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72 Seasons

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Album Review: METALLICA 72 Seasons

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Let me get out this out the way right up top – 72 Seasons is my favorite Metallica record of the Rob Trujillo era. It's a more focused, albeit slower and moodier, effort than Death Magnetic and Hardwired… to Self-Destruct that finds Metallica branching out in new directions while still retaining their identity.

"Focused" is the perfect descriptor for 72 Seasons. The album is focused on a gloomier mood in its writing, its lyrics, and its overall pacing. It's focused on slowing down; on offering stomping riffs through the haze of a downtrodden atmosphere while occasionally bursting into a sprint, trying to outrun whatever's in the darkness behind it. It's the type of slow that's going to make you involuntarily headbang the second the groove kicks in; the type made to be played in massive rooms and stadiums, reverberating off distant walls, tailored to make the whole crowd feel its power. That "Sad But True" type of slow.

72 Seasons certainly has its thrashy-punk moments, but they feel more like breaks in its generally trudging Black Album (Load, Reload)-styled vibe. "Sleepwalk My Life Away" plods along in all its hammering, arena-riff glory, while "Too Far Gone?" stops about 20 BPM short of getting into thrash territory. Then there's "You Must Burn!" featuring Trujillo on some Jerry Cantrell-styled harmonies for a twisting ride through the dark, followed later by the very Load-esque "Crown Of Barbed Wire".

While we're on the topic of slowing down, let's talk about the 11-plus minute behemoth of a closer "Inamorata." Its opening few seconds wouldn't be out of place on a Sleep record, there's a Black Sabbath-styled hi-hat and bass breakdown about five minutes in, and there are loads of guitar harmonies in the second half that'll have any "composed solo" Kirk Hammett fans salivating. It's fantastic. Where Hardwired ended on the spastic "Spit Out The Bone," 72 Seasons calls it quits on a massively sludgy song that frankly, Metallica really ought to do more of. An EP of this style would be killer, and "Inamorata" might be one of my favorite songs Metallica has ever written. Full stop.

On the faster songs like "Screaming Suicide," "Lux Æterna," and "Room Of Mirrors," you're getting Metallica filtering their punky, Kill 'Em All roots through four decades of experience. It's a nice touch considering the album's overarching concept of your youth shaping the rest of your life. Or as James Hetfield put it, "72 Seasons came out of a book I was reading about childhood, basically, and sorting out childhood as an adult. And 72 seasons is basically the first 18 years of your life. How do you evolve and grow and mature and develop your own ideas and identity of self after those first 72 seasons?"

Instrumentally, Metallica sounds great. Lars Ulrich shines on the slower pounding grooves, Hammett fluctuates between composed passages and wild improvisations, Hetfield's right hand is still a machine, and Trujillo sits nice and consistent in the mix – something that felt missing from the previous two Metallica albums. Vocally, Hetfield seems to have added a touch of venom to his voice. Hetfield performs 72 Seasons with a noticeable rasp, though it's not that "yeah-uh!" Hetfield-being-tough-on-purpose grit of old. This is Hetfield delivering his lines with conviction, maybe even showing the stress of the past few years in his voice, and it works. Dude's aging like fine wine, is what I'm getting at.

My complaints about 72 Seasons are minimal. Metallica could've shaved off a minute or two of the title track by cutting some of the repetition. "Too Far Gone?" teeters on an incredible catchy chorus and then drops it, every single time. The chorus to "Chasing Light" is a touch cheesy with its wide, intervallic vocal shouts. "You Must Burn!" needs to lean way harder into its grungy vocal harmonies. It's minor things here and there, but nothing that'll leave Metallica fans aghast at what they just heard.

I assure you that judging 72 Seasons by its singles is a mistake. Of the four Metallica released – "72 Seasons," "Screaming Suicide," "Lux Æterna," and "If Darkness Had a Son" – only "If Darkness Had a Son" starts to peel back the curtain veiling the underlying blackness. You think you're getting Metallica channeling their youth, but really you're getting a snapshot of a band that very much knows who they are in 2023. And that sure isn't a band that's trying to recapture the '80s or pander to the "I only like the first four albums" crowd. Those folks will be disappointed, and they're missing out.

Ultimately, 72 Seasons is a record that sits sonically somewhere between The Black Album and Reload, if those records immediately came after Kill 'Em All. You're not getting blinding "Battery" speed or "The Call of Ktulu" instrumental eeriness. What you're getting is a band that knows how to write a riff, knows how to write a song, is clearly open to new things this far into their career, and is having a great time doing it. 72 Seasons is worth your time, and is a worth entry into the band's legendary catalog.

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