I do not ask Metallica to make Master of Puppets 2: The Thrashening. I ask of them what I ask of any artist, in any medium: create at the highest level of which you are capable.
Eight years after Death Magnetic shocked me by being an actual immersive musical experience, the world's most famous heavy metal band return with their tenth album. To celebrate the feat, they gave it not just the crappest title in their catalog but also the crappest cover.
They also passed on Rick Rubin, and anyone suspicious of the album's prospects due to the absence of Rubin in the room (honors went instead to his right-hand man, Greg Edelman) likely wish they could tickle the guy's belly, or eat the food from his beard.
"Hardwired"--The album runs close to 80 minutes, so straight away, the 3:09 runtime of the first song reveals it to be a maddening tease. Oh yeah, "Hardwired" is a nice three minutes by the fireplace with Dad, thumbing through a thick, gorgeous photo album, page after page imbuing you with a natural warmth, until the old man slams the thing shut and tosses it towards the logs.
Ethanol to ethernet, man is phasing himself out. Not unfair to consider this an updated "Blackened," just more straightforward and less mournful.
"Atlas, Rise!"--Greek Titans on the losing side of war wind up having to hold up the Heavens forever. Just a myth of course, fantastical stories intended to impart lessons. Doesn't stop people from willingly assuming the Atlas role, positive that the excess weight will serve to increase their all-around strength rather than pancake their poor frame.
Circular saws with the rotational kinetic energy of a yo-yo wielded by Muscle Milk-guzzling motorheads whose lives would have been drastically different if not for the invention of the contact lens deserve their own mythology as well, so kudos to Metallica for trying to make that a thing!
"Now That We're Dead"--Romeo and Juliet, but with more snarling and less style. Not that the song is dumb, no really, move past the title. Oscar Wilde paraphrased within!
I was able to comfortably close my eyes and follow the doomed lovers from rush to rush, field to field, in their shared defiance of decrepitude. They are unblighted--their skin will never go papery, their vision will not dim. They are forever, but only they will ever know.
"Moth Into Flame"--Social media's effect on mental health is social media's effect on every damn thing else. Incremental progression is commendable, but still accomplished at a remove. Without more direct sources of positive reinforcement, the incomplete fragments comprising the Internet can ruin a person.
Mind you, Metallica aren't into compassion--or any judgment, really. Metallica are into seamless transitions, from jaggedly intriguing verse to a chorus that…I don't understand pizzas boasting more than two cheeses. At a certain point, the human tongue will no longer taste anything beyond "melted."
Kirk's work is decent. Know what else I describe as "decent"? Patty melts. Sam Bradford's throwing arm. Your mama's head game.
"Dream No More"--Hardwired has been frill-free till…now. Take "The Thing That Should Not Be," cross it with "Sad But True" and "Dream No More" is the somehow underwhelming outcome.
Cthulhu is as metal as face-fucking a groupie, but those double-tracked vocals ain't. If you find watching still waters a fun way to pass the time you'll never get back," Dream No More" will thrill as it chills.
More songs about sand golems, please.
"Halo On Fire"--If Hardwired is a box of donuts one dozen strong (and it isn't, but my sweet tooth's a brat), then "Halo on Fire" is the Long John.
"Confusion"--AKA, "Regrettable Solos." Subtitled, "Johnny Get Your Fistful of Antipsychotics."
Yeah man, fight fight fight, for the rights of deplorable and decent alike! Have some more fruit salad, hero! We love your grim, handsome face! Until you return home and experience more difficulty reacclimatizing than you'd anticipated. There are resources available to facilitate recovery…but since you're a tough guy, you should ignore them and enjoy that discount at Golden Corral instead.
"ManUNkind"--Thank you for your service, Congressman Les Winan, but man is now as ever the prime enemy of man. James Hetfield cannot stress this enough!
"Here Comes Revenge"--Black-robed and white-faced, the men meander their way to a sensible, unsurprising crescendo.
"You ask forgiveness, I give you sweet revenge." Look out, Phil Towles. Actually, wait...don't. James needs to ask forgiveness for that "revenge-ah!"
"Am I Savage?"--Nope. Not evil, either. WOKKA WOKKA WOKKA.
Connect the dots, oh wow, it's a boar. The should-be respite four minutes in ticked me off initially--oh, now is the time to sound redolent of that moment in an RPG when you realize you have to solve a goddamn forest maze?!
Then the RKO…that crunchy fifteen-second segment that forced a wet spot onto the center of my panties. Then Kirk shows up, and I'm all, is this fucking awesome still or is this auditory trickery on par with U-God's "Triumph" verse?
"Murder One"--A review series dedicated to the Big 4 of British Metal? It almost happened.
I spent some time researching opinions on the racket-gangs that would comprise such a motley crew, and was able to reach a safe consensus of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead. Now, I love Sabbath and Priest. Early Maiden were massively influential on the look and sound of the genre. Motorhead, well, the number of songs by them I really enjoy can't hold a candle to the number of Lemmy interviews I've sought out. Mr. Kilmister's irascibility outshone his band's music, to the benefit of the media and well, fucking Motorhead, truth be told. Go track-by-track through their 22 studio albums? I'd rather give free blowjobs in a Greyhound bus station.
Anyway, "Murder One" is a tribute to the late Lemmy that would fit tidy on any one of those 22.
"Spit Out the Bone"--This, you motherfuckers, THIS. The soundtrack to escaping quicksand, only to have your skull smashed in by a heartless, bloodless, skinless mercenary machine unaffected by our silly noises. Because the cure for humanity's ills is, check this shit out, the elimination of humanity.
Metallica could have easily reheated twelve plates of spaghetti (or a dozen slices of pizza) and had metalheads worldwide all, "Oh my God, this is the best thing I've eaten since the early nineties!" Instead, they give us the single bowl of hot syrup for the dippin' that would have made Homer Simpson's patented Space Waffles the unquestioned greatest breakfast food ever.
"Man overthrown! Spit out the bone!"
The crick in my neck ain't from headbanging, it's from watching the drunk blind guy trying out a tightrope. Classic, classic.
If Metallica can still crush and spin so bastardly, why the hell don't they do it more often? Such restraint is not cute, ya pricks.
Metallica in the 21st century are hardwired…to make great four-minute songs into good six-minute songs. There's little for listeners to be offended by, and little for the band themselves to be defensive of. Well done, I guess, but that's a stupid thing to do to a steak.