Whenever I think of Metallica, one word stands out amongst the rest. It is not “metal” or even “rock n’ roll.” Rather, when I think of Metallica, I think of “longevity.”
It is no secret being in a band, regardless of how much music you have put out, is a job. With so many differing personalities and egos crossing in small studio quarters, many bands do not last past the first year, much less forty.
This is what makes Metallica so unique. Very few bands from the ‘80s (and even nineties) have put out any new music outside of their decade of origin, and if they have, it was not much to brag about. However, in Metallica’s eleventh studio album, 72 Seasons, they decided to use their past music as an inspiration and an advantage.
This is not to say Metallica has been flawless throughout the 21 century — far from it. Following their momentous self-titled Black Album, the group had an underwhelming entry into the new millennium. Albums like Load and Reload saw the band cutting their hair and creating a newer sound, which to many seemed like their beloved band was “selling out.”
But Metallica’s largest misstep was their 2003 record, St. Anger. The band at their most experimental, the band’s first album of the new century suffered from strained relationships, poor production and worst of all, no guitar solos.
However, it has been 20 years since St. Anger, and Metallica has released two albums between then and now. With 2008’s Death Magnetic and 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, the band has slowly been treading back into their “classic sound.” Now in 2023, we seem to have returned, at least partially, with a third album.
72 Seasons was marketed as a “classic” Metallica album even before its release. The album’s title is a reference to how many seasons pass between birth and one’s eighteenth birthday, which is a reference to frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich’s ages when they first met and subsequently formed Metallica.
Even the album’s slogan, “42 years of Metallica in 77 minutes” is a testament to the music the band aspired to include within the new album, and for the most part, they succeeded.
In the album’s first track, the title track, we hear sounds that emulate rushing through the different seasons of Metallica’s life, as it features sharp guitars and the thrash sound we remember from Metallica’s ‘80s records.
From there, the first half of the record continues their classic sound with more thrash guitars and Hetfield’s searing vocals. One of the highlights of the album was the first single released, entitled “Lux Aeterna,” which is said to be an ode to live performance and the raw energy given from the audience. This song, without a doubt, possesses one of the most unique guitar riffs and arguably, the best vocal performance despite its shorter runtime.
But it is not just classic thrash appearing on this album. In songs like “Sleepwalk My Life Away,” we hear glimpses of ‘90s Metallica, featuring a grunge sound and a riff sounding straight off The Black Album. This is also exemplified in the album’s closer “Inamorata.”
72 Seasons is no creation of Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets… how could it be? But without a doubt, this is a very worthy album from a band who has stood the test of time as they themselves have been around for nearly half a century.
Musically, everything in this record is very solid, especially regarding guitars and vocals. However, my main complaint with this album, much like my complaint regarding nearly all of Metallica’s post-Black Album works, is that it is simply too lengthy and could be cut down in some places.
Despite this, 72 Seasons offers a hint of nostalgia and typical Metallica for older fans and even offers an accessible single, “Lux Aeterna,” for folks not as deep into the band’s discography. While it may be difficult to sit for 77 minutes straight and listen to the album all the way through, I would still suggest giving two or three songs a chance.
Out of ten stars, 72 Seasons warrants 7.8.