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Hardwired... to Self-Destruct: Metallica Return to Form with First Studio Album in Eight Years
Having released no new material for almost a decade, Metallica finally return to the scene with their latest album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. Written mostly by James Hatfield and Lars Ulrich, this is the first album that doesn't include any song writing contributions from Kirk Hammett since he joined the band in 1983; when the album was being written, he lost his phone in a Copenhagen airport which included 250 riff ideas so he had to start from scratch.
The two disk album has 12 tracks in total with 6 on each that still retain the thrash metal vibe that Metallica has come to be known for. Following the same fast pace, the first song ,'Hardwired' starts with a steady drum and guitar riff that will get you head banging and tapping your feet in no time.
With strong songs like 'Moth into Flame' and 'Halo on Fire', the first disk has the familiar thrash tropes that make it what it is; it's fast, it's hard, it's in your face and has an attitude, which is what makes Metallica so awesome.
However, the first disk is not without fault; the fifth song 'Dream No More' feels out of place musically as its rhythm and guitar work doesn't feel cohesive with the rest of the songs on the disk, as if it was supposed to be on a different disk or in another album as it goes from fast then slow and conflicting itself.
The second disk, on the other hand, starts on a different note with songs like 'Am I Savage?' and 'Here Comes Revenge' following a slower tone than the rest of the album, though 'Spit out the Bone' might be the fastest song on the whole album and will surely make you feel like you need to catch your breath afterwards.
As a whole, the album sounds like one huge song, especially the first disk which feels fluid and, in a way, follows a rhythmic pattern; however, the second feels a bit tamed and toned down, as even though it has some fast-as-lighting guitar work, it still lacks some oomph to it. Still, it offers a level of satisfaction for diehard fans who have waited for eight years for new material.
All in all, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is a great addition to the band's discography; the band members have given it their all, while not showing their age. We just hope it doesn't take them another eight years till the next one
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.
As Bruce Springsteen’s eighteenth studio album, High Hopes was released in early 2014, and features the E Street Band and a contribution from Tom Morello, previously a member of Rage against the Machine (RATM). In addition to the E Street Band’s line up, some previously recorded material by deceased members Clarence Clemmons and Danny Federici, is also included in the mix.
Comprised of re-recorded outtakes and covers from the span of Springsteen’s career, the album came from his belief that the songs deserved revisiting and proper studio recording.
Springsteen’s layered, signature sound is clearer than ever; with meandering distorted guitars, strings and horns recorded and mastered at the highest quality. Even though he’s pushing 65, his voice still has the same strength, vigour and growl we've heard for so many years. As is usual in the case of Springsteen’s music, the arrangements transform average rock songs into sophisticated anthems.
The titular, opening track kicks off with solo percussion accompanying the singer’s warm, baritone voice. The delayed entrance of the rhythm section makes for a very dramatic and powerful effect, enhanced even further by the horn section.
Morello had performed a cover of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ with Rage Against the Machine, and on High Hopes he returns for another rendition with its original writer. The track is by far the heaviest on the record, and features two guitar solos; one by Springsteen and the other by Morello who brings his quirky sound to the mix, whilst remaining conservative in comparison with his RATM and Audioslave work.
Of all the songs on the album, the most minimalistic recording is ‘The Wall’; a slow piece, performed primarily with a guitar and piano, that offers an aural contrast to the multi-layered sound of the rest of the album. This piece features a soulful melody, repeated several times on both an organ and flugelhorn.
While the idea of revisiting old material is a risky one, Morello’s futuristic guitar antics and Springsteen’s wailing confidence elevate ‘Heaven’s Wall’ and ‘Frankie Fell in Love’.
‘Harry’s Place’ is a grimy, desolate song that sounds like the soundtrack to a dark, smoky bar. It tells the story of the 'big dog' in a small town and his rule over the locals. Musically speaking, the track is infused with wah wah guitars and synth tones, along with a gripping sax solo from Clarence Clemon and fitting megaphone effects on Springsteen's voice.
High Hopes hit number one in the US and UK and many European countries, including Holland and Germany, as well as in Australia; the impressive collaborations and tight compositions may not stand up to Springsteen's best, but at 65, he certainly hasn't lost any of his enthusiasm for music.