Metallica – 72 Seasons

The story of Metallica is a long and often times frustrating saga. The band’s first 4 albums are almost universally celebrated, foundational pieces of thrash metal and time-tested classics. The band’s fifth album, the self-titled record — most commonly referred to as “the black album” — was a contentious effort, dividing fans into old and new school camps. The band would add further fuel to this fire with the release of Load and Reload — more blues-rock oriented efforts that were even further removed the band’s thrash roots.

The band went through a lot of tumult, losing original bassist Cliff Burton in 1986 to a bus accident, and thoroughly alienating his replacement, Jason Newstead, over a 5 year period. The band then proceeded to drop one of the worst records ever released by a mainstream act. St. Anger sounded absolutely terrible, with Lars’ snare drum sound still doing work as a punchline 20 years later, and the songs were far too long and aggressively bland. (Sure, the food was terrible but the portion sizes were generous!)

At this point, the band’s internal relations were acrimonious enough that they enlisted the help of a therapist and recorded the process in the exceedingly awkward Some Kind of Monster documentary. I’m not sneering at the concept of therapy, but I don’t want to know any of my favourite bands on this level.

The release of Death Magnetic in 2008 was bittersweet, as the band sounded like they found their motivation again, and the addition of Robert Trujillo as permanent bassist was all upside, but the record was compressed to the point of being unlistenable for long stretches of time. The mixes of the record done for Guitar Hero were vastly superior to the album cut.

One of these days I will re-review their collaboration with Lou Reed, but not today. For now, I will simply describe it as the musical equivalent of peanuts and chewing gum. I’m not going to count this against them, since it was a collaborative effort and not presented as a Metallica record specifically. (It still sucks, don’t misunderstand me, but I’m going to let it stink up a separate category.)

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even listen to a single second of 2016’s Hardwired to Self-Destruct. The fact it is a double-album and not a single song merited a mention in any of the outlets I frequent says more than enough — it wasn’t good or bad enough to be notable. 72 Seasons seems to be more of the same, in that the band aren’t doing anything offensive, but they’re not doing much of note either.

This record very much feels like a Metallica algorithm churned out a number of bog standard late-era tracks, with a few nods to the band’s speedier material. There are moments where you can tell they tried to recapture the feel and pace of Kill ‘Em All, but with modern production and Hetfield’s vocal style having matured over the decades.

Ultimately, my biggest problem is that these songs are too long and lack distinctive features. “Lux Æterna” is the shortest song on the album, clocking in at 3:26, and it’s also one of the best tracks because it’s punchy and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Every other track could do with a more concise edit. The production is good, no compression issues this time. Lars Ulrich’s drumming is… a known quantity at this point, and he’s recorded well even if all of his parts are very basic. The same could be said for James Hetfield’s lyrics and Kirk Hammet’s guitar solos — exactly what you would expect with zero deviation or artistic flare — a lot of tenuous rhyming and wah pedal blues scale, respectively.

The album’s title track sums everything up well: a lengthy cut that takes too long to get going, lyrics that descend into incoherence as Hetfield strains to add excessive rhyming verses, and Kirk Hammet’s solo sounds like the two guitarists are playing past each other.

Given the length of Metallica‘s career, I think it’s actually impressive that they put the effort into 72 Seasons that they did. It’s not a great record, but it’s not terrible either. I doubt I will be coming back to this album much, if at all, but the band still has their chops and I think potential remains for a more interesting effort in the future. Unfortunately, Metallica seem content to stay within their rigid framework, and can easily tour off their back catalogue, probably remaining one of the highest grossing acts in the world, and without dusting off a single song written after 1992. They haven’t given up, but they’re not hungry either.

This is a competent record, but unremarkable when considered against the first half of the band’s discography. Worth a listen, but unlikely to capture the listener’s interest for an extended period of time. It’s the best thing they’ve done since Reload, but I would still rate that album above 72 Seasons. It may be a much-maligned effort, but it was the last truly memorable studio album, and it at least had some bangers on it like “Fuel” and “The Memory Remains.”

Album Information

Record label: Blackened Recordings
Released: April 14th, 2023
Buy / listen: Spotify | Metallica.com

Album Credits

James Hetfield – vocals, rhythm guitar, production
Lars Ulrich – drums, production
Kirk Hammet – lead guitar
Robert Trujillo – bass, backing vocals on track 5
Greg Fidelman – production, mixing, recording
Sara Lyn Killon – engineering
Jim Monto – engineering

Track List

  1. 72 Seasons
  2. Shadows Follow
  3. Screaming Suicide
  4. Sleepwalk My Life Away
  5. You Must Burn!
  6. Lux Aeterna
  7. Crown of Barbed Wire
  8. Chasing Light
  9. If Darkness Had a Son
  10. Too Far Gone?
  11. Room of Mirrors
  12. Inamorata
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