Metallica – Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (Album Review)


Ryan Nick, Editor-In-Chief

Metallica, one of the most successful bands of all-time, returned in 2016 to produce their tenth studio album: Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. Hardwired was released after an eight-year gap between itself and their ninth studio album, Death Magnetic (2008), making it the longest period of time in the band’s history without releasing an album.

Fortunately, their new content is no slouch. From the furious title track, “Hardwired”, to the blazing end track, “Spit Out the Bone”, Metallica delivers a sixteen-song double-album chock-full of great, memorable riffs that add up to some of their greatest tracks.

I’ll be providing you with a song-by-song analysis, rating each on a scale of one-to-ten. Let’s begin!

Disc One:

“Hardwired” (EXPLICIT) – While the title track is the shortest song on the album (3:09), it certainly packs one of the biggest punches. The track contains a pounding drum part that really pulls the rhythm guitar into the “Frantic” tone of the piece. It serves as an excellent introduction to the album, making it clear that Metallica is back in the game. Rating: 7/10.

“Atlas, Rise!” – The second track on the album (6:29) provides listeners with a sense of nostalgia, bringing them back to the 80’s. The song feels a lot like an Iron Maiden track, with soaring harmonies, intricate licks, and impactful riffs that fall into the vein of British Heavy Metal. Additionally, the lyrical meaning of the song criticizes people’s desire to unnecessarily burden themselves with problems that aren’t their own, furthering the motif of mankind’s modern problems quite successfully. Rating: 8/10.

“Now That We’re Dead” – Perhaps the most intricately designed track of the album (6:59), James Hetfield (rhythm guitarist, lead vocals, song-writer) and Lars Ulrich’s (drums, song-writer) song writing plays a massive role in the stellar construction of this track. The riffs in “Now That We’re Dead” are heavily reliant on rhythm and alternating guitar parts, creating a truly interesting listening experience. Rating: 9/10.

“Moth Into Flame” – This song is the first of the album to have a clear-cut meaning behind the lyrics (5:51). In this track, James Hetfield (rhythm guitarist, lead vocals, song-writer) comments on the ease with which people can be drawn into and destroyed by fame. While the lyrics are certainly front and center, the lead and rhythm guitar parts in this track are incredible, with the drums providing excellent support to the entire band. Rating: 9/10.

“Dream No More” –  Certainly the heaviest song on the album, this track clocks in at six minutes and thirty seconds of pounding riffs, aided by the drop D tuning. “Dream No More” serves as the spiritual successor to “The Call of Ktulu”, an instrumental from their second album, Fade to Black, written in 1984. The haunting lyrics and slow, methodical tempo expands on its predecessor’s tone. Rating: 7/10.

“Halo On Fire” – The longest track of the album (8:15) juxtaposes extended periods of soft, intricate guitar playing with short bursts of emotional riffing, emphasizing lyrical meaning over brute force. With this song, Hetfield delves into the idea that we all have good and evil in us, so when does it show itself? In addition, the last two minutes of the song feel very similar “Whiskey In The Jar”, a cover song from Metallica’s Garage, Inc. album, giving “Halo On Fire” a lot of great character. Rating: 7/10.

Disc Two:

“Confusion” – The second disc of the album opens with an emotional vibe (6:41), hitting directly on the horrors of PTSD that our veterans often experience. Additionally, the track’s intro and outro sound near-identical to Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?”, a metal classic (1980), creating a pseudo-awkward moment for metal fans like myself. While “Confusion” does take heavy inspiration from “Am I Evil?”, the song still maintains its originality throughout most of the song. Rating: 7/10.

“ManUNkind” – This song’s intriguing and unique intro, written by bassist and backing vocalist Robert Trujillo, leads listeners through a winding track (6:56) that discusses the sins of humanity, and the lessons that we seem to never learn. While nothing spectacular, “ManUNkind” feels good to listen to (with the exception of the whining guitar solo), and brings to light an important theme. Rating: 6/10.

“Here Comes Revenge” – Biblical references and moral discussions carry over from “ManUNkind” in this track (7:18). Again, this song suffers from the same problem that “ManUNkind” has: a lead guitar that lacks the awe-inspiring power that persisted through every Metallica album from the 80’s and early 90’s. Rating: 6/10.

“Am I Savage?” – With this track (6:30), Hetfield delves into an incredibly personal issue of his: anger. Hetfield cleverly creates a metaphor between that of a shape-shifting werewolf and the rage that sometimes gets the better of him. Within this song, there are two portions (4:17-5:05 and 6:18-6:31 in the music video) that quite possibly contain Metallica’s heaviest riff that the band has ever written. The deeply emotional message and mind-blowing riffs set this track high above its counterparts. Rating: 9/10.

“Murder One” – Once again, Hetfield exercises his song writing muscles on a track dedicated to his idol Lemmy Kilmister (1945-2015), the late bassist and singer of the American heavy metal band Motorhead. This song doesn’t offer much in terms of theme, but prefers to deliver hard-hitting lyrics and riffs that pay an effective tribute to Kilmister. Rating: 7/10.

“Spit Out the Bone” – The last song of the album is an absolute blast (7:09), flying by at a blistering tempo that only ever lets up to give you time to head-bang excessively. If I had to sum up this song, I’d have to say that it’s essentially “Hardwired” on steroids. Everything about this track is superior to the title track: more intricate and diverse riffs, an excellent drum part, and a bass solo that knocks this song out of the park. An instant classic, “Spit Out the Bone” is pure, unadulterated Metallica, managing to constantly keep you on your toes, while simultaneously containing lyrics that point out how technology has completely engulfed the human race. Rating: 10/10.

All in all, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct is an incredible improvement over most of their albums from the 90’s, as well as superior to their previously released album, Death Magnetic. I’d recommend this album to anyone, but especially to people that have never heard of Metallica. Overall Rating: 8/10.

Thanks everyone, and “Creep On!”

(Note: The themes and beliefs of Metallica’s music, as well as Ryan’s review does not represent the thoughts and beliefs of UAIS United)