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Track Review

It's been eight years since we last heard from Metallica. And I think it's safe to say that span hasn't brightened this iconic thrash band's outlook on the future.

"Hardwired" delivers a pulverizing, filling-rattling, old-school body blow—think raw, pre-Black Album Metallica at its most feral that lasts a mere three minutes and 11 seconds. It's a galloping, ferocious assault that paints a grim portrait of the influential metal band's view of the world's future.

We're So … In Trouble

"Hardwired" is a brute bludgeon of a song. Wondering what 53-year-old frontman James Hetfield thinks of the state of the world circa 2016? This profane chorus lets his answer off the leash like a rabid pit bull: "We're so f---ed/S--- outta luck/Hardwired to self-destruct."

There's more to the song than just those three lines. But the balance of its lyrics mostly serve to unpack that despairing assessment.

"In the name of desperation," Hetfield begins the first verse, "In the name of wretched pain/In the name of all creation/Gone insane." To agony and losing one's mind, the second verse adds a portrait of a world on fire: "Once upon a planet burning/Once upon a flame/Once upon a fear returning/All in vain."

So is there any hope, even a glimmer?

Nope.

"Do you feel that hope is fading?/Do you comprehend?/Do you feel it terminating? In the end?"

The answer to all those rhetorical questions? The song's f-word laden chorus.

A Hopeless Anthem for Angst-Ridden Times

The media has made much about polls indicating that many Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. These surveys suggest that we don't have good things to say about most of our society's social institutions, either. It seems as if America—and to some extent, much of the world—is caught in anxious malaise stoked by violent conflicts at home and abroad and deep uncertainty about what the future holds.

Metallica's latest effort administers a punishing dose of such pessimism, punctuated by profanity that puts an exclamation point on the band's perspective. It's a view of the world that reflects our anxious angst—and reinforces it too.

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