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I’ll try to refrain from making any obvious political references regarding the title in this review, though it’s worth noting that they took off the entire Obama administration between albums.

The sound reminds you a lot of the glorious, pre-Bob Rock days- lots of energy and power riffing, more raw emotion, less emo- with even a little bit of a punk edge.  Good times.  Maybe the fact that Hetfield and Ulrich took over the reins at the board had something to do with this.  Whatever the reason, it sounds great!

Kirk didn’t contribute to any of writing and it shows; Robert only gets one song credit for ManUnkind. Again, it sounds more like old school Metallica than anything .  Speaking to that- Jason Newstead hazings aside, I always wish they’d use more bass to help pump the music.

The two cds feel like two different albums- the first disc hard, fast and powerful and the second one kinda all over the place.

The title track, “Hardwired”, lets you know what you’re in for. “We are so f-ked… s-t out of luck… Hardwired to self-destruct!”  Inferences about its lyrics & title aside the beats and riffs are so fast & frenetic it’s like a modernized version of Battery.  “Atlas Rise”, just in case you need reminding, is about the titan doomed to carry the world.  You could almost picture Atlas himself pumping this one through some headphones to give himself a boost.  “Now That We’re Dead” takes a full minute and a half before Hetfield starts singing, and you won’t mind the wait.  Oh mama…

“Moth into Flame” delivers the goods start to finish.  Lyrics like “Blacked out… Pop Queen Amphetamine… Destruction going viral… Sold your soul/built a higher wall… Yesterday/Now you’re thrown away…” it establishes itself as one of the more evocative tracks, a commentary on the downward spiral of pop culture celebrity.  It could almost be an anthem for the likes of Lindsay Lohan or the late Scott Wieland.  Hetfield nails the lyrics and vocals down cold.  And that Kirk Hammett riff…  simply awesome!  “Dream No More” musically sounds a lot like ‘Sad but True’.  A whole helluva lot- especially the intro, the drums right before the chorus and the bridge.  It’s never a good sign when you start bastardizing yourself and while yet another Cthulhu reference may seem cool at first, it only drives this point home.

“Halo on Fire” is more melodic than the other tracks, but the bastardizing continues as the rhythm guitar is almost note for note from ‘Enter Sandman’.  And the bridge sounds like ‘Of Wolf and Man’.   Still, it’s eight minutes of sonic enjoyment.

Disc Two is the weaker one and kicks off with “Confusion”, and that’s the best way to describe it.  Its military drumbeat opening and allegories to battle fatigue and combat only added to this.  Despite Kirk’s stellar solo work it didn’t do for me so I took Hetfield’s lyrics to heart and ‘…made it go away…’ (sic).  “ManUnkind” has a smooth, silky intro that almost lulls you in… hah!  It drifts a little but remains strong musically, if not lyrically.  Kirk’s solo is mandatory listening.  “Here Comes Revenge” is the most similar to a Bob Rock-era song, and that’s not a bad thing here.  The musical breaks with the pounding drum/bass work well- really would love to hear more of that.  “Am I Savage” is the one that, next to Confusion, seems the most like filler; it just doesn’t really go anywhere.

“Murder One” is a tribute to the late, great Lemmy of Motorhead and one of the shorter tracks.  We all can appreciate the sentiment, but it felt kinda slapped together and that’s all I’ll say about it.  “Spit Out the Bone” closes things out with a vengeance- seven minutes of pure aggression!  The lyrics are so brief and forgettable it may as well have been an instrumental, and would’ve been a helluva one!  Having said that, it still could’ve been trimmed down about a minute in the middle without losing anything.

Overall, “Hardwired…” is a return to form and direction for Metallica but still shows there’s some gaps to plug.  Crank up the volume and enjoy!

4/5 stars