I was very excited at the prospect of the new Metallica album 72 Seasons, especially when I heard the first single ‘Lux Æterna’. I instantly heard the difference in the sound, especially in relation to the rhythm section. The attitude in the groove of the beat on the song hails back to the punk ethos of London in the late 70s, to my ear. It hits hard and the guitars are killing it with sharp intense riffs and the Marshall stacks are turned all the way up!
Immediately after first listening to ‘Lux Æterna’ I dove into the Metallica back catalogue in anticipation of more music to come. I had not listened to Metallica in a minute and was keen to get back into them. Therefore, for the last two weeks I have listened to nothing but Metallica music or podcasts in preparation for attending the world premiere listening party for 72 Seasons, their new album, on the 13th of April. In retrospect of the Metallica back catalogue, everything up to and including The Black album is incredible. But the Load and ReLoad era has not aged well. (I will be up front and say that I have never been a fan of these Bob Rock produced albums.)
I have been grappling with the question as to why Metallica has bothered with a listening party at all? Especially as you can have the album on your phone less than 12 hours later and listen until your little bogan heart is content. The never ending challenge in today’s music industry is how do you make an album release special in 2023? It can be difficult when new music is literally being dropped online every second, so you need to make an impact either online or in the real world. But for me the genius part of the initiative is this; how often have you heard a new album and after listening you wanted nothing more than to discuss it with other music heads? No one does this anymore, but old school fans like myself will remember the days where you went over to your friend’s house to listen to their vinyl copy of Master of Puppets, because you couldn’t afford your own copy yet. The listening party had the potential to be an amazing experience and the anticipation was building …
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It felt bizarre to go the movies to hear a new album. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an atmospheric point of view. What are the visuals? Are there visuals? The ads and the previews ran as per normal and then finally a movie began. It opened with some shots of the band and lots of the album’s signature yellow in the background. We were then introduced to each member of the band; James Hetfield on vocals and guitar, Lars Ulrich on drums, Kirk Hammett on lead guitar, and Rob Trujillo on bass. The opening credits then showed a realistic depiction of a jet black baby cot and a various assortment of other items from the cover all burned black and scattered around a yellow room. Hetfield then gave a brief explanation of the title of the album.
“72 seasons. The first 18 years of our lives that form our true or false selves. The concept that we were told ‘who we are’ by our parents. A possible pigeonholing around what kind of personality we are. I think the most interesting part of this is the continued study of those core beliefs and how it affects our perception of the world today. Much of our adult experience is re-enactment or reaction to these childhood experiences. Prisoners of childhood or breaking free of those bondages we carry.”
A personal interpretation was then given from each individual band member’s point of view. The interviews were filmed in black and white in a room with a single chair in front of a window revealing trees being blown in a strong wind. Throughout the film, all the members of Metallica gave their interpretation of the album and its songs, which is worth the price of admission alone.
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Finally Ulrich kicked things off by introducing the first track that has the same title of the album, ’72 Seasons’. The song is a killer start to the album and definitely announces the band’s return, not just with new music but with an anger and energy that is unmistakably Metallica. The intro sounds like Hetfield starting up one of his hot rods, and we’re off to the races. Hammett brings exceptional guitar chops by nodding to the past whilst pointing to the future. Ulrich delivers with a break neck tempo that instantly gets the toes tapping. His high hat chops its way through the wall of sound like an axe. Ulrich is literally and metaphorically the heart of Metallica and he delivers in every way with little left to spare. The visuals for the song are the official video release, which looks like the band is inside an 1980s Roland 808 at times, and was great to see on a big screen.
This was then followed by more banter from the band and then the next song ‘Shadows Follow’. Ulrich starts off with a sharp tight rudiment-like rhythm on snare, with pops of Hetfield’s guitar introducing the main riff. It’s hard, heavy and in your face. It instantly becomes very clear that this album is not going to be a bunch of singles and fodder filler tracks. This is going to be an old school kick-ass album from track to track. The song has a brilliant hook that is reminiscent of early Ramones with lots of heavy down picking… Yes!
The third track ‘Screaming Suicide’ is introduced by Hammett and Trujillo, who both mention that this is the best vocal track on the album and Hetfield really has knocked it out of the park. The song opens with Hammett laying down the main melody and riff and then the main beat drops and it’s a thumper. The bridge is strong and addictive to the ears. Another really strong turnout for the band, and now we are three for three!
‘Sleepwalk My Life Away’ is the fourth offering written by Hetfield, Ulrich and Trujillo and that is evident from the guttural opening bass line and the absolutely stunning freight train-like drumming from Ulrich. He’s all over this album, proving why he is one of the great rock drummers of all time, and he really brings it in the intro of this song. The other stand out is Trujillo’s bass part, he really stamps his signature playing on this song and puts it right out there for all to see, finger picking gold.
