Metallica – 72 Seasons
Released April 14, 2023
7.5 out of 10
For whatever reasons when a new Metallica album is released there is a whirlwind of opinions good and bad. This is after all the biggest metal band on the planet, and at this point in their careers the music of Metallica is often quite divisive.
As a fan, you either fall into loving the classic era of the thrash kings up until the release of Justice, or you might be a more recent convert and enjoy their 90’s output and beyond. Either way, both opinions are valid up until a certain point. I tend to fall some where in the middle because I grew up as a thrash loving teen in the 80’s and was there at the beginning of the thrash revolution, but I’m also a visual artist and can appreciate the evolution of artistic vision.
I do understand bands and artists will change, develop and mature over time. So, it happens to the best of us and Metallica is no exception to the rule. Sure, they have evolved over time and yes the modern Metallica has moved well beyond their fist swinging and head banging roots.
So with that being said, what does Metallica sound like in 2023? Well, a new collection of songs are being offered here on 72 Seasons and we need to dive in and see what they have to offer their legion of fans for the twelfth studio album.
To start out my review, my overall impressions are quite positive. I don’t go for all that bullshit about Kirk’s weak solos or Lars’s unorthodox drumming style because I look at music from a larger context of how it makes me feel on a whole level. 72 Seasons has it ups and downs for sure, but it still rocks and more importantly it proves James can still go as a lead vocalist and primary lyricist.
In fact, James is the star of the show in my opinion. He strikes me as someone who still feels and cares about his craft and continues to soar at the ripe age of 59! He’s on point with every track; providing soulful and impassioned vocals; while offering lyrics that reveal his struggles mentally and emotionally. He hasn’t sounded this good in years in my opinion and it’s a refreshing take on 72 Seasons.
I loved his vocals on tracks like “You Must Burn!”, “Lux Aeterna” and “Crown of Barbed Wired”. In the case of “Chasing Light”, there is some strain on his vocal delivery, but the song is stronger for it. He really shines on “If Darkness Had a Son” with callback vibes to Load and Reload era Metallica. Again, I can go on and on about his vocals, but let’s stop for a second to examine the lyrics.
The primary songwriting on ‘tallica records is always credited to Hetfield/Ulrich, but James has stated in recent interviews that he wanted to bring everyone in this time on the writing process. He ‘opened his heart’ as he put it and asked for everyone to contribute on the songs to help make the process open and fun. With that being said, James has also stated that 72 Seasons is about forming your identity in the first 18 years of life whether it be true or false.
But did this ethos succeed musically? Well yes and no.
The opening number “72 Seasons”, is a mid-paced cruncher with average riffs, a descent chorus and a fairly heavy overall imprint. Track number two “Shadows Follow” clings to the familiar thrash palette with no fills from Lars, but a good solo from Kirk that’s bluesy and melodic enough for my tastes. Much of what I said about this song applies to the next track “Screaming Suicide”, however Lars finally has some fills and Kirk’s familiar wah wah’s dominate this number from start to finish. I really liked his soloing here, and coupled with James’ mellifluous voice the song goes together like peanut butter and jam.
I wasn’t taken with “Sleepwalk my Life Away”, however I will point out that we can hear Robert Trujillo’s bass up front in the mix. Good on you Rob! Then “You Must Burn!” blazes my ears and it sounds like it could have easily been a track from The Black Album, but certainly some blatant Black Sabbath worship here included. I think for me the next track “Lux Aeterna” encapsulates the early Metallica sound with fast pick riffing and a straight to the point beat rather perfectly. Some point out that it sounds like Diamond Head, but we all know that bands from the NWOBHM era heavily influenced the boys in the beginning. I must say we need more short and intense songs like this as far as I am concerned!
Probably the coolest song title on this album is “Crown of Barbed Wire”. The chorus is really catchy and my ears detect some nods to Load here. I can accept it as a descent song, but think you might find some better offerings on “Chasing Light”. Lyrically it shines and I do like the chorus here a heck of a lot, although it struggles to push some boundaries song-wise. Also, Kirk’s solo is rather average and nothing new here to whet your appetite. But since we are still on the subject of interesting lyrics, “If Darkness had a Son” fits perfectly in Hetfield’s wheelhouse. I get some serious Justice vibes here and yes Kirk’s solos are meaty and dangerous sounding. I really dig the chorus, along with the lyrics that continue to play up the theme of the struggles between the dark and the light.
The last three remaining songs are a mixed bag. We go back to the well on “Too Far Gone?” that mixes thrash while relying heavily on the well-worn chorus used throughout the album. I don’t mind Kirk’s solo, but the song feels standard here as a whole. I felt the time dragging on “Room of Mirrors” and it really bored me on many levels. Then we get that 11 minute closer in the form of “Inamorata” that offered up some interesting passages, but I’m not sure the guys could musically justify the lengthy run time. I’d say the first four and a half minutes was well performed, but it dips in the middle for this proggy filled percussion-bass combination that felt a bit out of place and then morphs back into a Thin Lizzy tinged finale. I’ve read other reviewers say this is Metallica attempting stoner rock, but I don’t get that vibe from this song. I will give them credit for trying to think outside their comfort zone but this is not “To Live is to Die”, “Orion” and “Suicide or Redemption” level of songwriting for long compositions.
I’ve been listening to this record for well over a week now and my verdict is simple. Modern Metallica is just okay and there are some descent offerings here to raise an eyebrow or two for longtime fans begging for the return of the classic sound. I am sure some can give you 72 reasons why it sucks and some can give you 72 reasons why it’s great. I can give you 36 reasons about my opinions on this release that is favourable, so again I fall somewhere in the middle. So going back to my opening statements at the start of this review, artists evolve and mature, but as a result you get records like this. Good or bad, this is what Metallica is these days.
At least the pluses here easy to state. James sounds vital vocally and his lyrics on this release are good overall. He’s willing to open himself up and let everyone in regarding his personal struggles and it shows in most of the songs. The music is entertaining, but this is not going to win fans over who loved their first four releases.
I am giving this release a solid 7.5 out of 10 skulls.