The Weeknd has a new song out. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have a new EP and Bruno Mars has a new album. There’s also more tracks dripping out of the faucet of this alleged Hamilton mix-tape. So in closing, there is a lot to choose from, some real quality options out there to listen to on a Friday where the world might still be ending and we all just realized Thanksgiving is next effin’ week. I’d like to add at this point that I have no idea when Halloween was. It was either a month ago or last week. You could tell me either one and I’d agree with you.
Yet despite the delightfully appealing listening options at my disposal and I’ve listened to the Nathaniel Rateliff twice, I keep coming back to this new Metallica album.
Oh, there’s a new song by The Weeknd.
Hey, let’s check out this Bruno Mars alb…
The ‘Hamilton’ mix tape looks go…
I keep returning to it like the album were season two of The Office and I’m scrolling through Netflix. What’s weird is I don’t necessarily want to, but I do anyway. The first track “Hardwired” keeps grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking the living bejesus out of me and next thing I know I’m halfway through the second song “Atlas, Rise!” I will say this, regardless of well this album is received and regardless of what kind of longevity it may or may not have, “Hardwired” is a barn burner of an opening track.
But it doesn’t stop there. Hardwired…to Self Destruct is actually good. It’s especially good considering it’s by Metallica, who haven’t released a legitimately good, earth-shattering album in roughly two decades. I feel like they’ve been living off of The Black Album since then and that’s kind of impressive, seeing as how a segment of their fan base aren’t the biggest fans of that album. Think about it though – name me at least three good Metallica songs they’ve released in the years following The Black Album. Think about it for a second, I can wait.
Okay, we’re back.
Did you think of any?
I think that might be it. I’m sure one or two other songs could be included but that’s for your list, not mine. For the past decade Metallica have just kind of existed. They released an album with Lou Reed a few years ago that was politely deemed un-listenable by even the nicest of people and as far as straight up Metallica albums go, nothing they’ve released have been able to cause much a dent in the rapidly moving world of popular culture or the music industry. Each album probably had a song or two that the five remaining rock stations in America tried to wedge into rotation, but beyond that, we really just wanted the hits. They had reached the tricky point of a rock band’s career where the biggest question they face is whether or not they should even bother releasing new material seeing as how most people just want to hear they’re old material. I’m looking at you Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2.
Metallica could have faded out and gone to pasture but they didn’t. Two years that would have seemed like a mistake. Yet today, as “Confusion” is blasting from my speakers it might have seemed like a baller move. Hardwired…to Self Destruct is the kind of throwback album that bands at the point of their career Metallica are currently at dream of as they take naps in between band meetings where they kick around ideas like acoustic albums or novelty-driven tours. Hardwired…to Self Destruct channels early Metallica in a way that doesn’t seem cheap or artificial. It certainly doesn’t feel forced. The band sounds hungry. And pissed. They sound like they have something to prove. They sound anything but lazy and I’m not saying that at any point they were lazy, but maybe they took a night off here and there at points during the past decade. Not this time, though. This album body slams laziness and then eats it’s lunch.
All of this begs the question- is Metallica cool again?
While I’m not sure singing “Enter Sandman” with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots is any kind of indication of coolness, I think it does say something about where the band is at now, both from a cultural cache stand point and an awareness of that cultural cache. I watch that video and I see a band comfortable in their skin and having fun. Having fun is not something I think anyone would have said about Metallica, at least not the idea of having fun in a traditional sense. But they look like they’re having a blast. Also Lars Ulrich looks like a British soccer hooligan, but that’s to be expected. Lars is anything but rock n’ roll, no matter how hard he tries.
In the years that followed the release and success of The Black Album, Metallica always gave off the vibe that they were in a constant state of moving away from it and that it was just another record, just another part of their past. But you can’t run away from something that big. It’s impossible. You can cut your hair and try new things, but “Enter Sandman” isn’t going anywhere. “Nothing Else Matters” isn’t going anywhere. For most people, that album and those songs will always be the first thing that is associated with Metallica. Until they accepted that, they would never truly be able to move ahead and move past it. It wasn’t until the performance on Fallon that this dawned on me and I realized that the that performance, combined with the refreshing call-back sound of the new album, could very well mean that Metallica have finally learned to live with The Black Album monkey on their back and embrace that the fact that the album is not only a big part of them, but a large part of people’s version of the band.
So is Metallica back?
No. They’re a rock band. So in terms of wide-ranging appeal and a large, diverse audience, unless there is a Kendrick Lamar verse buried in the album somewhere, it will still be a niche release. But within that niche, it should make fans of the band, both pre and post The Black Album fans happy, which is no small feat.