Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Metallica is back and bigger than ever. It's been a long time coming since their last record, and some were losing hope. But here we are in 2016 with the band's new album, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct.

Metallica has in the game for over three decades now and they're not showing any signs of quitting. Perhaps previous efforts may have shown signs of the band fading, but Hardwired is a definite boost to the band's ego. The best of the band is back, full of energy that makes the record feel fresh. Hardwired is filled to the brim with big, demanding riffs that command your attention in every moment, bringing the true blistering nature of Metallica back to its top form.

'Atlas, Rise!' will give you a real first taste of the power this band has found. It's a true metal song in true Metallica fashion. The intro features powerful guitar punches with drumming in between, building into some giant riffs and resolving into a great solo. James Hetfield sounds a bit too clean, but definitely has a lot of strength in his voice. 'Moth Into Flame' has a similar vibe and structure, combining melody, metal, and guitar solos into one thrashing, powerful experience.

The entire album is pure rock and metal, but that doesn't stop it from having some tasty moments in between. The gentle intro of 'ManUNkind' serves as a contrast for the rest of the song, which immediately comes in thrashing with an evil composure. Dark melodies make 'Here Comes Revenge' a standout track, Hetfield's voice dramatically rising above Lars Ulrich's brooding drums in the verses really separates the track others on the record. It feels like there's genuine hatred there, whereas other tracks just sound angry. The breakdown in 'Am I Savage?' is the heaviest thing on the record, with thick, explosive guitars raging into a spiraling solo. Final track 'Spit Out The Bone' isn't the heaviest, but it definitely has the most urgency, being the fastest song on the record and perhaps one of the fastest in Metallica's entire discography.

While the album as a whole deserves praise, there are some weaker moments. Opening track and lead single 'Hardwired' is a blistering song with some solid riffs, but just as our review of the track stated, the song lacks a certain grit. Perhaps its the production of Hetfield's voice that's to blame, or maybe the pretty awful lyrics, but this song stands out as a weak point on the record.

Metallica's return to the game is a big one. Hardwired... To Self-Destruct is a wildly powerful record and one of Metallica's strongest efforts in years. It's thrilling, angry, and heavy, as Metallica should be. Whether or not Metallica is here to stay and start putting out more records, Hardwired will be sticking around with its punches for a long time to come.

Favorite Tracks: Spit Out The Bone, Halo On Fire, Am I Savage?

Least Favorite Track: Hardwired

Rating: 87

Helmet - Dead To The World

Some bands have trouble modernizing their sound. Such is the problem of Helmet, who's eighth record Dead To The World has exactly that problem.

Helmet were the biggest force in noise rock and punk rock in the 1990s, and that influence even carried forward into the 2000s. Something happened since then, though. Perhaps it was a conscious awakening or a unanimous vote for change, but Helmet isn't the same band they once were. They've become a distorted shadow of the threat they once were, their original power replaced by something strange.

There are still traces of what they once were, though. Songs like 'Expect The World' have gritty vocals and big riffs reminiscent of their old track. The vocals do fall to a disgustingly slobbery level by the end of the song, though. The start of the album is much better, 'Life Or Death' having an old fashioned sound with some soft moments mixed in. 'I Heart My Guru' is pure rock n' roll, the electrifying guitar wails sounding confidently in the intro. If the ending wasn't so grossly throaty, it would be on of only tracks worth revisiting on the record. 'Red Scare' has a giant riff and dramatic chorus that feels a bit like Metallica, giving the song some atmosphere and some space.

It's all downhill from there. It feels like the band had only heard the poppiest tracks on the radio in the last five years and tried to emulate that while attempting to mix it with their own. Really, what is this Weezer shit going on in 'Green Shirt'? How is this a Helmet song? 'Bad News' has a big riff, but the melodies are far too poppy and weird in context of the instrumental for it to make sense. Let alone the terrible lines "All news is bad news" that is the subject of every chorus.

The album gets progressively more boring as it goes on, and the band makes some pretty bad mixing decisions. Who on Earth edited the fade in part at the end of 'Drunk In The Afternoon'? It feels like a legitimate mistake. They decided the end the record with a slow version of the intro track, which really isn't that much slower or different from the original - it's basically the same song at a slower tempo. Was it that hard to write another song that they just slowed down the first one assuming we had already forgotten about it? Fair play.

