Ah, Metallica. Is there a band who inspired so much loyalty in their early days and so much ire in their later career? I wasn’t in the first wave of Metallica fans who flocked to the band’s anger and alienation over the course of their brilliant first four albums: “Kill ‘Em All,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Master of Puppets,” and “…And Justice For All.” It was quite a creative run over those first four albums. It could be argued they set the template for all hard rock/heavy metal going forward. What they were doing ran counter to everything that was going on in metal during the 80s: big hair, make up, songs about sex, and lycra. Metallica was just raw, angry emotion set to hard, loud guitar played as fast as possible. “Louder, faster” was their mantra. Those first wave of fans were fucking rabid. I remember my friend’s little brother’s roommate. who tattoo’d “Metallica” on his inner arm. He was in med school. Could you imagine some little old lady in an ER being treated by this guy in scrubs who happens to see the Dr’s bicep with “Metallica” tattoo’d on it… heart attack cart, stat!
I got in on Metallica around the time of the “Metallica” album, aka “The Black Album.” For some reason their turn toward shorter, more “riff-driven” songs was seen as a sellout. You can only take the 10-minute epic metal tunes so far, folks. I saw them on the Lollapalooza tour and I was impressed by “Ain’t My Bitch.” I was going through some things, anyway, I liked that tune a lot. I bought the “Black Album” and then worked my way backwards through the four early masterpieces. My fandom was shaken a bit during that whole “Load”/”Reload” period. It was hit and miss for me – I still despise the song “Fuel.” I did like the covers album “Garage Inc.” I had basically drifted away from Metallica as each successive album took longer and longer to appear. When suddenly, four years ago, “Death Magnetic” came out.
I really liked that album. It wasn’t a rehash of their old stuff, but it seemed to be a modern update of that long, epic song pattern they’d created on those early albums. It was a true return to form, as they say. Suddenly I found myself back at the turntable putting on “Ride the Lightning” and air-guitaring to “The Call of the Ktulu” while head banging with such intensity my cat would run and hide and believe me, that cat loved me. RIP, Merlin.
It took four more long years, but Metallica have finally returned with a new single “Hardwired,” basically the title track of their new album due in November, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct.” And I must say, if they were thinking they were going to get any airplay on terrestrial radio with the chorus, “we’re so fucked, shit out of luck…” I’d say they were pretty accurate on that whole “self-destruct” thing. I’m trying to imagine that meeting with the record company, “Ok, it’s been four years guys, but the new single is going to be unplayable on the radio, yeah fuck radio, we’re Metallica!” Ah, Hetfield, always thinking ahead.
This new tune, “Hardwired” is hard rock played at breakneck speed. It’s fast and dirty. And I mean it’s sleazy dirty, and that’s a good thing. It’s also fast, like they all said, “Ok, meet me at the finish line guys…go!” From a sonic palette, it sounds very much akin to the sound of “Death Magnetic” but this tune clocks in at barely over 3 minutes, something unthinkable on that last album. The gaps between the tunes were longer than the length of “Hardwired” on the last LP, “Death Magnetic.” The song hits so hard and goes by so fast there’s almost a punk ethos here. Lar’s drums are manic, like a heart beating so fast it’s about to explode. Kirk Hammett’s guitar solo, while brief, is as melodic and intense (and quickly played) as anything he’s done. Kirk is truly one of the great lead guitarists and I don’t think he gets enough credit. Hetfield is the usual Hetfield, he just barks out the lyrics with unbridled enthusiasm.
This song absolutely “RAWKS” and should be checked out by anybody into metal, Metallica or just plain good fucking heavy metal.
Double “Devil Horns” to all of you, Cheers!