Back in August, I wrote about Metallica’s brand new single, “Hardwired,” and said I was “cautiously optimistic” the band’s upcoming album might actually be good.
Now that I’ve spent the weekend listening to Hardwired … to Self-Destruct, Metallica’s first studio album since 2008’s lifeless Death Magnetic, I think it’s safe to say that—surprise!—this thing is a real success. No, it’s not a masterpiece in the same league as the band’s first 4 albums. It’s also not some epic statement about the world around them or a massive reinvention of their decades-old sound. What this is, though, is an honest-to-goodness return to form, something that fans of both the band and the genre they helped birth can listen to proudly.
It has hiccups here and there, sure, and James Hetfield isn’t saying anything we haven’t heard approximately 1,000 times before, but there are at least 5 or 6 home runs here, and even the less impactful tracks are still loud and energetic enough that they get the job done. All of the songs released ahead of the album—“Hardwired,” “Moth to the Flame” and “Atlas, Rise!”—are excellent, especially when listened to as a part of the full album instead of as the soundtrack to a middle-of-the-road music video. There are other highlights as well, including “Now That We’re Dead” and scorching album closer “Spit out the Bone.”
Like I said, none of these songs represent any sort of reinvention of Metallica’s sound—and they don’t need to. No longtime fans wanted that, including me.
When I first heard “Hardwired” and the other singles, I couldn’t help but think, “16-year-old me would have loved this,” which I think implies that current me isn’t all that impressed. Listening to the full album now, though … I am impressed. This is much better than I thought new Metallica songs would ever be.
While it’s not a new classic by any stretch of the imagination, if you’ve ever liked Metallica, you’ll find something to like here. Even if you completely gave up on them during the dark, sad NAPSTER! BAD! days, I recommend giving it a listen.
2016 has been a complete mess, but the amount of high-quality new music we’ve had is completely bonkers. That we got an above-average Metallica album is yet another weird twist in a truly bizarre year.
Stream the album below …