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This is the first Metallica album we have had since 2008’s Death Magnetic, which was well received at the time and has been treated to a remastering since. Though you could argue that the favourable reviews were pure relief after St. Anger. So how does Hard Wired… stand up?
The first thing to address is that the solos have stayed, and Kirk Hammett’s infamous wah-wah pedal can be heard frequently throughout the album on songs such as the lead single Moth into Flame. This might seem like a given after the backlash of the castrated, solo-less St. Anger but it does make Hard Wired… sound more like Metallica than Metallica have sounded in a long time. They are back. With 3 CD’s and eleven songs clocking in over 6 minutes long, this is a lot of ‘tallica to chew. Which is understandable since this is the first new music we’ve heard from the group since 2008.
I recently came across a comment on the album that said simply, “Millionaires can’t make metal”, which I found interesting. Metal as a genre can find its roots in the soot of 1960’s industrial Britain. Indeed the genre’s arguable first band Black Sabbath, found their heavy sound due to guitarist Tony Iommi having his fingertips sliced off in a sheet metal factory. So can Metallica, metal’s biggest mainstream export, still write metal? The answer is yes, but that isn’t as clear as it should be.
The album as a whole is solid, it sounds like Metallica should sound, and the band seem at peace with themselves and their music, everything is hunky dory, right? The trouble with Hard Wired… is that it doesn’t provide us with anything new. It seems that the band have been so focussed on trying to sound like their old selves that they forgot to give this record an identity. It’s as plain and simple as that. The album is forgettable, and whilst it sounds like Metallica, it doesn’t best (excluding St. Anger) any of their older stuff. There is no incentive to listen to this extremely lengthy piece of fan-service, when you could just listen to Ride the Lightning, or Master of Puppets etc.
Sure, there are some genuinely good songs, Atlas, Rise! Is a particular favourite, being one of the few I can actually remember, it leaps off the starting line and relentlessly pounds away on the skin of your eardrums. It’s classic, and you can tell the band are enjoying it, as they are every song on the album. Putting the band’s feelings aside for a second, moments such as those on Atlas…Are few and far between. There’s too much of the same and the album eventually bites off more than it can chew, and fades into a homogeneous mass of samey.
For every good moment, there’s one we’ve heard before, only better the first time around. Songs like Murder One are something we’ve had already. Simply put, Hard Wired… is a solid effort that never amounts to anything that matters. It’s pure fan service.