Metallica - 72 Seasons review
|Release date:||April 2023|
01. 72 Seasons
02. Shadows Follow
03. Screaming Suicide
04. Sleepwalk My Life Away
05. You Must Burn!
06. Lux Æterna
07. Crown Of Barbed Wire
08. Chasing Light
09. If Darkness Had A Son
10. Too Far Gone?
11. Room Of Mirrors
Next time, Metallica, please just pick your 40 favorite seasons and call it a day right there.
I’m not part of the contingent that believes that Metallica has to release a pure-blooded thrash album replete with reverb-buried vocals, 00000000 chugging, camo shorts, and lyrics about drinking beer through a nuclear holocaust in order to be listenable, relevant, impressive, venerable… whatever it is that people want out of this band today. After all, Hardwired produced some measure of authentic thrash (mostly the speed, not the beer), and while its peaks offered glimpses of an undiminished Metallica, it still fell short of the optimistic clangour that preceded its arrival. Metallica’s Achilles heel is not their average bpm or a lack of riffs: it’s that they are fatally self-indulgent. Hardwired slunk down into lethargy as it revolved around exhausted themes for a staggering 77 minutes. 72 Seasons is exactly as long and no more deserves the imposition.
Omnipresent excess notwithstanding, Hardwired ponied up a few songs worth replaying. 72 Seasons, on the other hand, is predominantly an album of moments. There are plenty of striking licks and beckoning grooves scattered about, a respectable variety of individual segments that claw through the tepid marshes: the solo section of “You Must Burn!” makes its entrance and exit with some cool parallel-octave riffing; “Room Of Mirrors” and the title track additionally boast some exciting guitar lines; “Shadows Follow” plows through a great breakdown in its latter half; “Crown Of Barbed Wire” packs a sinister march in its midsection that reflects the unique virtues of latter-day Metallica; “Too Far Gone?” jets into an uncharacteristically anthemic chorus that suggests a possible direction for Metallica that is, for the first time in decades, both new and interesting. That’s a nice laundry list right there. But good moments do not a good album make. While a few songs have definitely grown on me with repeated listens, such as “Too Far Gone?” and the title track, 72 Seasons suffers from the same lamentable failure of self-editing as Hardwired. There are half a dozen killer riffs buried in 70 minutes of uniform chugging – it is once again a protracted competition for the listener’s attention.
In these mid-paced, chord-based rockers with the same “Sad But True” lurch and the occasional twangy riff, there is so much empty space; even the fast tracks run from one benchwarmer riff to the next with only occasional glints of inspiration to break the malaise. Despite whatever “return-to-roots” slogans are still being bandied about to mollify skeptical fans, and despite the presence of admittedly youthful-sounding breakaways from time to time, 72 Seasons calls back to the Black Album-St. Anger corridor more than the early years, if we must be shackled to interpretations of Metallica in comparison to themselves: the album is full of thick, plodding, bluesy rock riffs that maybe have a bit of doomy Sabbath edge but are ultimately just too pedestrian, too simplistic, and too repetitive to get the blood pumping. The drums have a forceful, gloved percussive impact that throws weight into every emphasized beat, but it kind of makes the songs feel too swingy – they’re slack and loose at the beginning of a measure, and then the instruments all collide with a dull thunk at the end of the measure as if Lars were operating a trebuchet or something. That’s the ol’ meat-hammer bass drum and fat, grunting guitar tones at work for you, the very essence of the disparity between new and old Metallica, summarized without any regard for questions of genre or composition.
Truth be told, the one fairly consistent highlight of 72 Seasons is the vocals. Never did I think that I would single out James Hetfield’s voice as being the glue of a new Metallica album; one of my major complaints about Hardwired (and Lulu before that), which seemed like an insurmountable personal prejudice, was that I find his smooth articulations and verse-dominating shouts too clean for the material and typically grating after a certain period of exposure. But throughout 72 Seasons, his vocals feel slightly better blended and his delivery is stronger, with more attention paid to his upper range and some bite creeping back into his mids; there are more than a few cool vocal hooks, and I’m really pleasantly surprised to find that there’s some piece of Metallica that it seems is starting to age well after all.
If Metallica was going to shoot for the stars with a big thrashy comeback album, I think Hardwired was it, and they landed far short of the goal. 72 Seasons doesn’t have quite the same ambitions, for better or for worse: there are no lingering shards of familiar sublimity as there were in “Spit Out The Bone” and “Moth Into Flame,” and the fact that this album is also 77 minutes betrays a total absorption in exploring every possible idea whether or not it deserves inclusion. “Inamorata,” though itself a highlight of the album, is also the band’s longest original composition (it loses out to the Mercyful Fate medley by two seconds, and it should be noted that this is a comparison of one song to five songs), and at this stage what I want is for Metallica to write for impact, not duration. But I do find this album a little more casually listenable, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it creeping up the ranks after a few years’ separation.
The ultimate shame is that in listening to 72 Seasons and revisiting Hardwired and Death Magnetic, I’ve remembered how much there is to appreciate in these albums: some sticky choruses, some blazing licks, some truly exciting moments of musical synergy from the biggest band ever to move heavy metal forward. And surrounding all of that are mountains of excess tonnage, unflattering production, and boring solos. This is an engaging album if you can manage to zone back in during the right moments.
||Written on 24.04.2023 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.|
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yr a kook
At best deranged
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