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Metallica’s ‘Moth Into Flame’ – A Hot Take


First impressions matter. The best real-life evidence to this point is probably job interviews. In that situation a few minutes of face time could determine the course of a person’s life.

Metallica have been interviewing for a job they’ve been fired from – my favorite band (and many other people’s). Their new song, “Moth Into Flame”, is their second interview for this round. That they’re still applying for a job they already had and then lost speaks volumes, but at least in 2016 it sounds like they want the position. This is the most spirited the band’s sounded since Load, an album I love and almost nobody else does.

The first interview was their song “Hardwired”. That one didn’t sit well with me. It sounded like a lame retread of their earliest glories.

Their new song, though, makes a great first impression. Metallica premiered “Moth Into Flame” this morning, and it deserves the hype that overzealous fans bestowed on “Hardwired”.

The second song on a classic Metallica album is always both catchier and more complex than the first. “Moth Into Flame” continues this tradition. It’s double the length of “Hardwired” and has probably triple the riffs, and most of them are pretty good. Where “Hardwired” evokes the testicular simplicity of Kill Em All, “Moth Into Flame” with its start-stops and clear opening guitar stabs evoked Ride the Lightning.

Some of the “Hardwired” weaknesses remain. I can’t really hear Rob Trujillo’s bass, Kirk’s solos still mostly consist of hammer-and-pulling on his B string (assuming this is in standard or drop-d tuning, which I think it is). Embodying the most of his cliches, for the first half of the song Lars seems somnambulant. By the second half, though, Ulrich’s double-kicking at ramming speed. Better, Hetfield’s voice hasn’t sounded so comfortable since Load.

The chorus features one critical new addition: a two-part harmony that feels reminiscent of the pop-punk Hetfield not-so-secretly enjoys. It works, because it adds the thing that “Hardwired” and most of St. Anger lacked: dynamics and a depth of sound. If the rest of Hardwired .. To Self Destruct features these harmonies, I expect to be a happy camper. That said, it still only makes “Moth Into Flame” the second-best thrash song this year to focus on vocal dynamics and the moth-candle cliche (what up Death Angel? I hear you’re killing it on that tour by the way).

Hot takes mislead as can first impressions. Form your own opinion.

Hardwired… To Self Destruct is out November 18.

This article has been edited to embed the video for “Moth Into Flame”, and to properly reflect the tuning of Kirk Hammet’s strings.

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