Hardwired… To Self-Destruct: Metallica retains some fire in their bellies into middle age

Music reviews, Uncategorized

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image: metalinjection.net


Despite it being more than 25 years since their best works, anytime Metallica releases a another album it ends up being scrutinized under a hypothetical microscope to be dissected and picked apart. Anytime a band of Metallica’s stature has a new album out it’s an event. It’s exciting even if it disappoints.

It hasn’t been easy to be a Metallica fan for the last 20 years. Excuse me while flashes of eyeliner, Mamma Said and Kirt Hammett dramatically losing his smartphone hit me… It’s especially hard to sympathize when a band of millionaire cry and whine as they produce the poorest album of the career and exploit the distrous results on film in the form of Some Kind of Monster. Never mind suing Napster, questionable albums with Lou Reed, “hyped” 3D movies and expressing support for Justin Bieber. The last two decades have eaten at the Thrash-Metal giants’ cool cred. They also made it incredibly difficult for fans to defend their favourite band.

Okay, we’ll forgive them after heavy rotations of Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning. 

How does Hardwired… To Self-Destruct fare? Surprisingly decent if you compare to the band’s outputs since oh, 1991. 2008’s Death Magnetic was a great attempt to recapture some of the fire of earlier-ish Metallica, something Hardwired almost achieves a little more organically and with less effort. Death Magnetic’s production gave it a raw sound but was heavily criticized. By contrast, Hardwired sounds much more natural.

 

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                                                                                                                    Album artwork.

All things realized, it’s Metallica sounding how they should in 2016. It’s not 1983 or ’88 or even ’91 for that matter. The Metal icons do a respectable job of staying true to their sound while taking cues from their past. As such Hardwired is a pleasantly effective Metallica album, in its better moments.

Hardwired is all over the place style-wise, and that’s a good thing. Some songs could fit on Kill ‘Em All and others would be right at home on the black album. When a band has a long history such as Metallica’s, fans will obviously have favourite eras and albums. Hardwired covers all ground; one moment its reminiscent of the black album, the next its Load. Now middle-aged men, Metallica prove they still have the fire necessary to come up with some adequate material.

Look, not everyone will be pleased with the whole album, but there’s something for every fan—or else they’re lying. The first disc is fast, aggressive and heavy. It stands strong with all 6 tracks.

The self-titled track is an indication of what fans are in for. Short, heavy and fast with an almost punk edge, Hardwired does fans of the band proud. Atlas, Rise! has subtle tinges of Iron Maiden in the guitar playing and a chorus just catchy enough. Now That We’re Dead sounds like the better parts of Load and Reload. It’s slightly more accessible Metallica. The single Moth to Flames is bold and uncompromising Metallica. It stands as possinly the best song on Hardwired and should please the majority of the band’s fans. Dream No More lurks on  like a Sad But True-esque epic complete with tremendous breakdown and solo, one of the album’s finest moments. Halo On Fire is on the more melodic side with great lyrics and one of the album’s best breakdowns and vocal deliveries by Hetfield.

Unfortunately this is where the album starts to unravel, its momentum shifting.The middle part of Confusion stands as one of the best moments on Hardwired. It’s when we get to disc 2 that the momentum turns. Songs like ManUNkind and Am I Savage have similar tempos and are weaker moments as a whole. Although Spit Out the Bone concludes the album on a brighter note, its hard to shake off the notion that the first part of the album is much stronger than the second.

Theren lies the problem. The second disc. The realization that it consists of mostly mid-tempo songs hits the listener sinks halfway through. The songs all sound similar. This is largely due to structure and tempo, slowing down the energy and momentum achieved with disc one.

James Hetfield is one of the genre’s most recognizable voices. On Hardwired, it’s almost as if more often than not Hetfield tries to sing beautifully. It works, but it’s not what one expects or wants from a band like Metallica. For all the hate he receives, Lars Ulrich is competent drummer. He gets the job done and proves himself to be quite capable here.

Guitars are heavy and crunchy when they should be and they’re melodic and dare I say, elegant when need be. The solos are some of the best we’ve had since the black album, but longtime fans know that’s not a huge benchmark. Breakdowns are well-executed and sometimes unpredictable in their candor.

In my book, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is the most enjoyable Metallica release since the black album. Hardwired is a great moment for fans of the band, for the time being. The album will no doubt be celebrated and touted as “classic”for a short period of time following its release, a status it will never achieve. Its first 6 songs range from very good to excellent, but ultimately most of it bound to be forgotten in favour of the classics as time passes.

After what will likely be a triumphant and succesful tour in support of the album, Metallica will go right back to setlists mostly consisting of material their classic albums. There’s no point for Metallica to compete with their own legacy and they shouldn’t have to. They prove they still have the energy and gave us a couple decent songs, there’s no real need to release another studio album after this one. ***

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MOTLEY CRUE LAY 34-YEAR CAREER TO REST WITH “THE END’,

Concerts, Music reviews

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Farewell tours are tricky affairs. Bands come and go—and come back—members leave and return in revolving door fashion and some bands have only one original member left. In short, its not always pretty. In the process certain artists hurt their legacy by staying in the game too long. Mötley Crüe wanted a different kind of farewell.

Mötley Crüe shocked the world in January of 2014 when they announced to decision to call it quits. The Saints of Los Angeles had chosen to end the party sooner rather than later. The band signed a cessation of touring contract, a first in rock history, prior to embarking on a two-year long farewell. In true Crüe fashion, the event served as a tremendous publicity stunt. With displays of “RIP Mötley Crue”, complete with tombstones that read each band member’s name, it would prove to be one can’t miss funeral.

