Metallica began their long journey back home some time after nearly imploding during the recording of 2003's St. Anger. Hardwired...To Self-Destruct arrives 13 years after that album but it, almost more than its 2008 predecessor Death Magnetic, feels like a repudiation of the band's '90s, the years when Metallica shined up, slowed down, and got a lot weirder. Sprawling over two discs when it could've fit onto one (an aesthetic choice certainly meant to evoke memories of 1988's double LP ...And Justice for All), Hardwired...To Self-Destruct does indeed rage, roaring out the gate with a title track where James Hetfield bellows "We're so f***ed/S*** out of luck." That palpable desperation recalls the free-floating angst that fueled Metallica's '80s, but Hardwired...To Self-Destruct doesn't find the quartet scrambling to sound as ferocious as they did during their heyday. Often, they do unleash the fury -- "Moth into Flame" gallops forward in a manner reminiscent of "Battery" -- but there's no denying that Metallica are an older band now, either incapable or uninterested in maintaining that intensity over the course of a full double album. When they slow down, it's not exclusively to churn and brood. "Murder One," a salute to departed Motörhead leader Lemmy, may belong in that category, but "Am I Savage?" teeters between ominous dirge and intricate transitions, while "Dream No More" has a backbeat that nearly swings. "ManUNKind" also has a bit of buried funk in its rhythms and that, along with the preponderance of complicated suites, is a clue that Hardwired...To Self-Destruct is primarily the work of Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Kirk Hammett doesn't have a single songwriting credit -- allegedly, this is due to the guitarist losing an iPhone filled with riffs just prior to recording -- and he's also diminished in terms of solos, leaving Hardwired as a showcase for Metallica's musical constructions. If the riffs don't always sink in deeply -- and if the entire production feels slightly monochromatic -- what impresses here is the thought and musicality within the compositions and the performances, elements that have always been at the band's core and shine brightly on Hardwired...To Self-Destruct.
Hardwired...To Self-Destruct Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2