Metallica fans are divided into two main groups.
One group is made of people who heard the “Black album”, snorted and cried “Sellouts!” then vowed never to listen to this band ever!11!!!1!~
The other is made mostly of people who loved the “Black album” and gave the band the chance it so truly deserved.
Then came “Load” and “Reload” which further split the camp into the disappointed and the not so much.
I think that St. Anger really reunited everyone behind the collective WTF and that was that. Hard core fans stayed and others sought (and destroyed) other outlets.
To be perfectly honest, I loved the “Black album”. I think it’s a masterpiece. I even liked “Load” and tolerated “Reload”. I loved “Garage Inc.” (who doesn’t?) and still think “S&M” is genius. Heck, I even bought “St. Anger“.
That was it for me though. It was fairly obvious their heart wasn’t really in it. I wrote it off as an exercise in staying together post-Hetfield-drama.
Then came “Death Magnetic” and I wasn’t impressed. I was beginning to think that Metallica was really done.
When “Hardwired… to self destruct” was announced I was very skeptical. It seemed like one more attempt to stay relevant.
Then I heard “Moth into flame”.
Suddenly, something moved. It was my head, moving down and up. Almost automatically. Like the good ole times. Then I heard “Hardwired”, same result. Then “Atlas, Rise!”. Same. Could… could it be?… Could this actually be a good album after a long while?
I decided to take the plunge and bought the album. I got the “delux” version with the extra CD, cause Metallica live is always awesome, regardless.
The following is written after 3 times of going start to finish.
The first thought that bounced through my head was that there’s a lot of correspondence with past albums. Not repetition, just shout-outs to previous pieces. There’s some “ride the lightning” and “Kill ‘em all”, some “Justice” and “Master”. Some of Kirk’s work is very “Black album” and James dances well between the old ones and the “loads”. A lot of things that simply ring true.
Metallica has always been somewhat unfairly judged. On the one hand they “got it” whenever something didn’t sound original enough, then when they dared to go off-road, they got it for “not being Metallica”… a bit of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
So my first impression is that the men found the golden path between repetition and innovation.
My second impression – or rather confirmation – is that James is one of those really underrated lyricists. This guy wrote some really good lyrics in the day. Really good. And in this album (not on every song, but that’s just fine) he sharpened his pencil again. “Atlas” and “Moth” are but two example of how metal-heads (like Black Sabbath before them) can write some beautiful words, and still rock the hell out of the song.
Is this album “Master” level? No. It’s not going to threaten the top 3 of all times list. It has its ups and downs (though nothing bad).
But this album sounds as honest as they come. I think they found what they were looking for (creatively), for the first time since Jason’s departure, and they sound Metallica enough, with the right sound, the right feel.