Metallica’s “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” Bonus Tracks: They piss me off again

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I was a huge fan of Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” but in a strange move the band compressed the music so much, in order to increase the volume, it sometimes make my speakers crack. I wasn’t as pissed as the general public, but it was annoying. When you “compress” the music, in layman’s terms, you digitally compact the music so you can push it up in the sound spectrum so it’s physically louder. It was completely unnecessary and provided less than optimal sound. I still love the album, but Jesus guys. Use your heads.

When I saw that “Hardwired…To Self Destruct” was coming out, I quickly learned that there were two versions, a standard one and a “Deluxe” version. Now, I’m a scrupulous buyer of LPs… If there are bonus tracks to be had, I investigate and there is a high likelihood that I’ll buy the deluxe version of any album – if the bonus tracks are worth it. If they’re early demos, or the dreaded “remixes” then I’m likely not interested. Sometimes the bonus tracks are better than some of the deeper album cuts. The Rolling Stones, on the LP “A Bigger Bang,” issued a deluxe version that had video version of two songs, one of which, “Under the Radar” is the greatest Stones tune you’ve never heard.

When “Hardwired…” first came out, I looked at both versions. It appeared the bonus disc was collection of demos. There was one completed tune, “Lords Of Summer.” Metallica’s creative process is not unlike that of many bands… they jam at soundchecks and rehearsal spaces and record it all. Later they go through all the stuff and if they hear certain riffs or passages they like, they build those into songs. So with titles on the bonus disc like: “Plow (Riff origins)” and “Tin Shot (Riff Origins)” my reaction was, no thanks. I get that completists will want all the tracks, nobody understands that more than your dedicated, obsessive-compulsive B&V writer. I also understand how the “Riff” early versions of these songs would be of interest to those curious about Metallica’s creative process.

In my case, I wasn’t interested. I purchased the first single off the standard version, figuring I would buy that version when it came out and go back and purchase “Lords Of Summer” from the deluxe version and I’d be whole. But then, at this late hour, the chuckleheads in Metallica change their fucking mind. They’ve decided to completely change the bonus tracks. Gone are the “Riff Origins” versions of these tunes and now they’re releasing a bunch of live stuff and cover tunes they’ve recorded since “Death Magnetic.”

It’s like they realized, “Hey, nobody wants to hear us noodling, we have all these extra tracks, let’s do that instead.” Normally I’d be thrilled to see this track listing but I already committed to the standard version. I know, I know, it’s only $1.29, I shouldn’t be bitching and this will teach me to be patient and wait for the vinyl version anyway, but I like to hear new tunes as soon as they’re available and that’s typically an MP3. It’s just the principle of the thing that pisses me off. These guys do some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen. I thought since Hetfield sobered up maybe somebody was actually steering this battleship who might be a tad more… thoughtful.

OK, enough of my rant. Now, the good news. These bonus tunes do look awesome. The bonus disc now looks like a mini- “Garage Inc.” a heavy metal cover album that I just loved. There are covers by Dio, Iron Maiden and a Deep Purple obscurity. They’ve also packed what looks like some great live versions of older tunes. Stuff they recorded on their Record Store Day show at a small LP shop and some tracks from their recent Minneapolis concert. All this looks like great bonus material… if only they’d released it like this to begin with.

We all have that one friend who leaves us scratching our heads, wondering, WTF did he do that for. It appears in my rock and roll universe that friend is Metallica. Stupid moves aside, like that WTF friend, I still love his band. I guess in the end, Metallica, I just can’t stay mad at you. I’m very excited to hear what I believe is going to be a pummeling heavy metal attack.

Cheers!

Metallica’s New Single: “Hardwired,” a Breakneck Badass Return

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 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!