Tag Archives: Iron Maiden

HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT by Metallica

What’s that old saying, better late than never? I feel like at this point just about everyone and their mother has put forth their opinion of the new Metallica album, so why should I even bother writing a review? The delay in this review is mostly due to the Thanksgiving holiday and my own somewhat busy schedule. But, if I’m being honest, it’s also due in part to my mixed feelings towards HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT.

Let me begin by stating that I am far from the world’s biggest Metallica fan. And let me follow that confession up with another: I’m a pretty casual metal fan. I like the so-called classic metal bands like Sabbath and Iron Maiden. I enjoy some newer, hipster-ish metal bands like Mastodon and Ghost (ha! that just shows you what sort of metal fan I am, I consider Ghost metal). There are some small-ish indie metal bands that I also really like, such as Red Fang and Kvelertak. But I’ve only been to one metal concert (Motorhead, RIP Lemmy) and I only own a few Greatest Hits type collections of a few metal bands. I only really knew Metallica from their massive hits, like “Enter Sandman.”

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Look, we can all agree that this is a terrible album cover, right?

Prior to 2005, I had probably seen more Metallica t-shirts than I had heard Metallica songs. But then, around the release of ST. ANGER I started paying attention to Metallica, but for all the wrong reasons: I wanted to hear the shitty album that everyone said sounded so shitty. I was surprised to find that I didn’t think it sounded that bad! Emboldened, I checked out the band’s earlier albums and discovered a solid thrash metal band that seemed to evolve into the cartoonish stereotype I was familiar with over the course of their career (and tremendous success). So once I was steeped in the band’s classic output I understood why people were so down on the newer stuff, but because I’d been exposed to ST. ANGER first I still found qualities about it I liked. I also wasn’t terribly let down by ST. ANGER, because I had only just started to explore the band’s music. I guess I should just jump in with the review, rather than waste a bunch of (digital) ink on a rambling preamble.

HARDWIRED… is way better than ST. ANGER and DEATH MAGNETIC (the album the band put out after ST. ANGER). That right there makes HARDWIRED… a success, a win for a band sorely in need of a win. And leading up to the album’s release, every song the band put out seemed to indicate that that album was going to be fantastic. And when the album was released and I pushed play I thought “holy shit, these guys totally did it!” But then the album continued to play. And play. And play. And play. HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT starts strong, and I don’t just mean the first track “Hardwired.” The first 6 tracks are absolutely fantastic. The lead single/title track is a great return to thrash and works well for many reasons but mainly because it clocks in under 4 minutes. The dark and moody, Sabbath-like “Dream No More” is great (love metal songs about Cthulu). The Maiden-esque “Moth Into Flame” with its chugging riff is totally rad, I loved it. The aggressive, fist-pumping “Now That We’re Dead” has a great lyrical hook and makes me want to see this band perform live. The quieter, ballad-like “Halo On Fire” is also a solid track.

All of these tracks, it should be mentioned, have fantastic guitar solos. Kirk Hammett famously lost his iPhone in a taxi cab and with it all the songs he was writing for this album. Despite not having any song credits, Hammett is all over this album, his guitar playing  elevating the somewhat pedestrian lyrics, spinning the songs like straw into gold. None of these guitar solos sound alike and are all thrilling. James Hetfield’s voice, it should also be noted, sounds fantastic. Usually they old metal guys sound, frankly, like shit. Their voices get raw with smoking and overuse, but somehow Hetfield still sounds good. His familiar growl just as vital as it was when the band began.

So if I have no issue with the first 6 or so tracks, the vocal performance, and the guitar work…what’s the problem? The problem with HARDWIRED… is that other than the first track, all of the songs are over 5 minutes in length. “Halo On Fire” is over eight minutes long. As the album trudges along, the songs begin to sound samey and overstay their welcome by droning on and on. Honestly, had the band decided to put out 10 or 12 songs rather than a 16 track double-album, HARDWIRED….TO SELF-DESTRUCT might have dethroned THE LIFE OF PABLO for my #1 album of 2016. The beginning is really that good, really it is. The only track from the second half of the album that is worth mentioning is “Murder One” and that’s only because it’s a tribute to deceased Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister. The song isn’t particularly great and kinda embarrassingly name-checks a bunch of Motorhead songs…but it was clearly included because Metallica has great love for Lemmy. This bit of humanity really touched me and reinforced that despite their status as metal gods, Metallica, in the end, are just flesh and blood people.

HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT isn’t quite the home run I was hoping it would be, but it certainly isn’t a terrible album. I can put it on and go running and enjoy myself. The album whirls into a blur during the second half, but that first part is glorious and makes me want to catch the band’s tour. Better than average, but less than legendary. Faint praise, but praise nonetheless. At this point in their careers, after more than one disappointing release, Metallica fans can’t complain. Now if only they hadn’t gone with such dreadfully awful cover art…

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Controversial Opinion: “St. Anger” is better than “Fuel”

With a new Metallica album nearly upon us, I’ve been spending the past few days revisiting the metal giant’s previous works. I write about metal every now and then, mostly because I’m a pretty casual metal fan. A real n00b if you will. I tend to like the classic metal acts like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, and Metallica. But that said, I really only played through Guitar Hero Metallica once and that was strictly for the achievements. My favorite Metallica album is their 1983 debut record KILL ‘EM ALL which is an economical, no-thrills thrash metal classic that stands as one the best examples of the genre. Love or hate Metallica today, there is no denying that in 1983 the band was simply amazing.

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Complex, insightful lyrics.

Anyway, as we all know, times change and bands develop. Metal fans are some of the worse when it comes to accepting the passage of time. And I don’t really blame them, after all when you begin your career with KILL ‘EM ALL why change things? Prior to 2003’s ST. ANGER, I think the band’s worst album is RELOAD from 1996. RELOAD is pretty pompous and finds the band doing sequel songs which I can’t believe is even a thing (“The Unforgiven II”). The album is also much longer than KILL ‘EM ALL…longer by a staggering 20 minutes. That’s a lot of fluff and filler to sit through. The worst song on the album, in my opinion, is the ridiculous first track/single “Fuel.” I remember when this song came out and I wasn’t even listening to metal at the time. The song was everywhere and from what I remember people liked it at the time. But boy does “Fuel” sound stupid today. Basically a Nike or Gatorade jingle, “Fuel” is a dunder-headed faux-tough guy anthem. It’s weightlifter music, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but the idea of “Fuel” and the reality are two separate things. On paper, the masculine word salad appears hyper-masculine and aggressive. Listening to the song just makes me giggle. And I’m not giggling with Metallic I’m giggling at Metallica.

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Remember that time Spider-Man punched Metallica? That was so cool.

Compare that to ST. ANGER’s title track “St. Anger.” The song deals with similar tough-guy themes and has a schizophrenic fast/slow thing going on but I don’t crack a smile listening to it. I pick “St. Anger” because I feel like it best encapsulates the album, which prior to 2011’s LULU, was considered to be the band’s weakest album.  I don’t even know what to think about that mess of an album and frankly can only fall asleep most nights by pretending that it never happened. ST. ANGER is all about well…anger and mental issues and stuff. I know this because the band had a documentary come out (Some Kind of Monster) that explained all this to me. I think the frantic yoyoing of “St. Anger” fits with that theme and even though it was recorded in the crappiest way possible (modern metal production usually sucks) I think “St. Anger” actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. I’m also not embarrassed to get caught listening to “St. Anger.” When “Fuel” is on and somebody enters the room, I turn that shit down and hang my head.

I still feel like many people hate ST. ANGER so much they’d do or say anything rather than admit that parts of it aren’t all that bad. I know that I will lose what little metal credibility I have by writing this but: I don’t actually mind ST. ANGER that much. It’s far from the heights of KILL ‘EM ALL, but then again I think most of the band’s output falls into that category. Regardless, neither “Fuel” nor “St. Anger” are the worst Metallica songs…that would be “I Disappear” from the Mission Impossible II soundtrack. Holy crap is that a bad song.

So how clickbait-y is my click-bait title? Have you any opinions about either song? Let me know down in the comments. And stay tuned for my shitty, uninformed review of the new Metallica album later this week!

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Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast

Legendary British metalheads Iron Maiden are no strangers to merchandising. Beyond the usual band March (t-shirts, posters, hats, etc.) the band was one of the first acts I was personally aware of hawking their own brand of beer. These days, phone apps are where the money is, so it should come as no surprise that Iron Maiden have an iPhone game. Intrigued, I downloaded Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast to see what it was like. What sort of game would it be? I had no idea. To my surprise, the game is a fanatasy turn-based RPG!


The game follows Maiden’s long-time mascot Eddie as he battles monsters on a quest to reclaim pieces of his soul. Along the way, a mysterious clairvoyant woman helps him and various monsters join your party. The graphics are pretty good for a mobile game. The visuals are fun but not gruesome, like many metal album covers, and the artwork skews very comic book-y. I’m not a huge fan of turn-based games, but I think this style of game play works well for a mobile game. I really liked the style of the creatures you battle and their various attacks. The game also features a ton of references to Iron Maiden’s music. The levels and creatures all have fun names that either directly or indirectly reference the band’s impressive musical legacy. Some of the sound effects for the menus and some of the attacks are also musical flourishes (drum strikes and guitar riffs and the like).


