“Misery, she needs me… but I need her more…” – Metallica, “Inamorata”
Metal giants Metallica have returned with a new album, 72 Seasons, their first album in seven years! I guess we should be relieved it’s only been seven years since Hardwired… to Self Destruct and not the eight years they took between Death Magnetic and Hardwired. Maybe lockdown cut a year out of their process. They may only drop new albums every 7 to 8 years but when they do they’re looong albums. 72 Seasons’ 12 songs clock in at an hour and seventeen minutes.
As I’ve documented in these pages, I was a late adopter on Metallica. I actually saw them live a couple of times before I ever owned any of their music. I saw them open for Ozzy on the Master of Puppets tour and when they headlined Lollapalooza. I had actually only gone to see Soundgarden that night, but Metallica impressed me. After that I dabbled in their music. It wasn’t until Death Magnetic that something clicked in my head and I realized how great Metallica is. I had always considered myself a fan of heavy metal – I liked Sabbath, Ozzy and Judas Priest. In the 80s I dug all that Hair Metal that was going on. But until I discovered Metallica, I don’t think I knew what truly heavy music was. Since I was late to the party with these guys I don’t carry the baggage that their early fans do so I really appreciate their latter albums a lot more. I don’t think there’s another fan base – except maybe U2’s fan base – that express such disappointment when they drop a new album. At least U2’s fans are justified. I’m simply not one of those Metallica fans who are pissed that every LP they put out doesn’t sound like Master of Puppets. I loved Hardwired… to Self Destruct. And I’m equally as happy with 72 Seasons.
The title derives around the 4 seasons a year that each human goes through until they turn 18, the age of adulthood. It’s Metallica’s theory that we all become the person we are over the course of those 72 seasons. All of our traumas and tribulations that take place during those formative years leave their mark and thus help form who we are. I have to admit, looking back on my first 72 seasons, it’s hard to argue with them. I did something rather old school while I listened to 72 Seasons over the last few weeks… when I wasn’t also cranking the new Who live album. I sat down and read the lyrics. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that with a Metallica album. It always used to sound like James Hetfield (rhythm guitar/lead vocals/principle lyricist) was just shouting random words that sort of fit together. I have to say, lyrically, this is Hetfield at his most honest and vulnerable. 72 Seasons is a trip inside his mind where we get to see his struggles and battles with the demons that besiege him. I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to that. And listening to this album I realized I should have included Hetfield on my list of favorite rhythm guitarists… oh, well. Hetfield’s vocals on this album are perfectly anguished.
While at first listen this album may seem slightly monochromatic, I think that’s an unfair charge. It’s true there are no “Unforgiven” type ballads or acoustic moments and very few melodic guitar moments but there are modulations in the tone of these tracks. It is a breakneck, hard album. It can feel at times like the whole album is a “meet me at the finish line” stomper. Lars Ulrich is a powerful drummer. The guy pounds the drums like he’s mad at them. If I ever have a heart attack, use Lars’ drums as my defibrillator. I’m really happy that Kirk Hammett has a lot more featured guitar solo’s than the last album. And bassist Rob Trujillo is there to keep all of this tethered to the ground when it almost always seemed like the music is going to come unhinged.
The album kicks off with the title track which begins with shimmering drums and a snarling guitar before the whole band engages and then we’re off to the races. I love the lyric “No chance before life began.” It sort of sums up the theme of the album. “Shadows Follow” has some of my favorite lyrics and features a great Hammett guitar solo. “Screaming Suicide” is a track about society’s inability to allow individuals to even discuss suicide. “Listen well, better listen well…” Only if we can talk about our mental health issues can we get help and address them. “Sleepwalk My Life Away” is another heavy, heavy riff. “You Must Burn!” is another absolute favorite of mine. It’s the first real change of pace tune, away from the breakneck speed of the first 1/3 of the album. They slow the pace down and make the riff heavier. It’s almost got an undercurrent of funk in the drummer. “You are the witch you must burn…” Indeed. “Lux AEterna,” was the first single, previously reviewed so I wont’ go into detail here. I’ll just say I really like “Lux AEterna,” but as the shortest track here, it may be my least favorite. That’s how much I like the rest of the album.
“Crown of Barbed Wire” has an absolutely wicked guitar solo. When Metallica bears down on you like this track, I can only say, “Woo!” The next track “Chasing Light” features marching drums, squalling guitar from Hammett and when Hetfield’s rhythm kicks in, fasten your seat belt. “Without darkness, there is no light…” At 6 minutes, 45 seconds, just grab that riff and ride it. “If Darkness Had A Son” is in contention for my favorite song. It’s martial drums and a great riff. It’s the story of the recovered addict without being preachy. “Temptation…” I can absolutely relate. I can say the Rock Chick loves this one and it is a quintessential Metallica tune. “Too Far Gone” is the first time on the album I hear that patented Metallica melodic guitar groove when Hetfield and Hammett play the same riff together. I love the chorus on this song.
Metallica finish up the album with the two best tracks. “Room Full of Mirrors” may be Hetfield’s greatest lyrics. I love when he sings, “In a mirrored room Just a simple man, Naked, broken, beat, and scarred, What do I really know? That fear of letting go.” Jeez, the honesty is so intense. His fury comes through. The final track on the album, which is over 11 minutes long, is “Inamorata” which is an absolute masterpiece. It’s the kind of epic song that Metallica made their reputation on. I can listen to this song all day long. Which, at the aforementioned 11 minute play time, it just might take all day. I’ve quoted it once, but when Hetfield sings “Misery she loves me, Oh, but I love her more,” my 20s just come flooding back to me. “Inamorata” is going to go down as one of Metallica’s greatest songs.
I’ll admit, with it’s long run time, over an hour and a quarter, this may be best consumed in parts. Listen to a few tracks here, a few tracks there. It is a full on frontal, aural assault. But this is some fine, fine heavy metal. Since they only put out an album every 7 or 8 years, every new Metallica album should be celebrated. This is the kind of late career masterpiece that B&V was founded to herald. Every hard rock fan should be cranking this album as loud as the neighbors and the local constabulary will allow.
Devil Horns to all of you! Cheers!