They did it again. This band, without re-inventing the wheel, without surprising the heavy metal fans, without innovating from ground zero, is always fresh, always keeping up with what is interesting and catchy, and remains always on top of their form. “72 Seasons” is the 11th studio album of the band, a band which has been criticized a lot by the fans, for ‘not being aggressive’, ‘not playing as fast as other thrash metal bands’, ‘not sounding like the old days’, etc. But seriously, who cares about that? In my humble opinion, this band is so big to be compared with others. For so many years now, their status and musicianship level but also from the management, promotion or overall status point of view is beyond any reach for others. This album is a great example of what they can achieve and what happens, when they decide to sit down their arses and write fucking good songs. OK, as mentioned before, this is not a record to change the course of history. But, this does not mean it is not a very good album. They have utilized elements from the previous two albums (intros and length of songs, similar pattern of songwriting, but always an interesting and intriguing mindset behind the song structure, etc.) with a fresh and very modern perspective. After all, this is a journey of/in life itself, and that makes it worthy from the lyrical stand point as well. The whole band sounds rejuvenated, ready for new music pathways, but using their old/classic/trustworthy ‘know-how’. The energy levels are very high, and there is not a single dull moment, as soon as you press play on the first track, until the end. Sometimes, we all forget that we are not in 1985, 1988 or 1990. It’s 2023 and “72 Seasons” is exactly what we could expect from such a great band, meeting the expectations, delivering the goods and making us looking forward to see the band live again!
The occurrence of a new Metallica album is always accompanied by controversies (fans vs haters). Let’s accept the traditionality of the occasion: when the Americans release new material, it instantly tends to be over-hyped by the fan base, no matter its quality standards. On the contrary, the others (the haters…) underestimate the album, for the sole purpose of showing off their long-time maturity as listeners and sophisticated preferences for extremely underground, equally sophisticated bands (How can they spoil their ears hearing Metallica’s mainstream crap? That would be unacceptable...). But there has to be a truth somewhere…
When I was assigned the task of seeking the truth about “72 Seasons”, I knew that I had to forbid my deep appreciation for the band to affect my point of view (tough indeed) and isolate myself from all that “junk” noise out there (easy enough). Indeed, it’s tough to write something about bands who formed the music you hear, and be critical of them if it’s necessary… but it must be done…
“72 Seasons” emerged seven years after its predecessor. In “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” the band had adopted a different approach, being concurrently “open” to different periods of their long-time career. The same applies in “72 Seasons” as well, although in a more cohesive manner. Metallica use elements of “Black Album” and earlier era, while stepping on the stoner ground of “Load” / “Reload”, becoming even Sabbathic (something that I appreciate since I’m a doomster!). Hence, the logic behind most songs indicates an orientation to the band’s known heavy metal motives, away from experimentations of the past, while thrash lurks, emerging timely.
“72 Seasons” shouldn’t be reviewed regardless of the circumstances under which it was “born”. Composition took place during a rather dark period for Metallica; sadly, Hetfield struggled again due to his alcohol addiction, and was admitted to a detoxication center. As in the past, he took refuge in composing; thus, his efforts at overcoming his long-time problem are reflected in the dark aura of the music and lyrical themes. James, clearly affected, gives the most personal and expressive performance in recent years; more mature than ever, he makes you feel his melancholy, his intensity, his quest for light and redemption (Jamez still rulez, despite his age!).
The good things in “72 Seasons” aren’t restricted to Hetfield’s vocal duties and strong staccato rhythmic patterns; all members are in great shape, offering a fiery album that indicates dedication to what they do. Ulrich does exactly what’s needed behind the kit, being simple and substantial, and Trujillo fills every possible space, but his bass is more dominant in stoner-oriented songs. As for Hammett, who contributed to the composing process this time, his ideal collaboration with James is the reason behind some good harmonies. Greg Fidelman, who did an excellent job in the previous album, knows how to bring out the Americans’ energy through a heavy, clear, mellow sound, while highlighting the band’s “stoner-ish” attitude when needed. His contribution is crucial, since the songs require by default a solid, concrete sound.
In “72 Seasons” there aren’t peaks like “Halo on Fire” or “Moth into Flame” that became instant hits with their overwhelming melodies. However, every song has something to offer within that well-connected totality. The ideal self-titled opener features memorable, appealing riffs and refrain and interesting successions of patterns. In “Screaming Suicide”, you feel the energy of the aggressive theme and a glance to the roots, while references to the down-tuned vibes of “Load” / “Reload” occur in cases like “Sleepwalk My Life Away”, “You Must Burn!” and “If Darkness Had a Son” (in certain moments, the mentality of “King Nothing” is evident). “Lux Æterna”, a brief, thrashy, NWOBHM-related idea that causes a sense of freedom and “Too Far Gone?” refer to “Kill ‘Em All”, without its rawness of course. In “Chasing Light” James gives probably the most dynamic, intense performance in the album (along with “Lux Æterna”), while in “Room of Mirrors” you cannot help but pay attention to Hammett’s splendid solo that upgrades the song.
For the time being, my personal favorite is “Inamorata”, which reveals the band’s doomy temperament. The attractiveness of the melodic refrain, where James sings ironically “Misery she needs me, Oh but I need her more…” is the highlight of the whole album. The break, where bass and cymbals only “whisper” discreetly, signifies the transition to a grandiose ending for a good album.
Of course, some things could work better. For instance, the duration of some songs doesn’t work in favor of the listening experience; I admit that I caught myself thinking that they should last less, since some patterns are repeated unnecessarily. Also, I cannot talk about fillers in the album (that would be unfair), but certain tracks needed a different approach. However, leaving aside personal preferences, it’s evident that in “72 Seasons” you hear a band who have a good time and enjoy being in the studio; and that’s the biggest achievement of the album.
We cannot expect Metallica to reach another peak like “Ride the Lightning” or “Master of Puppets”; that would be naive. They’ve already made history, starting on that day when a teenage Lars made an advertisement, looking for bandmates, instead of pursuing a career in tennis. As they approach their sixtieth year of age, we anticipate Metallica’s true self through honest albums; and “72 Seasons” has this attribute, without being innovative or impressive. Hence, they win the bet of “amusement vs age”: amusement wins, defying age. They honor their glorious past, but they live for today.
Irrespective of what I mentioned above, Metallica are a live act. They’re a band that should be experienced on stage; if some of you witnessed one of their concerts, you know what I mean. A Metallica show is impressive, gigantic, and crushingly impactful on your psyche. It remains in your memories, as a mark of the biggest band of heavy metal. Let’s take the opportunity to enjoy them, as long as they remain active. When they retire (I hope after many years), the next generations will look for other heavy metal heroes… (Should I laugh, or not?)