And so the time has come to pass, the moment where the world's most important and influential Metal band graces us with new music. For my generation that's been quite the sour experience, firstly with the bizarre "St.Masterpiece" and then eight years ago with their attempted redemption on the thrashy, over compressed "Death Magnetic". I never gave their collaboration with Lou Reed any attention, its since been snubbed from their discography, which leaves us at a point where expectations aren't even a consideration. If they felt pressure or not, Hardwired certainly shows no signs of it, external or internal, its as if they have found their spark again. Of course time has passed and there will never be a "Ride The Lightning" again but dare I say it, Hardwired is their best sounding record since the "Black Album" in 91.
After many plays through its as if this record could reside between Black Album and "Load" / "Reload". Its got the Dynamic feel of "Black Album", the slower heavy grooves of the "Load" era and between a majority of mid tempo tracks there is a hand full of thrash tracks. "Moth Unto Flame" illuminates as an instant classic with its hard crunching riffs, fluent grooves, catchy leads and James's timeless delivery you can sing along to. It will undoubtedly become a staple track in the bands set list. "Hardwired" shreds as hard and fast as Battery, a short tempered, fast and furious burner. The album closer "Spit Out The Bone" also invests in a faster tempo that grinds through its verses, interluding with a Metalcore riff and leading up to a fantastic sparse guitar chord ringing, then a bass solo before Kirk throws in infectious leads.
The only moment on this record where Metallica don't quite sound themselves is on "Atlas, Rise". Mostly its a grooving song but its lead guitars are very reminiscent of Iron Maiden, to the point where it sounds "lifted", using the same techniques and harmonization. The rest of the records song fall into the mid tempo range with stomping, steady grooves crunching away while James sings similar to the "Load" era. They are far from bad songs but certainly the weaker aspect of the record, which is applicable to taste, depending on your thoughts to their slower style.
Individually each member is where they need to be. James at the fore front finds the fire in his hands and throws many vocal licks down in typical fashion however some of the mid tempo track lyrics aren't going to turn your head. Kirk is stunning with his contributions, every guitar solo is fire, inspired and in his distinct wah style. They are in shorter bursts by nature and some solos sound very similar to old classics but it all works like a charm. Rob mirrors James's Rhythm work with one or two short "solos" but Lars is the only one I'm not entirely convinced about, not the best drummer in the world but certainly has a great chemistry with James which is important. I found every beat and groove here solid, with exception to the fills. Everything is snares... snare, snare, SNARE! The one time he does something other than a snare fill it really adds a dimension, "Now That Were Dead" and its flat, autonomous tom hammering.
Much more could be said but in short its just a great record, not a classic but a solid release, something little were expecting this late into the bands carrier. This could well be there last full length record, which is actually a two disc release but not their longest. When I next see them live Ill be wishing to see at least four of these songs live and hopefully they will stick for the next few years, unlike the last two records of which nothing sticked. The band has found themselves again and in the build up to its release "re-textured" covers were appearing online of musicians playing the new songs in old album aesthetics. Hearing "Moth Unto Flame" as if it were on "And Justice For All" gave me shivers.
It also got me thinking that "Hardwired"s tone, distortion, production etc is not king here, the music is. The albums drums sound fantastic but James's guitar distortion is a little brittle and compressed. It gets the job done though, no complaints just not the most pleasing sound for the albums most prominent instrument, oh and James's voice is, strong, powerful and in its usual persona however live he is struggling to keep up. Possibly the bands last record and a solid farewell, lets hope its not though as clearly they have re kindled the fire.
Favorite Tracks: Hardwired, Now That Were Dead, Moth Unto Flame, Spit Out The Bone