I was cautiously optimistic about the release of Metallica’s 10th studio effort, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, and in a way, I was quite pleased. The LA thrash legends have hardly been prolific when it comes to releasing new material over the past 20 years or so. 2003’s St Anger was undeniably awful, whilst the follow-up, Death Magnetic (2008), was a welcome return to the band’s roots. Hardwired follows a similar vein, yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that Hetfield & Co. have become somewhat of a tribute act of their former selves.
The album does have its bright points, however: the lead single, ‘Hardwired’, is vintage Metallica – aggressive vocals, galloping riffs and a frantic pace contribute to a great curtain raiser. ‘Moth Into Flame’, the second single, is another unmistakably ‘Talica song, and ‘Atlas Rise’ is a personal favourite featuring all the usual trademarks: Hetfield’s bellow, Hammett’s ferocious soloing and Ulrich’s unique brand of drumming. A problem that the band have consistently struggled with over the years is their fondness for almost over-indulging with song length; this issue arises again on Hardwired. Out of the 12 tracks on this release, 9 of them ramble on for more than six minutes. Songs like ‘Dream No More’ and ‘Now That We’re Dead’ suffer from this chronic Metallica hamartia, which repeatedly saps the energy from any half-decent effort, leaving it feeling flat and, to an extent, pointless.
In the weeks leading up to the album launch, guitarist and wah-pedal enthusiast Kirk Hammett stated that Guns ‘N Roses have “turned into somewhat of a nostalgia act, which, to me, is kind of sad.” The same argument could be made for Metallica at this point. Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is a solid effort, yet it is far from revolutionary.