Critical Voices: Metallica, Hardwired…To Self Destruct

November 26, 2016

Photo: Flickr

Metallica has taken teenage angst and made it a lifestyle choice as the band members, all around 50 years old, continue to create heavy metal music with no clear intentions to stop any time soon. After an 8-year lull, Hardwired… To Self Destruct, Metallica’s 11th studio album, is the first studio album to be released since Death Magnetic! (2008).

It contains two discs, each about 40 minutes in length. The band has not stepped too far out of the box with this album; thus, it comes as no surprise that Hardwired… To Self-Destruct consists mostly of aggressive, violent lyrics and high-powered, fast-paced guitar, bass, and drum rhythms.

In most cases, it is not smart to judge a book by its cover, and Hardwired is no exception. The album art of Hardwired… To Self- Destruct stands out from the band’s previous album art with vibrant colors and illusive imagery. In the past, Metallica’s album covers have mostly consisted of dark, ominous colors such as red, grey, and black along with imagery that suggests some kind of impending doom. Death Magnetic!’s cover is a coffin and the focus of Kill ‘Em All’s cover is a bloody hammer. However, Hardwired… to Self Destruct’s cover depicts a bright collage of reflective colors laid over a man with several faces, most of which are screaming or grinning villainously. While most of Metallica’s album art has been morbid, this album’s is notably more lively, suggesting a climax of energy rather than a slow decay.

The titles of the songs themselves reveal the general essence of the album. Names like “Now That We’re Dead,” “Am I Savage,” and “Murder One” provoke maniacal, borderline homicidal imagery. “Murder One” is especially blood-curdling because the vocals are edited to make it sound like they are coming from underwater. This faraway, blurred voice sings lyrics such as “Murder one / Murder all / Give me murder.”

Metallica and its fans have been waiting for this album for almost a decade, so Metallica wastes no time gradually shifting into a high level of energy. Rather than starting with a slower track, Metallica throws its listeners right into the heart of the music with the upbeat first track and hit song, “Hardwired.” During the song, the band repeatedly sings an impassioned chorus of, “We’re so f*cked / Shit out of luck” which helps set the tone for the entire album. Nevertheless, the album does not maintain this threshold of aggression throughout all 12 tracks. The energy level starts to fizzle down a bit by the end of the first disc with “Halo on Fire.” However, as is custom of Metallica, the feelings of anger and despair remain consistent through the end of the album.

Although the different taste in album art might suggest a change for the band, there is no credence to this idea. Metallica is the same band it was 8 years ago–just a little bit older. The band plays on the same themes of death, insanity, and debasement that brought it its success. Hardwired… To Self Destruct is a testament to the fact that the band members of Metallica have maintained their identity throughout the years, and they are not going to change their angry, zealous music and enraged lyrics just yet.

Brynn Furey
Brynn is a Contributing Editor for the Voice. She's a huge proponent of pop punk, capybaras, and world peace.

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