The fifth song ‘You Must Burn’ is a favourite for me from the first listen and is already getting high rotation on the turntable. The down groove on this song is fantastic. Everyone has their pocket and the riffs are wonderfully nasty. Again, Ulrich brings the magic and drops down a gear in tempo to deliver a real heel thumper of a beat and military precession fills on the snare. Hetfield gives a terrifyingly good vocal performance with hints at times of Layne Stanley from Alice in Chains, especially in the break down, and this is definitely my favourite moment on the song. I cannot wait to hear this song live!
Now we have the first single of the album ‘Lux Æterna’. This is the strongest track on the album without a shadow of a doubt in reflection and that’s a strong statement given how good the rest of the material is. This song is going to be a Metallica classic I’m sure. I love the punk attitude slathered all over this song. It’s a real head banger and it just makes you want to go fast, so beware when operating your car whilst listening. It’s full speed or nothing.
Returning to the interviews, Ulrich explains to the younger audience what a cassette tape is and estimates that 12 tapes have been sold already (but let’s make it 13 officially as I’m going to buy one!) He goes on to say this is the end of side one and it’s time to turn the tape over. Moreover, this is the beginning of side three for the vinyl heads. The visuals for ‘Crown Of Barbed Wire’ reminded me of old school Tool videos. The band starts to show a different side of their playing and bring new spice onto the mix. Hetfield does a brilliant job with the vocals once again. His voice has changed over the years of course, but he maintains a throaty tone that is getting better with age. Hammett really brings new dimensions with his solos throughout the album and is exceptional on this song.
Next is the song ‘Chasing Light’, which is just as strong as every previous track so far. I found the visuals for this too much. It was like a black and white Tetris game on acid moving up the screen. In the end I closed my eyes and bobbed my head instead of engaging visually. Not to say that acid Tetris isn’t fun, I’m sure!? The track is epic and Hammett just lets it ALL hang out on this one. Given the megalith that Metallica is, I sometimes forget that Hammett is such an incredible guitarist and this track is the best reminder ever, for me he slam dunks it and breaks the back board.
Now we have third single ‘If Darkness Had a Son’. The opening with Lars and the guitars is sublime. The song is deliciously riff heavy and screams anthemic! I cannot wait to sing along with Hetfield… “Temptation!!” At this point I started to look around the theatre at my fellow attendees. Heads were going and feet were tapping, no air guitar yet but Hammett’s solo is begging for it. Again, I was just left craving the live experience with this song as well. It’s a cool vibe.
The tenth song is ‘Too Far Gone’. I loved this as well! Every band member is deep into their pockets on this song and the machine is humming like an earth compactor. Ulrich once more is undeniably exceptional on this song. I know people have had beef with Lars over the years and he does have a personality that can be challenging and that’s well documented. But say what you will, when he is behind the kit in Metallica he is the king of the beat and here he is again bringing the heat. The lyrics are delivered by Hetfield with the emotional depth and intensity fitting the theme of the song and the music. SO GOOD.
Then we have ‘Room of Mirrors’ which made me instantly think of Bruce Lee and the famous scene from the film Enter the Dragon. The song is just as intense and beautifully executed as the scene in the movie. Ulrich’s drumming continues to show his dominance with another stand out performance. Trujillo is once again bringing it all and then some with thick chunky heavy bass licks. Hetfield continues giving a career defining performance on the mic, whilst Hammett just continues to blow our minds. The visuals on this song were my favourite. It looked like an 80s video game you found outside the dairy back in the day. It had old school chunky pixelations and during the whole song the video scrolled up constantly just like the games did. The band even made an appearance as video game characters. It was really, really clever and I loved it.
Now comes the final track ‘Inamorata’, and it is an opus. Ulrich mentions at the introduction of this song that it’s intended as a journey and it’s also the longest song in their catalogue at over 11 minutes in length. Hammett describes the song as an “orgy of riffs”, and he isn’t kidding, delivering on his promise with dirty, filthy and slippery riffs. This song for me has quickly become my favourite track. It just has everything I want in a Metallica song as well as sounds that I didn’t know I wanted but now need. It soars and floats then drops like an Avicii track. The song is so good that the length of 11 minutes is seriously justified, not that you notice the length when listening. It is really quite a spectacular way to finish the album.
The band return to the screen together one final time to say thank you for attending and to announce not only their M72 World Tour but also a screening of two live concerts that will be filmed in Arlington, Texas on August 18 and 20, 2023. Two shows, two sets, LIVE! I managed to speak to a few people on the way back to the carpark, needing my fix of fellow fan analysis. The general consensus was the same; they killed it, every track, they killed them all. If you want to find silver linings of the Covid days then the album 72 Seasons by Metallica is one. The band have used their lockdown time well and made some of the best music in their careers with 72 Seasons. The statement of 72 Seasons is this; we are not done, we are not finished, we are just getting f**king started, so buckle the f**k up. And I am so right there with them.
I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to the band on an incredible offering of music that I’ll be bold enough to say right now, will stand the test of time.