu, while not proper releases, were all double albums as well). However, looking at the running time, Load and Reload are both longer albums, and in this day and age of Spotify playlists and streaming music, it could be questioned why this wasn’t just a single album. However, the band wanted to make a statement, and sequencing matters. That being said, if you were to rate the two halves as individual six song albums, the first disc is the best collection of Metallica music since The Black Album easily. The second disc is a little more uneven, with perfectly acceptable songs leading up to album closer “Spit Out the Bone,” one of the best songs they’ve closed an album with since “Dyer’s Eve” back on …Justice.
Getting back to the sound of the album, it’s as if Master of Puppets and the Black Album were combined, along with a side of Load/Reload. That might not sound that appealing initially, but an album that opens and closes with “Hardwired” and “Spit Out the Bone” and also contains the other two singles means that 1/3rd of the album is amazing. Songs like “Now That We’re Dead” and “Dream No More” are riffy, memorable songs. It’s only on disc two where the album starts to falter. Since Load, every Metallica album has stretched the compact disc, which holds about 79 minutes of music, to the limit. Just because you can make an album that long doesn’t mean you should. Hell, at 47 minutes, Ride the Lightning is half an hour shorter. As awesome as the Lemmy tribute “Murder One” is, it’s not really a necessary song. If the band trimmed the fat and made this an eight or nine song album, it would’ve been unfuckable with. That said, it’s still pretty great, and to find a band over 30 years into their career making an album as solid as Hardwired… To Self Destruct is should be seen as nothing less than a total triumph. Hopefully they’ll take less than eight years for their follow-up and Kirk Hammett remembers some of those riffs he lost on his iPhone.