Metallica have always been about doing what they want to do with their music and their careers as musicians. This is the root of everything they stand for, and you can trace it back to Cliff Burton. “We do what we want. We don’t care what anyone else thinks.” That is Cliff’s quote, and Metallica have stayed true to that attitude throughout their entire career.
What many fans don’t realize is that Metallica have always been criticized for their music, even in the 80’s. Early in their career they were a part of a fast growing movement with other thrash bands, and Metallica were criticized because they were a thrash band, but unlike their fellows, they didn’t play a thousand miles an hour all the time. They also had a bass player who wore bell bottoms. Why anyone thought Metallica were always going to be a thrash band is beyond me. If you listen to their 80’s albums you can hear the evolution, and there’s nothing subtle about it. Every album is completely different from the previous one. Every album is just another step away from traditional thrash. It was right there in your face the whole time.
In the 90’s it became evident that Metallica were on to new things, and had left the 80’s behind. New sound, new look, and they became even more bold with their songwriting. Do you honestly think they didn’t know it was going piss off a lot of their fans?The fact is, they didn’t sell out, they transcended. They were different people from who they once were. Why wouldn’t their music change and evolve as well? Many asked themselves “why won’t they just keep making thrash albums?” After all it’s what made them famous, and it’s what the fans want. I’ll tell you why, because that my friends is the definition of selling out. Metallica wanted to make a couple of hard rock albums and look like rock stars, so that’s what they did. Metallica wanted to play with an orchestra, so that’s what they did. Metallica wanted to make a cover album, so that’s what they did. All the while so many of their fans still didn’t get it. They were still holding on for Master of Puppets part 2. Ha ha! Sorry suckers.
So here we are, 28 years after And Justice for All, 13 years after St. Anger, (which was a disaster for many reasons) 8 years after Death Magnetic, (which I believe was an honest attempt to give the hard-headed thrash era Metallica fans what they wanted, and for that reason alone it wasn’t a great album) and Hardwired…to Self Destruct is here. Is it a deliberate middle finger to the Metallica thrash fans? Nope. If you think it is then you STILL don’t get it. It’s yet another album Metallica made for themselves, and its one hell of a good album. The people who enjoy this album are the fans who listen to it with an understanding of who Metallica are today and listen to it without dwelling on their first four albums.
Take a look at some of the bands from Metallica’s era: Testament, Exodus, Slayer, Overkill, and Sodom to name a handful. All of these bands combined aren’t as successful as Metallica, why? Because, for the most part, they’ve been doing the same thing their entire career. Maybe they just really like playing thrash, maybe they just want to make their fans happy, or maybe they just don’t have the balls to transcend for fear of backlash. Regardless, they aren’t fit to touch Metallica’s robe. They aren’t successful because they’re only locked into one demographic. They’re great bands, but compared to Metallica? Peasants.
It’s about transcendence. It’s about the process of growth and maturation. It’s about experimentation. It’s about finding your groove, staying true to who you are, and bringing your music along for the ride. It’s what most of the greatest bands in the history of rock n’ roll have done, and it’s why Metallica are the biggest band in the world.