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Album Review : Metallica: 72 Seasons

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Review by Paddy Gallagher for MPM

14th April 2023. A highly anticipated date in the calendar of many Metalheads as it heralded the release of “72 Seasons” the new studio album from Metallica. And I can confirm it is a fine addition to their catalogue!

The 4 Horsemen ride their leather steeds into our headphones and speakers in fine style accompanied by a crushing barrage of heavy riffage, sometimes chuggingly doomy in a nod to the Black Sabbath fandom in the band and sometimes rapid fire, nodding to the Motorhead and NWOBHM influences. Anyone expecting a return to the style of the first few albums will be disappointed.

Bear in mind the band members are now 40 years older and along with musical influences broadening and modern recording techniques, the sheer physicality involved in playing music like the first 4 albums isn’t possible to replicate, as confirmed during the premiere in cinemas on the eve of release by Rob who alluded to the strains put on the body: and he’s the youngest of the 4!

The concept running through the lyrics is James looking back at and dealing with the legacy of the first 18 years of life and how it forges and influences the person you become as an adult. 18 years, 216 months or 72 seasons if you prefer! Deeply personal to James, there is added emotion contained herein.

The title track opens proceedings with Lar’s cymbals and Rob’s bass before the crunching, heavy as an apocalyptic firestorm riffage, and the pounding, relentless tempo which takes us to Kirk’s tasty soloing guitar. “Feeding on the wrath of man” sings Papa Het as the intro and outro of the song; “Shot down, traumatic, time haunted by the past”.

Second track, “Shadows Follow” contains music that audibly emphasizes the lyrical content of a pursuit through life, is someone or something stalking me? Kirk gets out his Wah pedal (some might say “again” but would it be Metallica without it?) at the start of “Screaming Suicide”, then he pulls a tasty solo out of the hat. As per usual there is critics of Kirk in abundance hiding behind computer keyboards, but his thought processes during the writing and recording phase was to construct solos that suited the song. Well said Kirk.

With “Sleepwalk My Life Away” the band drops the pace slightly in an epic tale with a rumbling bass intro. “Wake Me!” repeats James in the chorus which will no doubt get a chanted accompaniment if played live, which I hope it is! Then again, if this album was played in its entirety, I would love it; there’s no weak songs here folks! Rob’s bass work is well up in the mix and fills the sound out nicely. His bass runs during the solo in “You Must Burn” top stuff, the song itself reflecting 1990’s era Metallica!

Most will have heard “Lux Æterna” by now as it has been released since November last. This one takes me back with its pace and vocal melodies, back to mid-80’s Metallica!

If you’re listening to this on tape (all 12 of you as Lars says) it’s now time to get up and turn the tape over for side 2, or side 3 if you’ve splashed out on the vinyl. Track 7 is “Crown of Barbed Wire” with its “Load” era vibe and maybe, at least to my ears, a tad of a Seattle influence. Track 8 “Chasing Light” features Rob’s backing vocals, with the lyrics “lean on me” at the end of each line sure to be chanted accompaniment by the masses. More crowd accompaniment will surely assist James during “If Darkness Had a Son.” Judging by the lyrics and their apparent introspective meaning for James, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the support of the Metallica Family as the chugging riff leads us to repeatedly chant “Temptation…. Temptation…. Temptation…. Temptation”.

A nod to the band’s NWOBHM influences returns on the 10th track “Too Far Gone” evident in the vocal harmonies of the chorus, this is the second shortest song on the album clocking 4 minutes 34 seconds of 1980’s nostalgia.

“Room of Mirrors” chorus intrigues with its alternating tempos during and between lyrics, “Would you criticize, scrutinize, stigmatize my pain?” reminiscent of “Disposable Heroes” leading to Thin Lizzy inspired soloing from Kirk and James and a reference to the Death Magnetic track “Broken, Beat and Scarred” in the 2nd verse…

“In a mirrored room, just a simple man

Naked, broken, beat and scarred.”

Much is being said of the length of songs on this album, some claiming they are too long leading to an overly long album. Quite personally, if the music is good, the time flies in. Album closer “Inamorata” is Metallica going Progressive and their longest song to date clocking in at 11minutes 10 seconds, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Starting with doomy riffs in Sabbathesque fashion, the general feel to the vocal melodies is more upbeat.

We get another nice wee nod again to past glories, again a reference to previous Metalli-tunes with the repeat of the lyric “misery loves company” from “My Friend of Misery”. Rob produces a damn fine bass solo accompanying James as he laments “Oh, misery, she needs me” during the bridge; this truly is a beautiful piece of music and something to be immensely proud of. The guitar solo brings feels of “Fade To Black” from “Ride The Lightning”.

The collaborative writing process on “72 Seasons” reaps dividends as Metallica has produced some of their finest work in recent times. That’s not to detract from “Hardwired…” nor “Death Magnetic”, both fine albums reflecting where the band was at that stage of their career. This album sees Metallica subtly paying homage to their musical heroes, and as witnessed using small snippets of previous lyrics an acknowledgment of their own body of work.

The legacy they have as Metal’s biggest band, the groundbreaking back catalogue and infiltration of the mainstream charts; where they sit in the history of Metal and what they’ve done for Metal allows them to do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want.

This is where Metallica and the individuals in Metallica are at in 2023. Papa Het’s iconic voice telling his tales of personal demons, Kirk’s wah pedal and song complimenting soloing, Lars’ solid drumming and Rob’s most excellent bass heroics, not to mention his back vocals all combine to produce an addition to the band’s discography that is truly fitting and worthy, the method of creation we can thank the pandemic for. A Metallic-classic? You bet!! James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Rob Trujillo! Take a bow!

Listen to “72 Seasons”: https://metallica.lnk.to/72Seasons

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