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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They did it again— Horror inspired Goth-rock with a misunderstood romantic flavour

Music reviews, Uncategorized

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Universal Monsters, The 69 Eyes, Nuclear Blast America, 2016.

The 69 Eyes are back it again. With their last two albums, Back In Blood and X, the band seems to have found a balance in both sound and style that works quite while for them. On Universal Monsters however, the Helsinki Vampires take a step back and take a slightly more vintage approach that harkens back to a sound reminiscent of the Paris Kills days.

If anything, the album title cover are very indicative of Universal Monsters’ musical direction: good old horror inspired goth-rock— with a a misunderstood romantic flavour, it’s what the 69 Eyes does best.

“Dolce Vita” is vintage 69 Eyes complete with the slow, dark, ominous goth-rock ambiance and feel of old. This should have been the first choice of single.

I wasn’t overjoyed by the first single “Jet Fighter Plane”. It sounded like something from X which isn’t bad in itself but felt a little political. It’s a good song but perhaps not single-worthy.

“Blackbird Pie” is with some choice acoustic guitars in certain places (intro, breakdown) that complement the song surprisingly well. One of the finest songs on Universal Monsters. Jyrki’s voice just like this song is memorable and haunting. A monster of a song.

“Lady Darkness” is a moody piece that would be fit for a classic Universal monster movie. The song even sounds black and white. It’s as melodic as it is delightful.

“Miss Pastis” is the weakest song in my opinion. It has a punk edge to it but a very weak “Salut, sa va, miss Pastis” chorus sang in French. I like the accompanying French-sounding elements, but l didn’t too care much for the fake accents.

“Shallow Graves” is a ghostly number featuring a menacing riff, rather upbeat with strong gang vocals.

“Jerusalem” features beautiful musical arrangements and a passionate vocal delivery. Melancholic with an interesting progression.

“Stiv & Johnny” has a decidedly punk flavour to it. From the riffs to the drum beat this one screams punk yet it also features elements that are completely different and it works to great effect when everything is put together.

“Never” is perhaps the catchiest song on Universal Monster with it’s doomy chorus and a lifted-from-a-movie instrumentation. This is one made for the repeat button.

“Blue” is a soft, slow gothic prose. Very poetic.

“Rock And Roll Junkie” is a satisfying song but l was surprised to see it close the album. To me, it’s a very fun and upbeat song that l would put for track number 2 or 3. Doesn’t take away that it’s a good song, very rock’n’roll like it’s title implies.

Universal Monsters sees The 69 Eye displays different musical flavours and styles in the context of Goth-Rock/Metal—with stunning results. This feels like a natural direction for the band. The Helsinki Vampires are expanding their sound while going a bit retro and keeping their edge and personality.

Jerky 69’s voice is as deep and pleasant as ever, guitars sound wonderful, the rhythm section is tight and the array of instruments and accompanying background music used enhance Universal Monsters. I’m not disappointed and neither will you be 4.5/5 stars.

Welcome back, Blackie.

Music reviews, Uncategorized

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Golgotha, Napalm Records, W.A.S.P, 2015.

In a musical landscape now shaped by growling guttural vocals and drop-d tunings, it’s good to know that W.A.S.P. ignores trends and stays true to their melodic themselves. The band’s new album Golgotha is not 1984 W.A.S.P. nor is it The Headless Children, it’s Blackie Lawless and Co. moving forward and doing a damn good job at it and still sounding like, well, W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. are not trying to follow current trends, nor are they trying to harken back to the past. Golgotha stands strong on it’s own, that’s the main reason it’s getting so much appreciation (and rightfully so) in the metal community.

It had been 6 years since W.A.S.P.’s Babylon (2009). Since then Lawless has been through changes, finding god and deciding to cut out some of the band’s material from live performances due to his faith. The album’s title, Golgotha,  is a reflection of changes in Lawless’s life. To give a bit of context, Golgotha is where Jesus Christ was crucified according to the gospels.

In the past few years he kept on the quiet side, with no major tour since 2012 (a tour was planned but cancelled due to a leg injury) and devoting a lot of time to creating Golgotha. Welcome back Blackie, it’s good to have you back.

Opener “Scream” sets the tone for what is to follow. A true in-your-face metal song like we have come to know and love W.A.S.P. for. The breakdowns are very effective, I must say.

The single “Last Runaway” was the first song I heard off Golgotha. It’s highly melodic and dare l say, poppy and best of all, it works. It sounds like W.A.S.P. doing dare I say it, Poison.

“Shotgun” is probably my least favourite song on the album,. Something about it fails to grab me .

“Miss You” is a slower-paced song. OK, you got me, it’s a ballad but a darn good one and very honest and heartfelt. At 7:41 it’s a journey and one of the album’s brightest moments.

“Fallen Under” is obscured by some of the longer and more epic titles but is a solid tune and gets better with each listen.

“Slaves of the New World” is a song that would have fitted very well on the Babylon album. Nice breakdown midway through the song and a very catchy chorus.

“Eyes of my Maker” is perhaps Lawless’ best vocal performance on Golgotha. Definitely a favourite, the songs takes the listener places. Excellent guitar work and solo.

“Hero of the World” is one the shortest song on the album. It’s on the mellow side during the verses and launches into a galloping, fast-paced rocker during the chorus. The title track is nothing short of an epic piece. The lyrics are very deep and I can imagine must mean a lot to Blackie, his vocal delivery is incredibly passionate. They also establish his Christian faith in a bold way he hasn’t done before. Regardless of faith, musically it’s an excellent song.

I have to hand it to Blackie Lawless, he takes a lot of flak for his beliefs and appearance these days, but he consistently delivers, especially in the vocal department. Lawless continues to explore and indulge in Christian themes as the title of the album implies (look it up). I wouldn’t go as far as saying Golgotha is a concept album but it is filled with religious references and could easily be interpreted as such. Fans shouldn’t worry about Blackie mellowing down due to his faith, W.A.S.P. remain a tight, uncompromising metallic unit.

Golgotha follows in the steps of Babylon and Dominator and has that similar approach/sound. Is it better? I’m more partial to Babylon but I think W.A.S.P. has effectively come out with one of the best metal releases of 2015 still delivering great music over thirty years later. 4/5 stars.