Death Magnetic’s noisier moments aside, the noughties were a nightmare for Metallica. And things didn’t get much better when the band unleashed Lulu – 2011’s unloved and uninspiring collaboration with Lou Reed. Fans of the biggest of the Big Four could have been forgiven for slapping their battered Master Of Puppets picture disc on the turntable and pretending the past quarter of a century had never happened.
But it did. And maybe Metallica needed the lean years to rediscover the glory days. Hardwired…To Self Destruct can’t be deemed a classic just yet – only time will tell where it fits into the band’s exhaustive (and often exhausting) canon – but it’s nearer to …And Justice For All than the laughable Load and the sketchy St Anger. Which is a start.
James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich allow Robert Trujillo to collaborate on the quirky Man[un]kind but it’s the only time the band’s ‘Big Two’ allow one of their colleagues to make a creative contribution. Perhaps that’s why H…TSD sounds so refreshingly retro or perhaps it’s the only way a new ‘Tallica album would ever see the light of day.
Hetfield veers from the rabid (Moth Into Flame) to the ridiculous (Halo On Fire) with his wildly inconsistent vocal performance but that’s part of this record’s undoubted charm. Metallica’s singer has never lost his edge in the live arena but his studio work has become increasingly one-dimensional: H…TSD marks a refreshing change. Confusion is standard fare where the former thrash titans are concerned yet Hetfield has rarely sounded quite so convincing belting out the confusion/delusion couplet.
Dream No More‘s vocal harmonies, Murder One‘s sensational intro. and bullish set closer Spit Out The Bone scream defiance and determination. Isn’t that what Metallica were always meant to do?