It’s been 28 years since Metallica released, what purists call, their last good record in …And Justice For All. The jokes of Metallica dying with Cliff or that they “broke up” in 1988 have been floating around for years. Even the record that exploded them into the stratosphere of superstardom, the self-titled “black album”, doesn’t even get a pass by the elite. While that record showed that it was ok to be mainstream and be heavy, it was a kick in the face to what are still considered four of the top metal records of all time. Shit, Master Of Puppets is arguably the single best metal album ever written. It’s the magnitude of the earlier material, which is not even a 1/3 of the bands entire career, that continues to make any new Metallica material met with a certain level of expectation, no matter how many “bad” records they put out.

Hardwired…To Self-Destruct marks the 5th outing in the post-black album world and the first since 2008’s Death Magnetic, which was universally acknowledged as a return to form for these aging thrashers. It appears that 8 years was entirely too long to wait to record a follow-up record because they appear to have lost all momentum that record brought. This record sounds like it was written for people that are old enough to have liked Metallica when they were writing their best material but thought that it was devil’s music only for the cretins that wore leather jackets and drove Trans-Ams. Now Metallica is safe enough that it’s edgy for them and they think it will help them relate to their angsty teenager, who still thinks that they are lame. While this is a very well-produced record, nothing aside from the first and last tracks, as well as the second single, Atlas Rise, screams Metallica at me. In the title track and Spit Out The Bone, you get a continuation of the ideas from Death Magnetic with a sprinkle of some Ride The Lightening. In Atlas Rise, you get a hybrid of Death Magnetic with Kill’em All. These songs still have their flaws but I can honestly say that I don’t hate them and would listen to them again. The other nine tracks on the record are a completely different story and results in utter frustration. Almost every track starts off with a solid intro that sounds like it’s going to keep up the pace of the album to match the opening tracks but then quickly nosedives into a verse that is only a step or two away from being a Re-Load throw away. There isn’t a single track within the bookends that I can recommend.

With the release of the first three singles of the album already getting airplay, I’ve seen countless amount of people posting online or saying in person that “Metallica is back” or that “The new Metallica rules.” and because of their status, people will do whatever they can to blindly convince themselves that a new Metallica record is great. However, we need to face the music and accept that anyone that is doing that is accepting mediocrity. Sure, this record is probably great compared to Load and Re-Load but those records aren’t good Metallica records. We’re benchmarking them on their worst material at this point instead of their best because it’s been so long since they released something truly great. Even Death Magnetic wasn’t a great record, it was just great compared to what came before it, and this is significantly worse than that.

James Hetfield can still riff and Kirk Hammett, who had no creative input on the album, can still solo his ass off but this is album is Metallica on life support or maybe it’s their death rattle. There is definitely a youthful energy in these songs, so their heart seems to still be in it, but the metal world, which owes them a ton of debt, has moved on. The masters have become the students but they aren’t following the lesson plan. The energy can’t muster the creativity and they continue to be hindered by a drummer that has done nothing but regress in skills since they erupted to their peak in 1990.

Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is out on November 18th, but who cares? It’s more of the same old story with Metallica. They’ll get your hopes up with a song or two and then crush your dreams with a bunch of hogwash in the middle. Just download the three good songs I mentioned and forget the rest ever happened.