Produced and mixed by Greg Fidelman. Engineered by Jim Monti and Sara Lyn Killion. Additional engineering by Jason Gossman. Editing by Jason Gossman and Dan Monti. Assistant engineering by Kent Matcke. Album production coordination by Kent Matcke.
Recorded at Metallica HQ, San Rafael, California (March 2021 to November 2022). Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, Portland, Maine. Design and cover art by David Turner, Jamie McCathie and Ian Conklin. Cover and object photography by Stan Musilek.
Released on Blackened Records on Friday 14 April 2023.
So, the highly anticipated new Metallica album 72 Seasons (2023) dropped this morning. So I have decided to ‘live blog’ my review based on my first listen through to the whole album on YouTube (as my physical copy from a large, global retailer named after a South American forest won’t arrive until tomorrow due to… presumably 72 reasons).
For each review on this site, I generally listen to it at least three times. But this is Metallica…
Having trailered four songs (“Lux æterna”, “Screaming suicide” and “If darkness had a son” and the title track “72 seasons”) in the months leading up to today’s release, I am quietly confident that I will enjoy this album. But I also thought that about Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016) after its stronger teaser songs, but was a little underwhelmed by the album as a whole.
So, here goes…
“72 Seasons” (track 1) — the now familiar last single released before the album was released — opens the album with a bass chug that sits somewhere between Motörhead and Nuclear Assault’s “Game Over”, accompanied soon after by a teasing of the riffs to come. There is a definite feeling of reaching back through the band’s history here to get in touch with their New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) roots. This song has the energy of Kill ‘Em All (1983), the complexity of …And Justice For All (1988), the tone and laid-back-ness of Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016). It’s a strong opener, but having already released this track, the band knows how to intensify the anticipation for new new music.
“Shadows follow” (track 2) opens with a start-stop drums and guitar riff that opens up to an equally unpredictable main riff. There are echoes of Ride the Lightning (1984) era songs in here, as well as the progressive nature of …And Justice For All (1988) while also channelling the spirit of early Motörhead and Diamond Head songs. A cracking guitar solo from Kirk.
The second single released in advance of the album, “Screaming suicide” (track 3) opens with a wah heavy lick that powers into a driving old-school style riff. This song could effortlessly appear on Hardwired… (2016). Of the four tracks released ahead of the album, this was my least favourite. As track three of the album, it keeps up the momentum and energy of the opening two tracks. The second half of the song excites me more than the middle which makes me wonder if this might have benefited from a little more editing. At 42 seconds shorter than “Shadows follow”, it oddly feels longer.
There is no doubt that bassist Robert Trujillo had a part to play in the bass riff that opens “Sleepwalk my life away” (track 4). It’s quite unlike anything Metallica has done before and I like it. Of course, it soon opens up to a more laid back and familiar, latter-era Metallica riff. Another song that could easily have come from the Hardwired… (2016) sessions.
The old school NWOBHM-style riffs return on “You must burn!” (track 5) which soon settles down to a steady, head-nodding stomp over which James Hetfield croons a sorrowful song about burning witches—echoes here of the oft-covered Diamond Head classic “Am I Evil?” About halfway through, the band flicks the Black Sabbath switch and the song descends into a dark, swirling doom-like riff with presumably Robert Trujillo’s famed debut backing vocals and another passionate and wah-fuelled solo from Kirk Hammett. This song just keeps on giving … there are some definite bluesy Load (1996) and Reload (1997) vibes in this track. In my book, that’s a good thing.
We’re back in familiar territory again with the first single released from 72 Seasons, “Lux æterna” (track 6) which opens with the lyrics “Anticipation!” Perhaps there were further clues in the lyrics for that song about the nature of the album as a whole, “Full speed or nothing”. It’s another old school NWOBHM-fuelled song that hits all the right notes and is by far the shortest song on the LP. I wonder if there would have been a greater sense of urgency in the album if the rest of the songs has been trimmed down. It is nice to see the long-dropped English letter ash (æ) in a song title, though.
“Crown of barbed wire” (track 7) opens with a riff that feels about as heavy as any that Metallica have played, certainly since “Sad but True” from Metallica (1991). This song has a twisted, sour-sounding riff underpinned by a subtle but solid bass line from Mr Trujillo. While much may have been said in the music press recently about Kirk Hammett’s solo abilities, there is no doubt that he plays to enhance the song.
“There’s no light”, James Hetfield screams as guitars and drums forge the opening lines to “Chasing light” (track 8). It’s nice to hear a complicated-sounding guitar riff leading the song into a slightly acidic-sounding, ascending riff that builds anxiety and anticipation. Metallica seem to have the knack of turning what could be a run-of-the-mill, stock riff into something special. This song twists and turns, exploring new riff variations, slightly different techniques—there is a very subtle string bend around 3′ 45″ that is just perfect, adding a whole new layer of humanity to this track. Brilliant! But again, this song might have had more impact had it been shorter.
The third single released ahead of the album, “If darkness had a son” (track 9) is the final single to feature in the album’s running order. After the onslaught of the last few tracks, “If darkness…” is a slow build, pieced together until James Hetfield’s sneers “Temptation”—a hark back or a rebuild perhaps of those fateful, abandoned Presidio sessions before Hetfield took a leave of absence from the band to work on his addiction issues before emerging to record St Anger (2003). So far, this may be my favourite song on the album and Kirk Hammett’s solo is exquisite.
“Too far gone?” (track 10) opens with a descending riff before finding its feet. It’s great to hear Hetfield exploring new grounds with his vocals on this album—new rhythms and a renewed and punchy vocal ‘overdrive’. It’s a decent song, but feels like a bit of a filler towards the end of the album, to be honest. It doesn’t really offer very much that hasn’t already been said on the album.
“Room of mirrors” (track 11) opens with a riff that swells like the tide before settling on a punchy groove that again takes me back to the early 80s and the whole NWOBHM. The song lurches from one verse to the other, an exercise in dynamics and tempo. Kirk Hammett’s solos takes the song to new places which culminates in some lovely duelling guitars a lá Iron Maiden or even Wishbone Ash. More of that please!
And so to the closing track, at 11 minutes and 10 seconds’ “Inamorata” (track 12) is the longest song on any Metallica studio album. it opens with another pounding, heavy opening riff that could bore through granite. It soon finds its equilibrium in a steady-paced, almost bluesy riff that slithers into the same camp as “The Outlaw Torn” from Load (1996) or “Fixxxer” from Reload (1997). While a few of the tracks on this album, I feel, could be trimmed down a little, I love the pace and length of this one. It’s definitely in the top 3 of my favourite tracks on this album.
Well… there it is, my first listen through 72 Seasons (2023) and I have to say that I really, really like the album. It has only taken a couple of decades, but Metallica seem to have found their confidence again and are comfortably embracing all eras of their history. They have certainly reconnected with their NWOBHM-influenced roots, but they have also effortlessly drawn on the complexity of ...And Justice For All (1988) era, the melody of Metallica (1991), the bluesy-ness of Load (1996) and Reload (1997), and taken the best parts of their latter two albums. Gone is the solo-shyness of St Anger (2003) and Kirk Hammett has been set free to shred and wail to furnish the songs with subtlety and nuance.
For me, this album ranks above Death Magnetic (2008) and Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016). I am looking forward to listening to this album again and again for a long time. Metallica have rediscovered their groove, baby! Gimme a “OOH! YEAAAAHH!”
Review score: 85%