How Metallica Returned To Their Prime: The Story Behind ‘Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’

Released on this day 4 years ago, find out how the band revived their discography with their revolutionary tenth studio album.

On this day back in 2016, Metal legends, Metallica, released their most recent studio album, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. Their tenth studio album, Hardwired quickly became the release that returned the band to the glory of their heyday, catapulting the band back to the legendary status they were held as during the era of The Black Album.

Following an eight-year hiatus since their previous release, Death Magnetic, back in 2008, the time waiting for Hardwired… To Self-Destruct marked the longest break between albums throughout the band’s extensive career.

Yet, this was one that paid off in excess for the band… establishing them as a force to be reckoned with once more- leaving the abysmal reviews of their St. Anger album firmly in the past. 

The band’s first release through their own independent record label, Blackened Records, Metallica sought a more refined and mature approach to the album than in their previous releases. Placing no pressure upon themselves to meet strict deadlines or rush to get the album finished, the methodical, no-frills approach to Hardwired became the reason for the album’s success, with the band returning to their Thrash, Heavy Metal roots in a more authentic way than seen over the decade prior.

Having lost his phone, containing almost 250 ideas for songs, at Copenhagen Airport back in 2014, Kirk Hammett took a step back from the writing process of Hardwired, making it the first album not to feature his contributions since 1983… instead having next to all of the songs written by Hetfield and Ulrich instead.

Abandoning the cliché, commercialised sound they had fallen into with previous tracks including ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ and ‘Invisible Kid’, Hardwired marked a transition from cliché action-film soundtrack into genuine emotion and powerful themes of pessimism.

Tracks such as ‘Hardwired’, ‘Moth Into Flame’ and ‘Dream No More’ captured these issues of negativity, isolation and nihilism best, marking it as the prominent motif underlying throughout the album. 

Seeking a more heartfelt, emotion-orientated release than in previous albums, Metallica used the album to pay homage to some of the biggest names across the music industry. Addressing the struggles with fame and the pressures of widespread media publicity, ‘Moth Into Flame’ was dedicated to the Jazz vocalist, Amy Winehouse, following her tragic death five years prior. 

Similarly, ‘Murder One’ was written as a tribute to the late Motörhead frontman, Lemmy Kilmister, with the title referring to his favourite amplifier, whilst ‘ManUNkind’ was written in homage to the band’s ex-bassist, Cliff Burton.

Venturing into themes of desperation, personal battles and a seemingly-inevitable destiny to follow the wrong path, the highly anticipated album quickly became a hit across the globe from the moment of its debut. 

Named as the Best Metal Album of the year by both Revolver and Rolling Stone, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct immediately became a hit with fans across the globe. Instantly peaking at number one on the Billboard 200, selling nearly 300,000 copies in its first week and earning a platinum certification, the album marked the return of Metallica to their heyday.

Held in the same high regard as their previous landmark albums, Metallica, Ride The Lightning and Kill ‘Em All, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct placed Metallica back on the map as one of the greatest bands of all time. 

Now, four years since its debut, the album still stands as one of Metallica’s best. Topping the charts in 57 countries across the globe and becoming just the second band in history to have six consecutive studio albums debut at number one in the US, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct will continue to keep the momentum running for the legendary Thrash band, proving that 39 years since their formation, the band are still going stronger than ever.

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What are your thoughts on the album? Let us know in the comment section!

Enjoyed this history of the album? Be sure to check out the story behind the band’s legendary Self-Titled album (AKA The Black Album) here!

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