Helmet may have lost their punch. Their eighth album Dead To The World is in shambles. It's full of cringey attempts at modernizing their sound and genuinely bad production choices. Where did it go wrong? The band used to have so much power, and now they feel like an old horse. It's a shame, really. Maybe they'll find something new to hone in on by the next album, if that ever comes around. If it's following the sound of this record, though, perhaps it's best for them to hang up the coat.

Favorite Track: Red Scare

Least Favorite Tracks: Green Shirt, Drunk In The Afternoon, Life and Death (Slow), Look Alive, Die Alone

Rating: 45 / 100

Avenged Sevenfold - 'The Stage'

Avenged Sevenfold have a reputation of being the pop boys of metal. It's fair to say - they definitely have one of the more accessible sounds in the genre. While remaining easy to listen to in terms of the levels of metal, they often do it well. Their new song is not one of these cases.

'The Stage' is perhaps one of the most uncreative, gimmicky songs the band has ever put out. From the over-the-top angsty music video to the absolutely dreadful drum mix, this song really has hit all the checks for bad.

You'd think progressive A7X couldn't be that bad. You'd have thought wrong, though. 'The Stage' is melodramatic in the worst ways possible. The band is known for being bombastic and upfront, but this is just distasteful. It does have multiple distinct sections that work to a passable ending that takes the song out on its only positive note. The intro is brought straight from the title track 'Hail To The King' from their 2013 effort Hail To The King in a move which shows that the band is basically ripping themselves off (at least it's not Metallica this time). The song abruptly segues into a clean, almost bluesy bridge after an electrifying solo. The guitar in this part is really great, the instrumental as a whole sounding really genuinely pretty.

Then the heaviness comes back. It's not as bad as the verses had set up, but it's still not great. The song ends with dual guitar solos in that 'Nightmare'-esque fashion and pounding drums (the only part of the album where the drums are tolerable). A classical acoustic ending brings the song to an awkward end as the crash cymbal fails to fade out with the rest of the instrumental. Also, why did they end with an acoustic guitar? What is the relevance?

Not only is the performance out of place, but the instruments themselves just sound awful. The kick drum in the intro sounds like something a teen trying out a double-kick pedal or a sampling pad for the first time would sound like. The tone of it is so completely dead, too. The snare is okay, and the cymbals are fine, but as for the rest of the kit; it's like they forgot to mic them appropriately. Their new drummer Brooks Wackerman is really not doing them any favors - Bad Religion won't miss him if this is his work now... The guitar lacks bass or crunch, sounding floppy and weak. The lead parts are good, as is expected from Synyster Gates, but what happened to the rhythm guitar? Why does M. Shadows sound like a dying horse in the third verse? What's going on?

To make matters worse, the lyrics are absolutely laughable. By some tragic miracle, M. Shadows seems to have misplaced his own lyrics with an angry middle-schooler's diary. Who let "When did the walking apes decide that nuclear war / Was now the only solution for them keeping the score? / Just wake up / Can’t you wake up?" be words to a song? The key to being prolific and making a statement is ripping cliché metaphors straight out of angry YouTube comments? The second verse sings (in the song's awful, failing melody) "Jesus Christ, was born to die / Leave it to man to levitate his own to idolize / We’re simply sociopaths with no communication baby / I see your angle but we differ from our points of view," as if this isn't the cringiest line you've ever heard in a metal song (barring Limp Bizkit, of course, who made that their thing).

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, the music video is atrocious. It's a giant metaphor on war and corruption, with handpuppets replaying scenes from the history of man, including the beheading of Louis XIV and World War I. An interesting concept, but done with the wrong song and the the wrong direction. Watching puppets in these scenes with crappy metal playing in the background doesn't do any justice. When Hillary Clinton and Vladmir Putin appear at the end as puppets controlling the other puppets, you can't help but say "Oh, come on." Then another set of strings control those puppets, the strings attached to a skeletal hand that presses a button the detonate a nuclear bomb, sending us back to the age of cavemen, because that's how evolution works. 

