Updated: Mar 17, 2019
If you had the chance to become a multi-millionnaire, and all you had to do was write the perfect radio-friendly album, and blast your fame into the public eye, would you do it? We'd all like to say that we wouldn't...that our music's pure art and not to be altered for anyone just to feed the masses. But we all know we most likely would. And why not? It's hard to blame METALLICA for the decision to propel their growing band into the spotlight, solidifying their status as metal kings, while making sure they can earn a living doing what they love. Their self-titled black album made die-hard fans cringe while bringing in millions of new fans. And METALLICA hasn't been the same since. "Load" and "ReLoad" disappointed many, along with slapping their fans in the face with short hair and a non-metal look. Does anyone remember the eyeliner? The tin-sounding drums and lack of guitar solos on "St Anger" made fans cringe. Their fight against Napster didn't help either (though they were right). "Death Magnetic" brought them a little closer to form. But then came their collaboration with the late Lou Reed, "Lulu", which got fans' blood boiling.
But let me say this....My motto is "If you want to listen to songs that sound like early METALLICA, then by all means listen to the early albums." Let the band move forward and grow out of their shell. Why would you want them to repeat themselves album after album? I commend them for recording "Lulu". It was never meant to be a METALLICA album, so why judge it as one?
And then there's the new album "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct". Opening track 'Hardwired' gallops along right out of the gate with a thrash-fest we haven't heard from the band in years. 'Atlas, Rise' is a tempo-changing track reminiscent of the early days, but more...relaxed. Maybe that's the word to best describe this album...relaxed.
The hunger isn't necessarily there in terms of the crunching thrash and fury we heard on "Kill'Em All". But you know what? That's okay. This is maybe a more mature album. Not trying to recapture the past, not foraging into completely new territory, but just writing good solid songs. 'Now That We're Dead' features more clean singing than we're used to. But it sounds fresh and works well. 'Moth Into Flame' chugs along in a steady rhythm as James, Kirk, Robert and Lars provide a solid track that'll satisfy any metal listener. 'Dream No More' is a slowed down track that still retains its heaviness. Even more cleaner singing on 'Halo On Fire' may turn away a few fans, and could easily fit on mid-era METALLICA albums. Again, another safe song that won't cause any mosh pits to explode, but which slides along confidently. 'Confusion' starts the second half of the album with a marching anthem that never really picks up speed but supplies a steady diet of metal throughout, with a slight nod to something off of "And Justice For All". 'ManUnkind' is another relaxed track. The band seems older and less angry. However, it's not a bad thing. Again, refer to my motto above. Faster-paced track 'Here Comes Revenge' harkens back to their early catalog lyrically, but doesn't match the musical intensity. 'Am I Savage' is a slower track again which doesn't make them seem savage at all, to be honest. And you'd think a song titled 'Murder One' would pack a little more punch. But yet again, it's a mid-temp track that never really bursts clear into a maelstrom of metal fury. Final track 'Spit Out The Bone' delivers. A fast-paced thrash track of mayhemic proportions wraps up the album in the way that it should.
So...after all that, how does "Hardwired-To Self-Destruct" leave me feeling? As relaxed as it is, as non-aggressive as we have come to expect, the album is actually a pretty solid delivery. Don't expect "Ride The Lightning". Heck, don't even expect "St Anger". But what you can depend on is an album of solid tracks through and through. You may not break your neck head-banging to it. But you will feel like METALLICAstill offers better radio-friendly metal than most.