Tag Archive: Metallica


This article first appeared at No Ripcord on November 30, 2016.

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Back in 2008, Metallica released Death Magnetic, a return to form after the mess of St. Anger. It returned the band to their thrash metal roots. Now, eight years later, here we are again. This is the longest break between albums, not counting Lulu (no one counts Lulu). What is the band’s philosophy on Hardwired…to Self-Destruct? One word: more. Their latest album is more ferocious, more eclectic and filled with more songs. But, as the latter will prove, more isn’t always better.

It starts out great, though! The first half will rip at you like a Category 5 hurricane. Hardwired is an explosive, adrenalized throwback to the days of Kill ‘Em All. “We’re so fucked, shit out of luck,” Hetfield screams, summing up the sentiment of this year. Sure, it looks cheesy on paper. But you will still feel the need to shout it out and headbang whenever you hear it. Atlas, Rise! and Moth Into Flame are different sides of the same coin, churning shredfests that double-down on the catchy choruses.

Even the tracks where Metallica takes their foot off the pedal are massive. Now That We’re Dead lumbers forward like Godzilla, Lars Ulrich’s drums shaking the speakers to their core. Hetfield digs up the right amount of his young fury into his seasoned vocals. He’s definitely grown as a singer, willing to try some different inflections. Halo On Fire might be the cleanest his vocals have ever sounded, but he still brings the growls out when needed. On Dream No More, Hetfield’s voice echoes out from the deep. Behind him, the band chugs along like a missing cut from their self-titled LP. And of course, it’s about Cthulhu.

So, that’s the first half. Sounds great so far, right? Well, maybe Metallica should have kept this on the short side. Or at least, they could have ditched some of the wasteful filler that litters the second half of the album. Confusion is a lesser version of what they did with Now That We’re Dead. After an unexpected clean guitar and bass jam, ManUNkind dissolves into generic riffage, with an eye-rolling chorus. I’d tell you more about Am I Savage? or Murder One, but no matter how many times I listen, I can’t remember what they sound like. You won’t either.

It’s not a total wash, though. It’s worth wading through the dredge to get to Spit Out the Bone, a pummeling, incredible and unrelenting thrash track. Kirk Hammett even manages to find a frenzied, fresh take on the wah solo that will put a grin on your face. If you need any evidence that Metallica can still keep up with the competition, it’s in this unstoppable beast.  It’s the best song the band’s written since the 80s.

Hardwired…to Self-Destruct is not a perfect album by any means. It’s too long, with too many tracks that go nowhere. But those songs that do work are some of their best in the last couple of decades. Most importantly, despite the seriousness of the lyrics, it sounds like Metallica is having the time of their lives. That feeling is infectious and makes a good portion of this record a joy to hear. May they keep shredding for years to come.

6/10

This article first appeared at No Ripcord on July 28, 2014.

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Some albums show a band evolve leaps and bounds beyond what came before. It’s on these types of records that a group can go from an underground act or from being part of the pack, to head and shoulders above all others in the genre. For Metallica, that ascension really kicked off with Ride The Lightning.

Released one year after Metallica’s debut, Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning showed a level of complexity and experimentation that went far beyond what thrash metal had been up to that point. Besides all the added tricks in its belt, Metallica simply wrote classic song after classic song to fill this album. All eight tracks grab you and slam you against the wall with a punishing feel that is among the genre’s best.

Fight Fire With Fire begins unusually light, with a clean guitar melody that sounds more at home on a harpsichord than as the opening salvo for a metal record. After the first forty seconds though, a furious riff rips out of the speakers, guiding James Hetfield along as he growls about the folly of an eye-for-an-eye world. At no point during its run does the song let up, promising the aggressiveness of Kill ‘Em All once again.

For several songs, it definitely seems like that will be the case, though Metallica has certainly refined its sound. Ride The Lightning strikes with a sharp, cutting riff and Lars Ulrich’s heavy-footed beat that reenacts the horrifying walk to the electric chair. Cliff Burton’s bass leads the way on For Whom The Bells Tolls, giving the song a sinister groove. Combine that pattern with one of the catchiest choruses in the Metallica catalog and it’s easy to see why the song is such a live favorite.
Creeping Death and Trapped Under Ice also belong among thrash metal’s finest. The former, about the Death of the Firstborn from Exodus in The Bible, has one of the band’s most recognizable riffs, as well as a great solo that drops into an attacking bridge with a rhythm that fans chant “Die!” along to in concerts. The latter is the fastest and most relentless song on the album, with solos and lyrics blowing by with neck-breaking speed.

Then there’s Fade To Black, one of best and most complex songs Metallica ever worked on. It starts with an intricate acoustic arrangement, a practically unheard of move in heavy metal at the time. This isn’t Metallica-lite though. The song gradually gets heavier as it goes on, breaking into a stuttering bridge riff that is an absolute classic. Kirk Hammett plays one of his best extended solos to end the song in a truly memorable fashion.
Is Ride The Lightning Metallica’s magnum opus? No, that honor belongs with Master of Puppets. However, it is one of the band’s best, exemplifying thrash metal at its strongest, even while it breaks the rules on a couple of tracks. It was this record that set Metallica on the trajectory that would take them through the rest of the 1980s. Since that path includes Battery, Master of Puppets, Harvester of Sorrow and One, there is plenty to thank Ride The Lightning for on its 30th anniversary.