Everyone’s got that one band. The one who they never listen to, not really, day to day and yet who, every time they do, they think: “this band is amazing! Why don’t I listen to them all the time?”
I know I have: its Metallica.
Which is I why I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence and claim to be the world’s biggest Metallica fan, I won’t claim an encyclopaedic knowledge of all their albums either – but I will claim this: I’ve been listening to music for well over 40 years, and I know when I am listening to a brilliant record. And “72 Seasons” is exactly that.
It started back in January and a text from a mate that said simply: “have you heard the new Metallica?” I hadn’t. I listened to “Screaming Suicide”. Lets be honest, I couldn’t believe how good it was, neither could you. Nothing prepared anyone for them sounding exactly like Metallica should in 2023. Not trying to pretend it’s 1983, but still exciting. Anything but the vanilla, the boring, the bland. It’s sensational.
You believed. You were excited. It was like the old days when the singles would come out months in advance and come album release day you’d be queuing outside Music Junction in Solihull (you go where you want) to buy it.
So fast-forward three months or so and it’s midnight on Friday morning. You’ve got Spotify open and it arrives. And the title track hits. Its got gravitas. Its got skill and about 50 seconds in, it kicks off to a riff that means only one thing: Metallica are back, bruv. Rumours of their demise turn out to be bollocks. It’s that simple. It’s classic thrash. Its moshpit ready, its everything and more.
Astonishingly, its not even the best song here. There’s many that vie for that, but its probably “Shadows Follow”. You can’t stop yourself, you have to nod your head in time with the driving riff. And there’s a moment when Kirk Hammett’s solo gets going and it all makes sense. Everything.
Rob Trujillo’s bass underscores “Sleepwalk My Life Away”, but when it opens up it could have been on the “Black” album, its massive arena rock and its great fun. “You Must Burn!” by comparison is a basic load of “Load” slower and with a touch of Alice In Chains, and right in the middle, there’s “Lux Æterna”, the first single, and a glorious celebration of NWOBHM. If it sounded any more like Diamond Head then they’d be singing “Am I evil?” instead of “full speed or nothing!” You know that Lars Ulrich enjoyed it, you can all but hear it in his drums.
That one is appreciably the shortest on the record. “72 Seasons” is many things but its not short. It does, however, sound incredible. Producer Greg Fidelman has crafted something wonderful as “Crown Of Barbed Wire” underlines yet again. We mustn’t, though, neglect to mention the lyrics, James Hetfield has crafted some of his most special here. “Struggle on ’cause without darkness, there’s no light” is a powerful hook on “Chasing Light” and the wonderful “If Darkness Had A Son” is likewise bleakly gifted. That said, resist the hook if you dare. It almost won’t allow it.
There’s a real “classic metal” edge to this. “Too Far Gone” sees Hetfield and Hammett trade twin licks as if its was Maiden (or Thin Lizzy, either works) and if you had to sum up the album in one word, then maybe you’d say “energy” – certainly “Room Of Mirrors” brims with it and its not alone.
The curtain is brought down, if you will with a truly stunning epic. “Inamorata”. The woman they are in love with here? Misery. “Misery she needs me” sings Hetfield. “Oh but I need her more”, and maybe, just maybe he’s talking about the band, this music? No one here had to make this record. They all needed to. That’s a big difference.
Where does “72 Seasons” rank in the pantheon of Metallica records? Others can judge. I’ll say with some confidence that it’s the best for 30 years. I’ll say with even greater certainty that’s it’s the best metal record released so far in 2023. It’s a quite wonderful thing. Now, if someone can remind me to listen to them more, that would be wonderful. Thanks.