There's so much wrong with this song, and it makes me angry. I want this song to be good. Repeated listens lighten the initial "what and why is this" reaction, but fails to make the bad elements of the song any better. It's a badly produced song and a badly produced video to combine into one fail of a show. Hopefully the rest of Voltaic Oceans holds up, because if this song (and the edginess of the album title) are proof of what's to come, we're doomed.

Rating: 59

Rating w/ Video: 40

Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory

The turn of the century marked big changes for the world, and for music. Evolution occurred right from the start, yet nu-metal was carrying over from the 90s to truly dominate the first few years of the 2000s. The most prolific band from that era was Linkin Park their brand of nu-metal fused with elements of electronica and hip-hop made Hybrid Theory one of the most important records of the 2000s, and, by extension, all time.

Hybrid Theory changed more than just music - it changed lives. From the angst ridden rebellion of the brutal bridge of 'One Step Closer' to the personal, scared feeling of 'Crawling', Linkin Park hit people in more ways than most were doing at the time. Most people will put it off as just another angsty album of that era, but they miss so much more. From start to finish, this album made its mark in history and in many people's hearts.

1) Papercut: Fans of the band will always cherish the opening drum beat and distorted synth in their hearts. Whether it be from the live scene or just a casual listen, the beginning of the song is perhaps as iconic as the album itself. Mike Shinoda's verses are riddled with paranoia as random harmonies and voices punch in and out in all directions, the thick, drop-tuned guitars providing dynamic throughout its play time. The band's elements all come together in the epic conclusion, Joe Hahn's scratches adding extra percussion on top of Chester Bennington's harmonious croons of "The sun goes down, I feel the light betray me" lines as he sings with the stronger chorus, concluding the song with one big "I can't stop what I'm feeling within / It's like the face inside is right / Beneath my skin!" 'Papercut' is a huge Linkin Park track and it's held in the hearts of the band's fans for a good reason - for many, it was the first track they would hear from the band as they edged into an album that would stay with them forever, unbeknownst to them. That's what makes "Papercut" the true introduction to Linkin Park. (96 / 100)

2) One Step Closer: The opening riff of the song is perhaps one of the most iconic riffs of the era, perhaps even as significant as Metallica's 'Enter Sandman' or Guns N' Roses' 'Sweet Child O' Mine'. Equally as iconic is the bridge of the song, the rebellious, yet all too relatable, unrelenting screams of Bennington's "Shut up when I'm talking to you!" This song is what really got into people's hearts - the early 2000s was a period of confusion for a lot of lost and angry teens. The song's anger gave them a funnel for their inner feelings, and as did much of the rest of the album. What makes this record all the more timeless is the fact that even today, the same anger is what countless people - including pubescent teens and adults alike - struggle with, and Linkin Park has always been able to provide a way to channel that. 'One Step Closer' was only one of the first examples of this. (92 / 100)

3) With You: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Hahn!" The famous quote from live performances of this song made it one of the most memorable parts of the band's energy-filled live shows (shoutout LPLive!). While lacking the brutal "Come on!" scream from the intro of its Reanimation counterpart and live performances, 'With You' is still packed full of energy. It's this song that really brings out the elements of the band that weren't as obvious on previous tracks. The atmospheric, electronic verse flow sweetly under Shinoda's unstoppable flow and a hip-hop beat, transitioning perfectly into the heavy choruses with Bennington's raspy vocals. The song also highlights Mr. Hahn's contributions to the band (which have been sparse as of late) - his scratches may not be noticeable without focussing on them, but their purpose in carrying the percussion is perhaps just as important as the drums themselves. 'With You' is the perfect example of the band's electronica influences, as well as their talent in creating mind-boggingly amazing instrumentals. (98 / 100)

4) Point Of Authority: Anyone who has heard this song can never forget Shinoda's opening verse. It's one of the songs on the album that features the last rapping, though ironically enough it contains one of the most recognizable verses on the record. There's something threatening in Shinoda's "Forfeit the game" delivery, and it's a threat that sticks with you. Bennington also delivers a memorable appearance - really listening to the choruses, you can hear a lot of depth in his half-screamed vocal. The texture and melody of his voice atop the thick beat truly create a certain power that can't be easily recreated. (96 / 100)

