Tag Archives: Thrash

Album Review: Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct (2016)

18 Nov

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It has been eight years since Metallica released Death Magnetic, an album that was heavily criticised for it’s brick-walled production and lack of dynamic range, but saw the band try to relive their Master of Puppets heyday. Eight years! This makes Hardwired… one of 2016s most anticipated releases, if not THE most (unless Tool put something out in the next month…).

Opening track “Hardwired” was the first single released and harks back to the good old days of machine-gun drumming, barked vocals and thrash riffs. The refrain of “we’re so fucked, shit outta luck, hardwired to self destruct” resonates much deeper post-US Election. Not that it was the intention of course. Funny how life imitates art sometimes.

“Atlas, Rise!” continues the thrash onslaught. James’ right hand palm-muted chugging in full force (seriously, Hetfield must have THE best picking hand. He’s so fast and precise). Kirk Hammett’s wah-wah solo serves the song well and overall it has a NWOBHM, Iron Maiden feel to it. “Now That We’re Dead” slows things down slightly and I’ve heard some people criticise this particular track but it’s not too bad at all. I think the song as a whole could’ve been slightly shorter and I could hear “Enter Sandman” in places but overall I liked it. They groove very well on the doomy “Dream No More” which sees them using lyrics once again inspired by H.P.  Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos (first time on a Metallica record since 1984’s Ride The Lightning) The song itself is a slow-burning, Sabbath-esque number.

The first half of the album (this is a double disc) wraps up with the awesomely epic “Halo on Fire” which treads the line between straight up Hard Rock and intense Metal. The way the track culminates with Kirks leads was an adrenaline rush for me. I couldn’t help but move to it. Kirk didn’t contribute to the song-writing on this album which marks the first time ever that that has happened. However, his presence is still felt throughout with his creative lead guitar work.

The second disc is longer than the first and kicks off with “Confusion” – a mid-tempo number chock full of great riffs and once again, killer work from Hammett. The song itself is written from the perspective of a soldier with PTSD. “ManUNkind” is a sort of ‘Hard Blues’ song that starts off with Rob Trujillo’s bass in the forefront (he received a co-writing credit for this one) and an odd sort of clean, bluesy, guitar part before it shift gears into the familiar Metallica ‘scooped’ crunch sound and Papa Hets trademark aggressive bark. This is another song I’ve seen get criticised and whilst at times it does come across as a few different ideas just slapped together, it didn’t annoy me but I do think that perhaps they could be guilty here of overthinking. Some of the time changes feel a bit strange to me too.

“Here Comes Revenge” is another song that has a bit of “Enter Sandman” about it but this may be the portion of the album where it drags on a bit for me. There is a blistering guitar solo and the chorus has enough about it for me to get into it, but the verses are where it gets bogged down  – almost ballad like with Hetfield’s crooning. However, that said, on repeated listen this song did grow on me. “Am I Savage?” is another plodding paced doom track that Metallica like to do, but whereas something like “The Thing That Should Not Be” or “Sad, But True” goes somewhere and gives you that payoff, “Am I Savage?” never really does. It does, however contain a great solo. So bonus points for that.

“Murder One” is a tribute to the late, great, legendary Lemmy Kilmister. I get that Motorhead was very influential on Metallica but to take a bunch of song titles and Lemmy’s lyrics just doesn’t work, and it comes off as really cheesy. I think this approach could’ve been better if they played it double time and would be more favourable had it been a straight Motorhead clone.

The album closes with the best song on the second disc by far, “Spit Out The Bone”. We’re back in Thrash country for this one. This is fierce, fast and brutal. There are subtle nods throughout the song to every part of their career. Blast beats and thunderous drumming from Lars and for all the aggression and violence, it is precise and melodic. The pace of the track shifts naturally and allows for some truly quality moments, such as Rob Trujillo channelling the man himself, Lemmy, with a, sadly, too brief distorted bass solo.

At 77 minutes 29 seconds this is a lengthy album, but for the most part it flew by for me. The first disc is the better of the two, as songs like “Murder One” and “Am I Savage?” do bring the pace and momentum down. However, even if you class those songs as missteps, this is still a solid album chock full of great songs and riffs.

