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Metallica - 72 Seasons (Album Review)

Tuesday, 25 April 2023 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Tim Saccenti

For Metallica fans who grew up worshipping the band throughout their early ‘80s to mid ‘90s creative peak, it’s almost too easy to dismiss this seemingly derivative 10th studio album based on a few cursory spins. But to rush head first into premature judgement territory with ‘72 Seasons’ might represent a severe mistake.

Initial concerns about this 77 minute offering included it being too long, filler heavy and bereft of innovation. Worse still, it appeared Metallica had recycled so many elements from their past they’d unwittingly created a timely new sub genre of music: Eco-Metal. The key to burying such qualms, and unlocking this sonically resplendent effort, lies within an expository thematic concept that revolves around how the first 18 years of a person’s life can create unhealthy core beliefs that lead to long lasting issues. 

As Hetfield fearlessly explores the fallout from his own traumatic upbringing on the immense title track, it gradually becomes apparent they’ve crafted this self-referential record as a fitting way to underscore lyrics that, by tackling his turbulent formative period, reveal the foundational building blocks upon which Metallica was largely constructed. 

Charging through ‘Kill ‘Em All’ thrashing fury into strident down stroke riffage and greasy blues-metal grooves, before a bridge that recalls The Thing That Should Not Be and a chorus reminiscent of Enter Sandman, it encapsulates a record that relentlessly pulls from their history to deliver the first meta Metallica album.

Following that, soaring NWOBHM face-ripper Lux Æterna and If Darkness Had A Son, a bludgeoning mid-tempo demonic purge that’s destined to inspire communal cries of ‘temptation’ at many a stadium gig, are old school beasts that strike instantly and without remorse. Almost righting past wrongs, Crown of Barbed Wire and Room of Mirrors sound like they’ve been beamed in from an alternative universe where ‘Reload’ and ‘St Anger’ were good records.  

Elsewhere, some cuts are elevated above mere album track status by their lyrical potency. Exuding danger, Shadows Follow and Screaming Suicide become more impactful once you realise the stakes at play, while You Must Burn! is a thematically fitting, allegorical evisceration of those who hold themselves as moral arbiters.

It might be wondered why an album that references Metallica’s catalogue doesn’t include a single ballad. Such songs inevitably dovetail into melancholy and ‘72 Seasons’ is a resolutely hopeful affair. Extracting critical sparks of light from darkness in a way that’s less cliched and simplistic than it sounds, these inspiring songs almost invert the chorus of a certain anthem that, tellingly, once immortalised exiting light to enter night.

Culminating with a thought provoking 11 minute number that’s not the bombastic epic you might expect, Inamorata is a humane and grounded song about reaching a detente with one’s inner demons. As such, operatic grandiosity would have been tonally inappropriate. What’s interesting, however, is how its hook is partially identical to My Friend of Misery, a track co-penned by Jason Newsted, while also boasting woozy funereal guitar harmonies that recall Orion, and by extension the late Cliff Burton. Tying everything together, while honouring former members and transcending past torment, it feels like the quietly triumphant end to both a profound autobiographical album and unprecedented story of success, on every level, over insurmountable odds.

Metallica Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu June 08 2023 - DERBY Donington Park
Sat June 10 2023 - DERBY Donington Park

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