Five Years Ago: Metallica End a Long Drought With ‘Hardwired’
The longest gap between Metallica albums – eight years – came to an end in November 2016 with the release of Hardwired … to Self-Destruct. The band's 10th LP was announced on Aug. 18 that year along with the release of a new single, “Hardwired.”
The impact was immediate and to the point. The song clocks in at just three minutes and 11 seconds, the shortest in the band’s core catalog behind “Motorbreath” from their 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All. The frenetic assault of “Hardwired” doesn’t let up, with singer James Hetfield's patented growl in full effect as he snarls the chorus, “We’re so fucked! Shit outta luck … hardwired to self-destruct.” The music video dispensed with any pretense or pleasantries, stripped down to the bare black-and-white basics of a performance piece illuminated by seizure-inducing strobe lights.
“Hardwired” ended up being just what salivating Metallica fans needed, enough to whet their collective appetite and certainly more satisfying than the much-maligned collaborative 2011 album with Lou Reed, Lulu, as well as the handful of leftovers from Death Magnetic packaged later that same year as Beyond Magnetic.
It’s not like the metal titans had been resting on their laurels during the extended waiting period. The World Magnetic Tour went on for two years, during which they played a handful of shows as the headliners of the “Big Four,” featuring Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. They followed up that with a few short treks here and there. Metallica were also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, celebrated their 30th anniversary with a series of guest-heavy gigs in San Francisco, made a movie, were ambassadors for Record Store Day and started their own music festival. They even played Antarctica, becoming the first musical act to perform on all seven continents.
Watch Metallica's 'Hardwired' Video
"Has it really been eight years? Doesn't feel like it! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink," drummer Lars Ulrich said in a statement to coincide with the announcement of the new LP. "We're obviously beyond psyched to share new tunes with all our friends out there. We've been rockin' along in the studio with [producer] Greg [Fidelman], on and off, for the last 18 months firing up the creative engines again. Putting new music out there, getting in your faces once again and all that comes with it is what we love to do more than anything else, so strap yourselves in … . Incoming!"
The track hit the top spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and set expectations even higher for the new record, which turned out to be a double LP. Two additional singles followed: “Moth Into Flame” in September and “Atlas, Rise!” in October. When Hardwired … to Self-Destruct came out, it landed at No. 1 in the States, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Germany and other places.
Before Hardwired … to Self-Destruct was even revealed to be on the docket, the band had been busy looking in the rear-view, prepping expansive reissues of its back catalog. Deluxe editions of Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning were unveiled in spring 2016, Master of Puppets the following November, and then … And Justice for All the year after that.
Deep Purple made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, and longtime fan Ulrich was on hand to induct them. Metallica played with unlikely guest Lady Gaga at the 2017 Grammy Awards, but Hetfield’s microphone foul-up left the frontman furious. Guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo launched a loose covers project called the Wedding Band, where they played songs from artists spanning the musical spectrum - from Judas Priest to Chic to Billy Idol. (Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane handled vocals, with Joey Castillo of Queens of the Stone Age on drums and Doc Coyle from Bad Wolves on additional guitar.) The group performed only a few shows in 2019-20, which helped promote Hammett’s “It’s Alive! Classic Horror & Sci-Fi Art From the Kirk Hammett Collection” that showed off memorabilia from the guitarist's personal horror treasure chest at museums around the country.
Metallica also reunited with the San Francisco Symphony in September 2019 to make a sequel to their partnership from two decades earlier, S&M. The results were released as S&M2. Then a string of fall 2019 shows in Australia and New Zealand were scuttled as Hetfield reentered a rehab facility to deal with undisclosed addictions.
And since launching in October 2016, the Worldwired Tour wound through more than two dozen countries. Even during the blank space of 2020, Metallica managed to stay present, retooling their … And Justice for All opener “Blackened” as an acoustic number performed on Zoom during quarantine. They also filmed a full production outdoor concert, shot in a secret location (later revealed to be the Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, Calif.), which was then beamed to drive-in theaters across North America.