Making my way up to London, Mayfair for the secret album playback I was feeling a mixture of feelings.
Would their new album take me back to the good old days or would they be carrying on from post Metallica’s black album which, hands up is where my love for Metallica was lost.
The atmosphere of the room was on edge as many writers, reviewers and long-time fans took their seats waiting for the ride that follows. This was surely going to be my hardest review to date as there is no rewind, pause or 2nd play so this article is going to be a snapshot of how I felt and what influences I could hear. DISCLAIMER** This may change 2nd time around ☺
I was lucky to have had heard 3 tracks Hardwired, Atlas, Rise! And Moth Into Flame which I have to say wetted my appetite and excited my old school metal head and heart, bring it on!
First thing to note is that this is a double album containing 12 tracks consisting of approx. 77 minutes of music which means some long songs…. will they be able to keep me interested or would I reach for the skip track ¾ of the way through tracks?
Second thing I realised is that I haven’t sat in a room and listened to an album with no distractions since 1993. One of the problems with mobile phones and tablets which ironically is part of what the album is about. Man and destruction of the planet through global warming and technology dependency.
Hardwired; drums, horses galloping across concrete or someone banging on your door with a 2×4 opens the album, thrashing with a purpose I wanna get where they are going fast! What statement are they intending? ‘We’re so fucked, shit outta luck, Hardwired to self-destruct’ is this a nod to the President race, the (unofficial) wars going on or the planets injured body? One things for sure this track is nasty and back to their roots, give me more….
Atlas, Rise! Slots neatly in after the opener. 22 seconds in, the drums hang off for the drop after the intro riff reminiscent of 80’s metal and the truck is still in motion. The chorus has elements of Blackened but with smoother vocals (Hetfield knows how to look after his voice now remember?). Some solo parts and chorus riff have an Iron Maiden vibe, feels a bit odd in the mix but the chorus is definitely Metallica!
Now We’re Dead introduces the classic chugging and Lars with tom rolls giving a retro feel and a breather of a slower pace. The solo very 80’s with twiddly guitars.
Moth Into Flame picks up the pace and urgency, there is no mistake this is Metallica no impersonators here, move along. Verses hit me as Creeping Death’s early blueprint 32 years ago. The chorus is a perfect balance and gives it a middle eight feel, solo with wah pedal makes me feel at home. One of my favourite tracks so far.
Dream No More has an early 90’s glam band vibe and least recognisable Hetfield vocal track with Lars stomping and guitar chugging thrown in it is one of the songs that I can take or leave.
Halo on Fire drum rolls and hints of Until It Sleeps, clear vocals with a vulnerable feel alike Hero of the Day. ‘Turn off the light, they don’t want fire’ stood out, Hetfield’s lyrics are clever and thought provoking. The structure of the song a bit unusual switching into AOR but I can imagine them playing it live and giving it more attitude.
Confusion, starts disc 2 with Lars’ snare stomping and slapping you in the face reminds me of a rehearsal jam. With slashing chords my head was bouncing in time like a bobble head as the vocals eases in. Time changes and cliché licks however, makes this one a little on the mundane side.
ManUNkind is the only song to be written with Trujillo and it is obvious the bassist had his gnarly hands on the neck. A clear intro and mellow start until the slow battering by Lars takes it to a more upbeat level – hints of swing. It is a very eclectic and unsure vibe. The song felt like it was being pulled apart in different directions with melodic chorus and a Red Hot Chili Peppers funk/bass in the middle eight. Would like to hear the song in isolation to help me understand it. But it didn’t happen for me on this occasion.
Here Comes Revenge, the track claws back from the lull of the first 2 tracks of disc 2.
‘I was born in anger’s flame, he was Abel I was Cain’ the riffs more thrashier but with foot stomping verses. The end finishes on feedback as if the guitars been put down prior to an encore.
Am I Savage? I thought may be a nod to Am I Evil, sadly not! On par with Confusion really, nothing much to write home about. Uncomfortable time changes and a cocktail of rock n roll.
Murder One, named after Lemmy’s bass head from 1976 the track is made up of Motorhead song titles. With a ‘Sanitarium’ styled intro this track is like a sleeper cell song waking the old school Metallica fans back up. Like modern art, the solo was somewhat misplaced but as tribute I have to respect what I don’t quite get right now. A 2nd listen is in order.
Spit Out the Bone is the song that makes you want to start the album again. Why are there not more like this? It is the closing track that could easily have been the opener. It’s pure rage and balls to the wall. With urgent machine like beats and with lyrics like ‘Remove your heart, it’s only good for bleeding’ echoes the song being about technology dependency and ‘disappear, like man was never here, long live machine our future supreme’ about our race self-destruction. With speed/thrash solo and headbanging beats I want to see this song the most live. It was one of the most discussed songs after the playback.
Nothing here will take you back to the first 5 albums but there is substance here which has ingredients from the past. With Greg Fidelman producing, there are influences that have seeped through the gaps from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Black Sabbath.
I don’t feel a double album was necessary but possibly a reaction to not releasing an album one for 8 years. A handful of songs could have done without ‘another solo’ in the mix, just too long at times.
For me the 3 releases and Spit Out the Bone are the strongest tracks with a couple close behind. The band sound like they enjoyed making it and no doubt unleashing it live. Hardcore fans will love it. I quite liked it. Whether it is a grower, time will tell. Roll on the tour.