METALLICA — 72 Seasons (review)

METALLICA — 72 Seasons album cover Album · 2023 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Kingcrimsonprog
I am almost reticent to review Metallica albums. No other band is as singularly important to the genre’s fans, but nor is any so polarising. It is hard to find many honest, thought out and truthful reviews of the band, amidst the tide of “they can do no wrong, they are gods,” “this is the best album since 1990,” “they used to be good but they’ve sucked since they cut their hair” and “they are the worst band ever, so overrated, this is the worst garbage ever.”

Even the most respected and intelligent reviewers, both in print and online, seem to get bogged down in the same Metallica review tropes over and over again - and I don’t know about you, but I am getting very put off by the endless discussion of eyeliner in the '90s, trashcan snare-drum sound and no-solos on St. Anger, dodgy mixing/mastering on Death Magnetic, calling Lou Reed “Grandpa Simpson” on Lulu, jokes about money/wah-wah pedals/Napster, calling Lars and Kirk bad at their instruments and basically all the same repetitive insults being brought up every time Metallica does anything at all. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I think it is absolutely 100% fair to say that they’ve struggled to have a good production sound over the years, that their albums are usually too long for the relative amount of ideas, and they have made some questionable creative decisions that not all of the core fanbase approve of. But the sheer volume and extensive hyperbole blowing things so far out of proportion is getting so tiring that reading about Metallica has become a rather unpleasant experience over the years.

So that all being said and out of the way… 72 Seasons is the new Metallica album from 2023, their eleventh canonical studio album, third with Rob Trujillo on bass, third with Greg Fidelman involved in the production, and second on Blackened Recordings. It is neither their best album, their worst album, or anything else particular useful for a good soundbite. It has its strengths and its weaknesses. The hardest part about listening to, or trying to appreciate, or be objective about any Metallica album since 1990 is the uncanny valley in your own mind between the album you think they should have made, versus the album they actually chose to make, and all the seemingly wasted potential that this thought process highlights.

There are many positives to this album - lots of great little bits that will make you smile, a few songs many fans would probably like to see in the live set, and some strong guitar solos. Even the lyrics seem a little bit improved. However, it is not without some faults. As stated above, it will be no surprise to learn that the album also features a lot of the same flaws as every Metallica album since St. Anger, in as much as the band seem to be poor at self-editing, and don’t always know how/when to end a song and how much is enough repetition of a particular part. The album is 77 minutes long, just as the previous was, and just like its predecessor – it is quite arguable that not all 77 of those minutes are utterly necessary and the overall experience and quality would have been higher had someone taken a more discerning approach to serving the songs. This is just my personal taste – but I feel like if Metallica were given a 55-minute limit, this would make all of their albums better.

However, it is welcome that after so many years of unpalatable creative decisions and production jobs, this album, like its predecessor is well performed, sounds “normal” and follows the stylistic and creative directions Metallica are best at, rather than diverging too far into territories they aren’t as strong at. In short, with the exception of the length – Metallica appear to have written the exact album that all the magazines and websites have been saying they (and by implication we) wanted. I for one am quite pleased about that (even if very frustratingly, all the contrarians online are now having the gall to complain about that very fact and decry a lack of diversity and progression – you just can’t win with some people!).

Stylistically, as with its predecessors Death Magnetic and Hardwired… To Self Destruct, the musical direction incorporates large sections of ‘80s style Thrash Metal, with bits of the more melodic and groovy material they made in the ‘90s, and some of the bounce and unpolished feel they developed on the critically panned St. Anger album (although that particular bit has lessened with each album since then). For the most part we get similar material to the best parts of the last two Metallica records, opener “72 seasons” is a lengthy Thrasher, just as the opener to Death Magnetic was (and the closer to Hardwired was). There is a short, quick nostalgia Thrash tune (just like the title track to Hardwired was, and album closer to Death Magnetic was). There are some mid paced songs, often with rolling floor toms, that evoke bits of The Black Album (in a similar way to “Now That We’re All Dead” and “Here Comes Revenge” were from the previous record, or “Broken, Beaten, Scarred” from Death Magnetic was). A few songs towards the back half of the record have some slightly Load/Reload era vocals, just like “The Day That Never Comes” did, or several songs on the second disc of Hardwired.

I don’t think it would be too unfair to call this album a continuation and natural evolution of what Hardwired was. Hardwired was flawed in that some songs on it really didn’t fit and probably should have been kept off for B-sides, and there was one track which I genuinely dislike and wish was never included at all (“Murder One”) – however the highs were very high, in that tracks like “Spit Out The Bone,” in particular, but also “Moth Into Flame,” “Atlas Rise” and a few others are genuinely some of my favourite Metallica songs, period, no qualification. 72 Seasons differs slightly in that no individual song is quite as magic, memorable or instantaneously “classic quality” as the very best moments of Hardwired, but neither is any song out of place, boring, or poor quality. A much more even listening experience overall. I am not sure what is better; 77 good minutes? or a mixture of 30 great minutes, some good minutes, some ok and some poor minutes?

Highlights for me so far are "Chasing Light" which sounds like a mixture of all the different styles mentioned above, as well as the catchy "Too Far Gone?" (great chorus!) and "Room Of Mirrors" (great guitars!). I also really like the title track in principal for its style, although it could use a bit of a trim in the editing room if I am being honest.  

It does seem like a bit of a grower, and gets better with each listen, but it doesn’t have any moment I would call absolutely essential. It is another Metallica album. A good one, throughout, but not a truly great one. To summarise the whole review: Its exactly the right style, sound and production – it picks up where the last ones left off and gives more of the same, (only more cohesive and consistent throughout, however with less of the magic of the absolute best tracks from them). I doubt in 20 years time it will be many people’s favourite Metallica album, but it won’t go down in history as a mistake either.
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Tupan wrote:
1 year ago
Good review. Listening to it right now, it's actually better than Hardwired, but inferior to Death Magnetic
Vim Fuego wrote:
1 year ago
I wanted to review this, but that would have meant listening to it again. I might have to give it another go after reading this.

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