5) Crawling: "Crawling" is the song that won the band a GRAMMY award, and for good reason. It's composition in dark but melodic, beautiful yet full of alertness. It's the first in the band's line of singles that features an iconic synth-key intro ('Numb', 'Burn It Down', 'Until It's Gone' are also examples) as other synths start kicking in and the higher register powerchords that provide a reprieve from the thick lower-register guitars that dominated the album until this point. Chester's delivery of the chorus really made it clear that his voice was something different. The perfect amount of rasp combines with the perfect amount of melody and power to create something unique and epic. The song's premise resonated with thousands, if not millions, again playing to the fact that Linkin Park are able to relate to you no matter what the case. As easy as it is to make "Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal" the subject of a meme, its those simple lines that could really make a difference for some, and that it did. (94 / 100)

6) Runaway: The song leads in with a watery synth and lo-fi guitar before bursting into a heavy bombardment. The song is admittedly one of the weaker songs on the record, but it still serves its purpose. The verses feature Chester singing melodically over the keyboard synths before his raspiness is channeled for the choruses. The bridge explodes with thick guitars and Chester's strong voice screams high above them. The song doesn't have much more to it, but many could identify with its title alone. The frustration of the recording of this track led to the creation of 'One Step Closer', so we have that to thank it for, if for nothing else, at least. (83 / 100)

7) By Myself: Perhaps more iconic than the grumbling intro riff itself is the staple 2003 live intro the band used during the touring for Meteora. 'By Myself' is characterized by its ominous synth verse instrumentals with Shinoda's rapping sounding paranoid and anger and Bennington's screams acting as precursors to the melodic "I can't hold on, it's all too much to take in... with thoughts of failure sinking in" lyrics of the choruses. The bridge creates a quiet tension with Shinoda's threatening whispers before the song kicks back in full force for one final hurrah. 'By Myself' showcases both the melodic and heavy aspects of the band in a similar yet familiar fashion as 'With You' - these elements coming to into fruition together are a signature part of what makes Linkin Park's sound so great. (95 / 1000)

8) In The End: This song needs to introduction or explanation. Everyone has heard 'In The End'. Whether they have learned the simple yet effective key intro to the song or use the chorus as a joke, 'In The End' is a universally known track. It's the song that put the band on the map, and for good reason. It opened up the band's sound to a poppier audience that wouldn't agree with the anger of 'One Step Closer', 'In The End' instead telling the tale of tragic love or struggle. The seamless flow of Shinoda in the verses as he and Bennington trade off to the chorus made this song an iconic track, and a prime example or rap rock. The song's beauty is magnified by the guitar harmonics used in the choruses thanks to Brad Delson; the blend of pretty and heavy really play to the tragedy of Chester's lyrics and voice. 'In The End', as many times as you've heard it before, is ultimately a big classic tune. (95 / 100)

9) A Place For My Head: If you're a fan of Linkin Park, you're a fan of 'A Place For My Head'. The song reigns as a massive fan-favorite in the live scene and is one of the band's signature jams. The Middle-Eastern tinged guitar riff that backs Shinoda's blasting lyrics in the verses ("I watch how the moon sits in the sky in the dark night / Shining with the light from the sun / The sun doesn't give light to the moon assuming / The moon's going to owe it one / It makes me think of how you act to me / You do favors and then rapidly / You just turn around and start asking me about things that you want back from me"). The chorus reigns huge with crushing guitars that support Chester's powerful voice above it, singing melodically. The bridge is where things get intense: Chester painfully whispers "You try to take the best of me, go away" as his anger builds before he explodes into a massive outburst of rage. The chorus reprises itself once more before the giant outro begins, featuring the band giving their all to end the song on an unforgettably massive ending. 'A Place For My Head' to this day remains one of the band's biggest tracks (even with the heavy tunes introduced in the band's latest The Hunting Party), and it has not lost its luster at all in the last sixteen years. (99 / 100)

