Metallica – 72 Seasons

The titans revisit their roots for a safe eleventh album…

Forty years on from their genre-defining debut, Kill ‘Em All,‘ world-conquering thrashers Metallica return with an album very much embracing their roots and early NWOBHM influences. It’s been seven years since the warmly received ‘Hardwired…to Self-Destruct’ landed in our laps, an album that found the quartet similarly updating the sound of their earliest albums to acclaim. However, like ninety percent of double LPs, ‘Hardwired…’ didn’t warrant being one, the entire second side – bar the excellent ‘Spit Out The Bone’ – pailing in comparison to the opening numbers. Honestly, never has a double album been so day and night when it came to sequencing. 

’72 Seasons’ sees the band take what’s worked over the past two full-lengths, namely a return to their aggressive tendencies and the punchy mixing/production of trusted hand Greg Fidelman, and run with it. The result is a solid, if overly safe album that avoids some of the pitfalls of the past but fails to ignite the heart. Acknowledging their love for a bit of Morricone, let’s break this review down into three parts – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

After being somewhat creatively absent from their last album, we’re happy to report that Kirk ‘The Ripper’ Hammett is back on form, peppering each of the twelve tracks with some much-needed fret fire. Kirk’s solos save some of the most pedestrian numbers, with a couple of dueling guitar sections between him and Hetfield recapturing some of the old magic. Lead single ‘Lux Æterna’ and the title number tap into that scrappy garage band energy that made ‘Moth Into Flame’ such a breath of fresh air last time around. It’s the sound of a band having fun, and we’re all for it. 

Likewise, ‘Too Far Gone?’ sees the band lock into a classic headbanging riff while Hetfield uses his upper register for a disarmingly catchy chorus. Along with ‘If Darkness Had A Son,’ it’s here that we see ’72 Seasons’ fly highest. It’s the sound of some veterans letting off steam without overthinking it. Now to the bad…

Despite using a groove-indebted sound to stadium-filling effect with 91’s Black Album, the band has never quite gotten the recipe right since. While the numbers on the aforementioned album were first pumping anthems one and all, following LPs have often been filled with plodding rockers. ‘Sleepwalk My Life Away’ and ‘You Must Burn’ sadly fall into this category and would have been better left in the vault. 

Another issue is the runtime. Wisely The Four Horseman have opted for a more palatable twelve tracks, but there’s a lot of fat to trim at seventy-seven minutes in length. Now if each six-to-seven-minute thrash opus was of the same face-melting caliber as, say, Machine Head’s ‘The Blackening,’ this wouldn’t be an issue. Sadly, nearly every song on offer needs a good minute off the run time. Too often do songs fall into repetition before a sudden bridge or whippy solo saves them from utter boredom. As a listener, you wish these progressions and tempo changes would come sooner. Onwards to the ugly…

Somehow the band has opted for an album cover that’s almost as bad as the time they stuck cum and blood on the front and thought it was a good idea. Visual jokes aside, the ugly truth is that the outfit has made a fine album, and hell, it’s got more going for it than most group’s latter-day albums – but that was never Metallica. You could never accuse them of being lazy. This group still seems hungry today. They’re a band that’s risked it all by partnering up with Lou Reed and entire orchestras. Who’ve replaced traditional drum sounds with biscuit tins, for God’s sake. We may laugh when they fall, but at least they’re always trying. 

Of late, the band seems to be sonically stuck between celebrating their thrash glory days or their chart-dominating power of the early 90s. They seem to forget that there is a third vein that could be tapped and one that would be far more fitting for an outfit now four decades in. This band gave us the majestic ‘Orion,’ the sweeping ‘Hero Of The Day’ and the epic ‘No Leaf Clover.’ What they’ve always excelled at, and the area in which their contemporaries could never touch them, is their mastery of the melodic ballad, the anthemic arms in the air number that hits you in the feels. With all the life experience now under their belts, we’d’ love to hear Metallica returning to this type of songcraft. 

They may not have another ‘Master of Puppets’ in them (who does?), but we reckon with the right push, they could have another ‘Nothing Else Matters’ or ‘Fade To Black.’ Here’s hoping for a more reflective set of songs next time.


Words: Sam Walker-Smart

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