As arguably the biggest band of all time (at least in metal), the pressure and standard is high whenever Metallica are gearing up to release new music. A follow-up to 2016’s much praised Harwired, the hype had reached an all time high following the press and singles released prior. We checked out a couple of them, even reacting to them over on our YouTube channel. I have to admit, I really enjoyed them. And, with them being one of my favourte bands, I had to do this review!
Opening on the title track, it’s very old school Metallica as it sits at over seven-and-a-half minutes in length. It also opens straight into a fast thrash riff and high-hat combo. The effect on the guitar was odd though, sounding almost surfer-music like, like something you’d hear in a Tarantino movie. Still, the big main riff builds over the top and soon explodes in awesomely. The band have been diving back into their thrash roots for a couple of albums now and do it so damn well. This is no exception. We get easily three riff variations just in the intro and all are great.
James’ vocals sound just as good as ever, powerful and surprisingly melodic over the thrash instrumentation. The lyrics didn’t do much for me, but I get the theme they are going for with the album so they fit well. The chorus was fairly catchy still, it having an easy hook for a live crowd. The guitar solo is also awesome. Kirk is at his Kirkiest but it never really bothered me anywhere near as much as it seems to a lot on the internet. It’s a lot better than any of the solos off Hardwired. Overall it’s a fantastic track and a great choice to open the album on. It doesn’t feel its length at all.
‘Shadows Follow’ is another quick-paced track filled with some awesome riffing. It’s very similar in composition to the previous track, lots of great, fast playing and some powerful, standard post-St Anger vocals and melodies. It is very clear they’ve gone for a very Kill ‘Em All sound but with a modern edge and production. It’s worked well, it’s just a little formulaic and very similar to a lot of the trashier stuff from Hardwired.
Single ‘Screaming Suicide’ is one of the tracks we did a reaction to. I remember enjoying it when I listened to it but, honestly, haven’t really felt the need to go back and re-listen since. I kinda found the same happen this time through. It’s a very good track, don’t get me wrong, but outside of the pre and the back two lines of the chorus, there wasn’t much memorable that I remembered from the reaction. It did at least have another great solo from Kirk!
The latest single released on the same day as the album, ‘Sleepwalk My Life Away’ is an interesting one. Opening on a quick bass and drum line almost gave off punk vibes. The guitars over the top sounded Load era too, which I loved. It builds perfectly into a sludgy, slower riff that I can’t get enough of. There’s still some thrash elements through the verses but it’s a little steadier and it all has a bit more room to breathe. It gives the chance for more catchy, entertaining vocal hooks in the chorus, too. Honestly, as much as I love thrashtallica, this blending together of their previous sounds that they’re doing was my favourite part of Hardwired, and may be my favourite part of this album too. This easily makes the playlist!
The sludgy riffing continues through ‘You Must Burn!’. The plodding riff was the main highlight but it did have another infectiously catchy chorus too! I also loved the further back vocals in the bridge with the effect on. Again, very Load, very excellent. Then we reach the lead single of the album and the track I haven’t been able to get out of my head for months, ‘Lux Aeterna’. This is a Kill Em All track from the very first note; three minutes of intense, fast-pace playing. I don’t know why this one works for me more than the opening couple of tracks but it most certainly does. I love this track, and it’s been in our playlist since it was first released.
‘Crown of Barbed Wire’ and ‘Chasing Light’ are two good tracks but feel a little album tracky. The former is like ‘You Must Burn!’ while the latter even has a bit of Garage Inc to it, like a Breadfan/Mercyful Fate feel.
Then we reach one of the singles I haven’t yet heard, ‘If Darkness Had a Son’. It opens with a huge tom roll and the guitars fill out the sound perfectly. It reminds me slightly of BFMV’s ‘Your Betrayal’, ironically. The riffing is again off the charts, as is the arrangement of the whole track. It’s interesting that they opened on the chorus as it’s a very un-Metallica thing to do, but added a fun dynamic to the track! It is a fantastic chorus too, the best on the album. It’s another dark, sludgier, fantastic track that has both 80s and 90s ‘Tallica elements. I loved it. Playlisted!
‘Too Far Gone?’ and ‘Room of Mirrors’ are two more bangers. Yes, they again feel a little like album tracks, but even Metallica’s album tracks are top class. Then we have something I wasn’t expecting; a legitimate prog track in the 11-minute closer, ‘Inamorata’. It opens INCREDIBLY ‘Outlaw Torn’. It had me buzzing as I LOVE that song! The whole track bares a striking resemblance to said track and it’s not an issue at all. As hated as they are, I love Load and ReLoad, and this definitely filled a much needed hole in that sound for me. The vocals were a big highlight, plenty of great melodies and backing vocals and catchy lines. The slower and longer nature of the track also meant that Kirk got chance to really open up in his solo, showing why he’s one of the most underrated guitarist out there.
The drop down to just bass and high hats was nice, really giving Rob chance to shine a bit. The vocals through the lower part were great, and help build the track back up perfectly. All of the instrumentation for the bridge/solo was amazing, too. I honestly can’t gush about this track enough. It may be my favourite track by Metallica in years, at least since Death Magnetic, maybe since Load. Amazing stuff and, despite its length, it makes the playlist!
Overall: I think this about lives up to the hype. Is it the best Metallica album out there? No. But it is still a great album. There are tracks on it that aren’t as strong as others, but generally there are easily six or seven tracks that I’ll be listening to a LOT going forward. There’s going to be a lot of mixed reception online about this album, but we’re going to plant ourselves firmly on one side…
The Score: 8.5/10