10) Forgotten: There's no build up to this one - the threat of Linkin Park's dynamic duo of Bennington and Shinoda open to the track in a trade off before the verse kicks in. Shinoda tells a story of loneliness in his rapping, perhaps one of the earliest indications of Fort Minor without an exaggeration of hip-hop elements. The song's guitars are really interesting, changing throughout the entire track. There's the main opening riff that's reprised throughout the song, the peaceful, flowing guitar lines of the verses, and the melodic, almost groovy powerchords of the chorus. 'Forgotten' is an acquired taste on the album, but once you invite its charm to your mind you come to truly appreciate it. (92 / 100)

11) Cure For The Itch: The album's instrumental that gives Mr. Hahn a chance to shine. It showcases his scratching and sampling techniques, but there's really not much else to it. It's nice to see the album's most understated element get a chance to shine all on its own, but it just doesn't do it for me. The song builds with strings and the occasional Eastern-tinged piano line as drum samples and scratches see it through. Never underestimate Mr. Hahn. (60 / 100)

12) Pushing Me Away: 'Pushing Me Away' is a ballad more in the vein of 'Crawling' than any other track, just in a prettier fashion. The guitar harmonics in the intro and verses are beautiful atop the electronic synth, and eventually the driven beat, give the song its character. It's not as heavy and unrelenting as many of the other tracks - like 'In The End', it sees peace in the verses then becomes bigger in the choruses. Chester's vocals sound pained and abused as he sings about being sacrificing everything for someone for it all to be taken for granted. The powerchords go higher up the guitar neck than much of the rest of the album, contrasting the thick rhythm guitar, ending the album on a different note than it began with 'Papercut'. 'Pushing Me Away' isn't about the heaviness; it highlights the band's songwriting abilities that may have been overlooked in other tracks. The album couldn't have ended in a more appropriate way (unless 'High Voltage' was kept on the backend - though 'Pushing' may still be the best way spiritually to end the record). (96 / 100)

Hybrid Theory was the album of a generation. Nothing quite like it had ever been done before - it seamlessly blended nu-metal, alternative rock, and electronic music all into one succinct sound. To this day, there are still bands who try to emulate the mastery of noise Linkin Park created on Hybrid Theory and still can't quite get there. This is an album that shaped music forever, setting it on a different courses and really brought metal to a more accessible scene. Its anger, pain, and fear gave countless people something to hold onto in times of confusion, and it has the same impact today that it did when it was released nearly sixteen years ago. Hybrid Theory is perhaps to most influential debut album to ever be released, and its importance will never be forgotten, because it will forever have a place in our hearts.

Favorite Tracks: A Place For My Head, With You, Papercut, Points Of Authority

Least Favorite Tracks: Cure For The Itch, Runaway

Rating: 95 / 100

Metallica - 'Hardwired'

It's 2016, and we finally have a new Metallica album on the way! The double LP Hardwired... To Self-Destruct is due out in November (details here), and ahead of it's release we can expect some new music from the record to hit radio. The first new music shared from the record was the single 'Hardwired', a riff-filled track harkening back to Metallica's origins.

The first thing you hear from this track is the blistering palm-muted guitar and big snare hits. Right from the get go, this song's big and up in your grill, and that's before the really riffing even comes in! As the riff kicks in, we get the drums picking up the drive in thrash nature. James Hetfield barks angrily over the thick instrumental, as to be expected from a good 'Tallica track. The bridge features a short tremolo solo that wildly flails atop the big riff.

That's about as much praise as you can give the track, though. It's not terrible, but as a whole, just uneventful. After the hype of the intro comes a big riff... that repeats for the entire song. The solo doesn't help much, because its just flailing all over the frets. Hetfield sounds very underwhelming in the scheme of the track, too, no grit to support the angry message, which is send through the words, "We're so fucked, shit out of luck / Hardwired to self-destruct". There's angst there, definitely taking them back to their roots, but without the creativity of what made old Metallica so grand and powerful. It's like a light punch - its stunning at first but you won't have any trouble brushing it off after a few moments.

Metallica's new album has a lot of potential. If they riff as big as 'Hardwired', a true metal behemoth may be on the horizon. But, if 'Hardwired' is to say anything about how creative they were, there may be a flop. Let's see how this one plays out - and hope it's not as bad as the cover art for this single. We'll be waiting, Lars.

Rating: 55 / 100