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The End press conference, London, England, 2014. Photo credit: Rolling Stone

If The End has taught us anything, it’s that Mötley Crüe was a wild, untamed beast for more than 34 years. A Mötley Crüe show remained a spectacular, reckless and even chaotic event right up to The End.

Complete with big choruses, pyrotechnics, stage production values, female backup singers and dancers in scantily clad outfits, tears and displays of emotions from the band and fans alike, The End is an exciting visual memento and the end of an era. From the bombast and fire that begins with “Girls, Girls, Girls” to Nikki Sixx adressing the audience, Tommy’s roller coaster drum solo, the flamethrower bass and Vince Neil in tears during the last song of the set “Home Sweet Home”, it’s a relentless, unforgettable journey. It’s one last big, epic, blow-out to top off a truly memorable career.

Let’s get one thing out-of-the-way. Anyone who’s been to a Crüe concert in the last decade can attest that frontman Vince Neil’s voice is not what it once was—by a long shot, some would say—and its true [It becomes especially evident on the live CD of the concert]. In the dysfunctional environment that is Mötley Crüe, however, it works.

Vince Neil’s voice and charisma is part of what made the band so successful. Neil remains one of rock’s ultimate frontmen. Even if his voice isn’t quite up to par at times, the energy and excitement level is there.

Nikki Sixx does a commendable job of looking like one of the coolest human beings on the planet. These are his songs and this is his band. The flamethrower bass bit would make Gene Simmons blush.

Tommy Lee lays down a beat like only he can, providing a solid groove and backbone for the band. While performing a drum solo on his roller coaster contraption, the whole stops unexpectedly in mid-air, Lee’s reaction is nothing short of exceptional.

Perhaps most impressive of all is Mick Mars, Crüe’s sole guitarist. Mars often falls under the radar whenever the band is mentioned, but his playing never ceases to impress even after all these years.

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An emotional Vince Neil in tears during “Home Sweet Home”.

Mötley Crüe’s imperfections are exactly what made them a perfect rock band. Rock was never about perfection. Somehow, when these four beings come together magic happens. New year’s eve 2015 would be the last time this magic would be displayed. Thankfully, the Crüe’s send-off was captured in high-definition for the whole world to relive over and over.

The End comes in standalone DVD or Blu-Ray edition and in DVD/CD, Blu-Ray/CD packaging.

Objectively, the live CD is not incredible—most of the blame can be attributed to Neil’s singing— but the excitement of Mötley Crüe’s last concert was captured and that’s enough. The heart wrenching version of “Home Sweet Home” is almost worth the price of admission alone.

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Nikki Sixx, litterally in the heat of the moment. Photo: Motley.com

The cinematography however, is among the best I’ve seen in a concert film. The cameras capture every bit: the action, emotions and pyrotechnics with beautiful wide angles, just enough slow motion bits, subtle close-ups and depth-of-field shots that would make any rock band envious. Concert cinematography has always been about the emotion and feel, less so about the visuals. The End stands in a category of its own. It sets a template for the next generation of live rock documentation.

There’s a documentary portion just before the concert that serves as a reminder of the dedication fans have for this band. It also legitimizes how big of a draw and band Mötley Crüe really was. The End comes with a few extras. Nikki Sixx talks about his flamethrower bass and Tommy Lee details the history behind his roller coaster drum set.

There are a few more interview that will no doubt be interesting and give insight to fans. Take this particularly one with Nikki Sixx for instance:

“The fact that we’ve lasted is a miracle. Maybe that’s why we’re putting a bullet in its head…We know it’s inevitable that we’re going to break up or blow up or something. Maybe we’re just doing it before it happens anyway. We shouldn’t have lasted this long,” says Sixx in the interview portion of The End.

If anything, The End is a proper send off for Mötley Crüe and one heck of a burial. One final motorcycle ride under the sunset for one of the all time great rock bands. It’s reassuring to see a farewell done right in the world of rock, a landscape where the word “retirement” isn’t always taken seriously. I’ve never been this happy and sad watching a concert on home video.

RIP Mötley Crüe, 1981-2015, you will be missed.

mcrue2.jpg                                                                           Photo cred: Ultimateclassicrock.com

LIVE DVD TRACK LISTING:

1.) Intro
2.) Girls, Girls, Girls
3.) Wild Side
4.) Primal Scream
5.) Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S)
6.) Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
7.) Rock N Roll Part II / Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room
8.) Looks That Kill
9.) Motherf***** Of The Year
10.) In The Beginning / Shout At The Devil
11.) Louder Than Hell
12.) Drum Solo
13.) Guitar Solo
14.) Saints Of Los Angeles
15.) Live Wire
16.) T.N.T (Terror ‘N Tinseltown) / Dr. Feelgood
17.) Kickstart My Heart
18.) Home Sweet Home
19.) My Way (Credits)

LIVE CD TRACK LISTING:
1.) Intro
2.) Girls, Girls, Girls
3.) Wild Side
4.) Primal Scream
5.) Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
6.) Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
7.) Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room
8.) Looks That Kill
9.) Mutherf***** Of The Year
10.) Shout At The Devil
11.) Louder Than Hell
12.) Saints Of Los Angeles
13.) Live Wire
14.) Dr. Feelgood
15.) Kickstart My Heart
16.) Home Sweet Home