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Metallica- HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT 

December 11, 2016

11/18/16 (release day) I woke up this morning about 5:00 am (it is a bitch getting old) and the first thing I thought of was to listen to the new Metallica album on Spotify. How amazing to listen to a new release on release day – for breakfast! Last week it was A Tribe Called Quest.

Tonight I am going old school listening to the new Metallica on a turntable.


I am not a metal guy, but it is hard to ignore Metallica. I was first introduced to Metallica in the summer of 1988 at the Monsters Of Rock Tour. The attraction for me was the headliner Van Halen. One of the undercard bands was Metallica – a band I had heard of, but I knew nothing about.

When Metallica took the stage at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on a late Wednesday afternoon (I had skipped out of work early) I was blown away by the band and the audience. The previous band, Led Zeppelin wannabes Kingdom Come, had been yawners. As soon as Metallica hit the stage the crowd erupted.  A couple thousand black shirted teenagers punched the air and mouthed the lyrics for the full set. The band leaned into a hurricane of adoration. I remember my chest feeling like it was getting jack hammered and the hair on my legs rocking to the beat. All I could think of was “who the fuck are these guys?” The music was a bit too intense for me, but I knew this was something special.

Per google the set list was:

  • The Ecstasy of Gold (a Ennio Morricone song played from tape)
  • Creeping Death
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  • Harvester of Sorrow
  • Whiplash
  • Fade to Black
  • Seek & Destroy
  • Master of Puppets

Encore:

  • Last Caress (a Misfits cover)
  • Am I Evil? (A Diamond Head cover)
  • Battery

I will be honest I did not dig them, but I knew they where awesome. A month later …And Justice for All would be released and they would break into the mainstream with the song “One” which received heavy rotation on MTV. It was the first underground metal album to achieve chart success in the United States.  So I had the good fortune of seeing an amazing band on the cusp of their break through.

On the strength of that live show I bought  … And Justice for All and I learned to dig it. Three years later they would become megastars with Metallica (aka The Black Album). I can’t tell you how many times I listened to that album. I recall I hated my job and was slightly overwhelmed new parent.  Somehow the anger of Metallica made a lot of sense at the time. 

25 years have passed since The Black Album and Metallica is still relevant.

The Review (a few weeks later)

The album opens with the semi titular track “Hardwired” which has the hyper feel of Kill ‘Em All. I re-listened to Kill ‘Em All and it sounded like punk rock performed by really good musicians.

“Atlas, Rise!” is classic Metallica: big riffs, jack hammer drums, roaring vocals, profound lyrics and burning guitar solos. It is great to hear these guys at the top of their game 35 years into it. These guys are in their early 50s and they are still rocking like a hurricane.

“Now That We’re Dead” has a bit  the “Enter Sandman” feel to the riff. One of my observations on this album is that vocalist James Hetfield  sounds better than ever.   This is the first song on the album where Hetfield’s vocal really stick  out as something very special.

“Moth Into Flame” has a very 80s metal feel and I like that.

“Dream No More” has a nice slow burn – a Black Sabbath feel.

“Halo On Fire” opens with some pretty amazing guitar and Hetfield’s vocals are as “pretty” as a metal god is capable of being pretty. This is the most gorgeous song on the album.  Great guitar work. It is beautiful without being sentimental. This ends the first CD and the LP.

“Confusion” opens the second CD/LP in classic aggressive Metallica style: big drums and big riffs. Hetfield’s vocals are rich and cocksure.  It is good to know that in their 50s Metallica still have teenage angst:

Confusion
All sanity is now beyond me
Delusion
All sanity is but a memory
My life … the war that never end

“ManUNkind” opens with a nice quite meditation of guitar and bass and then bursts into a metal blast.  Classic dystopian lyrics:

Hostage to my mind
Left myself behind
Blind lead blind
Quest to find
Faith in man(un)kind

This song is another example of how much richer Hetfield’s vocals have become.

“Here Comes Revenge” would not sound out-of-place on The Black Album.    Classic Metallica angry lyrics:

You ask forgiveness, I give you sweet revenge.

“Am I Savage?” is nice slow thick molten metal.

“Murder One” opens with some nice guitar pyrotechnics.  The song is a tribute to Motörhead’s recently deceased Lemmy Kilmister (a Metallica influence)  Murder One was the name of Lemmy’s favorite amp rig.

“Spit Out the Bone” ends the album on thrash metal rush.  The song is about technology and rather than the usual dystopian “the machines will take over,” Metallica admits they probably will, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Overall this is a great album.  It is a nice summary of everything Metallica is great at.  It is great to hear a mature band not resting on their laurels and motivated to still create.

Disc Three

One of my favorite things about Hardwired is the bonus disc. Bonus tracks often suck, but this bonus disc is truly valued addition.  It has several brilliant covers and a set of live tracks.

“Lords of Summer” is not a cover, but a song Metallica introduced in 2014 as a 12 inch vinyl single on Black Friday Record Store Day 2014.  It clocks in over seven minutes and is must have for Metallica fans.

“Ronnie Rising Medley – (A Light In The Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill The King)” is a medley of songs associated with the great metal singer Ronnie James Dio.   I am a Dio fan and this is a great remembrance of Dio (RIP).

“When a Blind Man Cries” is a Deep Purple cover.

“Remember Tomorrow” is an Iron Maiden cover.

The bonus disc then moves on to Metallica’s live set (nine songs) from Record Store Day 2016 at Rasputin Music in Berkeley, CA, where the band was celebrating their reissues of Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning.

The disc ends with a live recording of “Hardwired” from Metallica’s show at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN, in August 2016 (that show sold out in minutes and so I missed that one – I spent that night with Wilco – not a bad consolation).

A rare bonus disk that is actually a bonus!

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