I can’t fault Metallica here though. They have released a fantastic album and with the length that it is, you’re always going to have the odd lull. Each member is in cracking form and either Lars has been practicing or there was some studio wizardry at play. Recommended listening no doubt. Hardwired… is not Metallica resting on their laurels, this is Metallica screaming at the top of their lungs “We are still here, and we’re not going anywhere”

David

 

 

Album Review: Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake (2016)

11 Nov

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Brotherhood of the Snake is the latest album from Thrash Godfathers, Testament. How crazy is it to think that 2016 has seen some stellar releases from the likes of Anthrax, Death Angel and Megadeth, all of which were part of that first wave of Thrash Metal way back in the 80s.

Testament have been in good form of late with The Formation of Damnation (2008) and Dark Roots of Earth (2012) being two stunning albums (for me at least). Maybe they had been rejuvenated with the return of original lead guitarist, Alex Skolnick, but whatever the reasons, Testament have been on fire for the past 8 years and Brotherhood of the Snake is no different.

Kicking off the album is the title track and it gives the listener a good indication of what is to follow for the next 45 minutes 27 seconds. Chuck Billy is in superb form, roaring and bellowing each line with gusto. There are blast-beats, a blistering thrash riff and a mid-point melodic segment a la Iron Maiden before dual guitar leads close us out. Next up is “The Pale King” and it starts off in similar thrash territory before settling into a mid-paced groove with Chuck once again delivering 100% – commanding, powerful and memorable.

Track three is the second single released from the album – “Stronghold”. This has been designed to be a mosh pit anthem. How awesome would it be to hear “Up Rise, Stronghold!” bellowed out in unison in a live setting? With it’s battering-ram-esque thrash/groove riffing, it sets about recreating the primal atmosphere of 1999s The Gathering. “Seven Seals” is pretty much a straight up retelling of The Battle of Armageddon from the books of Revelation, Yep, that’s right. Christ riding on his white horse defeating Satan! It’s a dark, mid-tempo song and it grooves so well. Found myself really enjoying this one immensely. “Born in a Rut” closes out the first half of the record and much like “Seven Seals” it’s mid-paced and more melodic with an anthemic chorus. In some ways these couple of tracks are the catchiest on the album.

“Centuries of Suffering” gets the second half of the record off to a wicked thrash start with drummer, “The Atomic Clock” Gene Hoglan taking the song into grind territory on occasion. “Black Jack” is a fast, tremolo-picking, double-bass assault with a Motorhead/Metallica influence all over the vocals. Someone likened this song to Emperor attempting to record a thrash record and I can definitely hear what they meant by that statement. Despite the album being a concept album, “Black Jack” veers away from that with its Las Vegas themed lyrics.

“Neptune’s Spear” and “Canna-Business” continue with the blistering pace and the album closes out with “The Number Game”, where the band unleash their technical fury into the realms of death metal. It is one of the heaviest songs on the entire record (that’s saying something). There is a sense of manic about this song and it leads to a spectacular, thrashing finale where guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson march their guitar solos alongside Hoglan’s procession drumming.

Each member of Testament are on fire here. Gene Hoglan maintains his reputation as the “Human Drum Machine” as his, very, high speed blasts, fills and seemingly effortless tempo changes kick the already high adrenalin levels into overdrive. Returning bassist, Steve DiGiorgio is right there with him and the pair elevate Testament, and force the already elite thrash act to raise its game even higher. Chuck Billy, as I’ve already mentioned, is superb throughout the entire record. The guitar duo of Skolnick and Peterson, though, has to be one of the best in the business. There are memorable riffs, the odd moment of showboating (naturally), dual harmonies and blazing leads ranging from neoclassical shredding to bluesy passages.

I’ve had this album on repeat quite a bit since its release. It’s an absolute beast of an album from start to finish. If you are into Thrash then there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this album. Testament have managed to keep a foot in the past, acknowledging a few of their previous albums, whilst simultaneously pushing themselves forward. This is in part to some tremendous songwriting and the dexterity of Hoglan and DiGiorgio.

Brotherhood of the Snake crushes like a Boa Constrictor, and once you’ve been bitten, the only antidote is to play it loud and play it often

David