(Planet Me)
Friday, November 18, 2016
METALLICA, Hardwired To Self Destruct

Metallica albums are always difficult to review. They take years before they come out. They've been thought about long and hard. And given the past few years of their chequered history - the unamazing “Lulu”, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it “Beyond Magnetic” leftovers EP, and the moneysink that was “Through The Never” - Metallica have lost ground and traction. Seemingly paralysed by creative indecision, they finally commit to a record after eight years in a creative wilderness. And here it is.

And it's the worst album Metallica have made in 20 years. At the moment, and after repeated listening, it's a generic grab-bag of OK, mid-paced riffs. A massive step down after the brilliant “Death Magnetic”. It makes “St. Anger” look like one of the best records ever made. Simply put, it's nowhere near as dull, characterless and boring as “Reload”, and probably on a par with the insipid “Load”. The songs are fairly unexciting. It's too long, with too many riffs and segments repeated too long, alongside a bunch of mid-paced, generic, interchangable songs, and utterly predictable Kirk Hammett wah-wah solos that could have been on any record they've made in the past 25 years. Even the tempos are predictable with what feels like the exact same 'dramatic silence' in “Halo Of Fire” that has previously been used in “Sad But True” and “Harvester of Sorrow.” You could drop any of these songs into any album they made in the 90's...and not know the difference.

The songs are often dense and detailed. Every riff that is there should be there ; the product of hundreds of riffs, and dozens of permutations. This is why Metallica albums are often so good : every sound that is there is the best of dozens of possibilities. The problem is that these songs have been tested to destruction, and the album is simply ok. Predictable. There's nothing exciting here, no innovation, nothing that you haven't already heard a dozen times on other better albums over twenty years ago. Sure, if you want “Black #2 : Stadium Rock Boogaloo” or “Threeload!” you're happy as Larry, but this is dull stadium rock that The Cult perfected in “Sonic Temple”, but with added mediocrity. There's no excitement. No fire.

Sure – what you've heard already - “Hardwired”, “Rise! Atlas! Rise!” and “Moths To Flame” are good, but they're the best ones by far. But the time you get to “Here Comes Revenge”, it sounds like a song they've kept in a box since 1991. It's clearly the sound of the band working their way through a desperate need to release uninspired new product, trying to recreate a time that has long gone with a bunch of drearily predictable new stuff that seems like it's a past-their-best stab at reminding us of their history. The songs simply aren't that great – they're predictable, quite good (but, 'quite good' by Metallica's standards is both better than many other bands, and frankly not good enough at all) – but they should never be 'Quite Good'. Metallica should be great and this just isn't. It's the sound of them trying to recapture past glories instead of creating new glories. If you loved “Black” and still want to pretend it's 1991 you'll like this. “Enter Middle-Aged-Man”

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