Back from hiatus, Metallica still angry
PARIS – Agence France-Presse
This file photo taken on September 24, 2016 shows Kirk Hammett (R) and James Hetfield of Metallica performing at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park to end extreme poverty by 2030 at Central Parkin New York City. AFP photo
Back with its first album in eight years, Metallica has returned to its thrash metal roots, making it clear the band hasn’t lost its anger.
“Hardwired... to Self-Destruct,” which comes out on Nov. 18, is the 10th album by a group determined to preserve its reign as one of the defining acts in heavy metal.
“We’re four angry guys,” said lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, now 53 with a touch of grey in his long curly hair.
“These songs have been written with a lot of anger, a lot of aggression, with a real sort of vision to do that,” the California native told AFP during a visit to Paris.
The first track, “Hardwired,” sets the tone for the 12-track album -- uncompromising and ultra-fast with enraged, nihilistic lyrics that recall Metallica’s first opus, 1983’s “Kill ‘Em All.”
The title of the latest album is “a statement on the human condition and how we all kind of do things that we know are bad for us but we do it anyway,” Hammett said.
“We are hardwired to be a little naughty, a little bad, and on the extreme end of that, some people just self-destruct because they just can’t get enough of that bad stuff.”
The second song -- “Atlas Rise!” -- recalls “Master of Puppets,” the title track of Metallica’s 1986 album that was groundbreaking for the musical depth of a heavy metal song.
While not as epic as the earlier music, “Atlas Rise!” runs for more than six minutes, shifting between vocal and instrumental passages and Hammett’s celebrated guitar solos, free-flowing and true to form with a wah-wah pedal.
Hammett, who said he first turned to music to release his anger, says he plays so ferociously on the guitar that he breaks more strings than he replaces.
“I always play very, very aggressively, and in a very angry way,” he said. “It makes me feel better.”
His relationship with his instrument is still evolving, he added, saying he has “reconnected” with his guitar in recent years.
“Every time I play my guitar, it’s so different from two years ago or three years ago,” he said. “It’s different now and it feels good.”
Hammett is especially fond of jazz and bossa nova and has tried to deconstruct the genres’ sounds and techniques.
“I learn stuff in those worlds and play it and I go, ‘Yes, I totally can use it in heavy metal,’” he said.
On its latest album, Metallica slows down on “Halo on Fire,” with frontman James Hetfield taking on a more airy, nuanced voice, if not quite to the extent of “Nothing Else Matters,” the ballad from Metallica’s top-selling work, 1991’s “Black Album.”
“We wanted to create something with the simplicity and aggression of ‘Kill ‘Em All,’ but what ended up happening is the songs sound like the first five albums,” Hammett said, adding that the new work was not a “carbon copy.”
Hammett has a keen ear for younger generations of heavy metal artists. He is fond of Lamb of God, saying he has “high hopes” for the group every time it releases an album.
He heaped praise on a comparatively obscure group, Gojira, saying that the French metalheads were “the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.”
“I love their new album,” he said. “I think it’s an incredible piece of art. It’s heavy, it’s vibey, it’s moody. It has all the things you want to hear -- great complex rhythms, great drumming, great riffs, great songs.”
But Metallica is not looking for early retirement.
“We always want to be the best,” Hammett said, describing his attention to his music as obsessive-compulsive. “We just want to go out and conquer.”
After the quiet spell in recent years, the quartet plans a world tour next year starting on January 11 in Seoul.
“My goal is to live to 100 years old and be able to stand there with a guitar on and play ‘Seek and Destroy,’” Hammett said, referring to the band’s first recorded song.
However, other songs might be more difficult for a centenarian metalhead, he added.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to do ‘Fight Fire with Fire.’ I might break in half,” he said. “But I know I can do ‘Seek and Destroy.’”