The game is free, which of course means the are micro-transactions. There are a plethora of power-ups and collectibles which I had a really hard time understanding. I played for about 20 minutes before I hit a wall and was asked if I wanted to pay a little money to get extra goodies. I think that if you’re able to resist the nickel-and-diming Iron MaidenLegacy of the Beast is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the band and need a pleasant enough distraction. Casual fans may enjoy the game, too but this game is pretty by-the-numbers and I have no doubt I wouldn’t have bothered downloading it were it not for the bands’s licence. Have you played this game? What are your thoughts and feelings?

I would love to see a GNR game set in a monster-filled LA. Now that’s a game I could really sink my teeth into…

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METAL MONDAY: I drank The Trooper while listening to “The Trooper”

Over the past few years I’ve become something of a beer connoisseur. I became interested in beer after relocating to St. Louis, Missouri a city that’s a major player in the beer industry. Besides nasty, corporate swill (St. Louis is home of the world-famous Budweiser) the city is home to some of this country’s greatest microbreweries. When it came time to move once again, I’d be lying if I said that Colorado’s fantastic brewing culture didn’t play a role in my moving decision.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I love beer. Beer is something I have a great deal of passion and interest in. In fact, if I’d been a better chemistry student in school I’d probably give brewing a try. But enough about me, let’s get to the beer.

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I’d seen the Iron Maiden-themed beer The Trooper at various liquor stores for the past few years but had never picked it up until last week. Does Iron Maiden need their own beer? I’m only a casual fan of the band, so perhaps I’m not the best one to answer that question. My gut tells me “no,” however. Don’t get me wrong, I get the mindless merchandising of classic bands…but why a beer? Most rock bands project an image of reckless debauchery, Iron Maiden is no different, but I don’t think of them as a drinking band. And “The Trooper” is not a song about drinking, so what gives? Mindless merchandising…

Anyway, I finally took the bait and bought a bottle of The Trooper. I took it home and got it chilled, but not super-cold, because that’s how they drink beer in England. Also, I’d had a particularly shitty day and just wanted to drink and write about Iron Maiden.

Upon opening the bottle I took a sniff, the beer smelled predominantly malty with a touch of sweetness. The beer poured clear and golden, with a nice frothy head. While I waited for the foam to subside, I started up “The Trooper.” It’s interesting to note that the song, off the band’s album PIECE OF MIND, is exactly three days older than me. Yes, The Trooper is a beer based on a 31 ½ year old metal song. The song is famously inspired by the Lord Tennyson poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” That poem, like the song, is about a famous battle of the Crimean War in which a colossal screw up in communication resulted in a bunch of British soldiers bravely (stupidly?) charging when their commanders actually wanted them to retreat. The symbolism weighed heavily on my mind when exactly two minutes into the song, I took a sip.

I was surprised at how the beer tasted more subdued than I thought based on the smell. Rather than a sweet, candy-like flavor the beer has an immediate undercurrent of hops giving The Trooper a tangy, somewhat bitter after-taste. The alcohol content is surprisingly low, only 4.7% alcohol by volume (ABV). Here in the U.S.A., we tend to value higher alcohol content, but in Britain session beers (read: ones that don’t get you fucked up) are quite common. The Trooper is an ESB, which stands for Extra Special Bitter; this is a style that has a malty flavor with a nice hop kick.

I won’t lie to you, this is not a style that is very common in this country.  Nor is it one that I have much experience drinking. Is the Trooper a good ESB? I honestly don’t know. I’m guessing it’s not because it’s an Iron Maiden-themed beer and again mindless merchandising. Is The Trooper a good beer in general? It’s okay. I bought this beer specifically to write about it for this post, now that I’ve done that I don’t plan on buying it again. Would I turn this down if someone offered it to me for free? Hell-to-the-no.

"Some drinking implied."

“Some drinking implied.”

“The Trooper” is a great song, but I don’t need to tell you that do I? It’s Iron Maiden’s most well known song and with good reason. The song has a fantastic, highly memorable guitar hook and it’s based on a famous poem about a famous battle. I’m sure if I were British all of this would make my heart swell and mean even more. The truth is: Maiden’s a classic band, the song is fantastic, and this beer is just okay.

I get that they went with a traditional British beer style, but I’m deducting points for the low ABV. Truly the marketing geniuses at Robinsons Brewery missed the boat on this one. The Trooper should have had an ABV of 6.66% (the most metal of all ABV’s). I mean, come on how did no one think of this? I’m a shut-in music blogger and even I have the sense and savvy to know that would have made more sense. I can forgive the band for selling out because it is pretty metal to have your own beer. But having that beer come in below 5%? Well that’s just weak.

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