On the surface, Metallica’s new album 72 Seasons is eerily similar to their last full-length, 2016’s Hardwired…To Self Destruct. Both have 12 songs and are 77 minutes long and both were produced by Greg Fidelman along with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. But once you dig into the new record, the differences are evident.
The title of the band’s twelfth album relates to the first 18 years of life when childhood experiences shape peoples’ futures. Hetfield contends that much of our adult experience is a reenactment or reaction to those childhood experiences.
The mood and pace of 72 Seasons is darker and more deliberate than their last album, but there is still plenty of diversity. Waiting several years between recent albums allows Metallica to painstakingly construct songs, extracting riffs and parts they’ve written over a long period of time and building them into a cohesive and interesting whole.
It has been 40 years since Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All, when they had youthful energy and liked to put the pedal to the metal. They are still able to thrash with the best of them, though they pick their spots these days. They push the BPMs into the red on “Lux Aeterna,” the album’s first single that’s a blast of straightforward old school goodness.
There are other uptempo songs on 72 Seasons, like “Screaming Suicide” and “Too Far Gone?.” Those three tracks also happen to be the shortest on the album. The majority of the material on the record, though, is more expansive and moderately paced.
Those songs are reminiscent of a few different eras of the band. The opening title track fits into their modern Hardwired…To Self Destruct. mold, while tracks like “Sleepwalk My Life Away” have a mid-’90s Load vibe. No matter what the musical approach of a particular song may be, Hetfield’s introspective lyrics and emotional delivery help create a deep connection to the listener.
After not having any songwriting credits on Hardwired…To Self Destruct., Kirk Hammett returns with a vengeance. He co-wrote four of the songs on this album, and has all kinds of memorable solos throughout the record. The synergy between him and Hetfield, one of the best rhythm players in the business, is what helps make Metallica songs so good, and that’s definitely the case here.
The highlight for many will be the 11 minute closer “Inamorata.” It’s a wide ranging song, with some stoner metal and sludge sensibilities, killer riffs, guitar harmonies, tasteful solos, a lot of dynamics and a catchy chorus.
It’s a big challenge to maintain the attention of a listener for 77 minutes. While Metallica doesn’t have 100 percent success doing that on 72 Seasons, they come close. The album shows their continued evolution, a band comfortable embracing their past while not living there, still moving forward and able to sound modern and relevant.
(released April 14, 2023 on Blackened Recordings)
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