Review Summary: Nostalgia will provide your fuel and fire if that is what you desire.
It happens to most of us. As we get older, we seem to become more attracted to our past; to the things that made us feel good when we were young. There’s a whole science showing how, as we get older the biological response to new stimulus becomes less intense; essentially everything stops feeling so exceptional and life changing. It’s why many of our most cherished albums come from our childhood. It’s also why the average person eventually stops seeking out new music in favor of trying to recapture a little bit of that feeling they had in their youth. If I’m being honest, it’s probably why a lot of us still come back to every new Metallica release with anticipation (and possibly even excitement) despite the fact their ’classic’ era barely makes up twenty percent of their career. It’s why we’ll still go to their concerts even if they’re not nearly as intense as they once were. It’s also why I accepted and even enjoy Death Magnetic
, and 72 Seasons
. When I listen to a new Metallica album, it brings me back to a simpler time, and 72 Seasons
does the same thing.
Outside looking in, 72 Seasons
is a seamless extension of the sound established on Hardwired…
except not so blatant in its appropriation of previous Metallica classics. While retaining those ‘homages’, 72 Seasons
brings in more of what Metallica members loved when they were young. It should be noted that what they loved when they were young was not thrash – Metallica pioneered that genre, they didn’t grow up on it. What they loved was NWOBHM, classic rock, and even the 70s /80s punk scene; the simple, energetic sounds of bands little Lars was always talking about when he was barely eighteen. It’s those influences along with a highlight reel of And Justice For All
, Black Album
, and Load
-era influences that dominate 72 Seasons
– and it’s that selection of influences that will elicit those nostalgic feelings from anyone not stuck on twenty-percent of Metallica’s career. Even though nostalgia will play a big role in most people’s enjoyment of 72 Seasons
, there are some new influences as well and they go a long way towards making 72 Seasons
feel fresher and more original than the last few releases.
The best way to describe this influence is like a blend of 90s alternative metal, the desert rock of bands like Kyuss, and maybe even a little psychedelic doom influence circa early 90s Trouble. It’s this combination of sounds that leads to Metallica’s best song in years, “Crown of Barbed Wire”. There’s the solid groove of the chorus, a moody, compelling main riff, a few proggy bass-driven sections, and the best guitar solo on the album. From start to finish, it is a lumbering beast of a song that feels entirely new and original. In fact, the little section from “Lux Aeturna” through “Chasing Light” is probably the most engaging portion of the entire 72 Seasons
album, but it’s not the only highlight. There’s also the eleven-minute “Inamorata” which feels like “To Live is to Die” if it had been written for one of the Load
releases (and given lyrics). Inamorata’s biggest claim-to fame will be that it is now the longest song in Metallica’s discography, and it does suffer a bit for that, but the Sabbath-meets-Trouble by way of Load
vibe is still hard to resist. Of course, if I’m being honest with myself, there are issues with 72 Seasons
, and they’re essentially the same ones they’ve had since St. Anger
The biggest problem is one of length and repetition. Except for “Lux Aeturna” through “Chasing Light”, there isn’t a single track that couldn’t benefit from some trimming. Behind all the bloat is a collection of four-to-five-minute tracks that could provide a quick punch and be gone before ever starting to feel stale. The song lengths are exacerbated by the very jam-oriented feel to the album. Lars’ performance feels like the kind of placeholder beats and simple fills one would use when first constructing a song. Kirk’s guitar solos suffer from the same ‘improvised’ feel. There isn’t a single iconic or memorable guitar solo throughout the entire album – again, they feel like impromptu placeholder solos that were never updated. In fact, that loose feeling of a jam session almost feels intentional as a lot of the songs end with the band members talking to each other as the song comes to an end. Having said that, neither performance ruins any of the songs, but they certainly don’t accentuate them. Beyond the song lengths and loose feel of certain elements, most issues are going to be more geared toward personal preference than any broad problem.
There’s no reason to deny it, the average modern Metallica release would not make nearly the same impact if it wasn’t for nostalgia and legacy – but who cares? There are clearly millions of fans around the world that still anticipate any new Metallica release because they can still make us feel a certain way. 72 Seasons
delivers that feeling. There’s the iconic voice of James Hetfield and his even more iconic rhythm playing, there’s the simplistic self-taught style of Lars’ percussion, the wah-wah goodness of Kirk’s solos, and the solid (audible) bottom end of Robert’s bass. There’s more to it than that, though. For better or worse, Metallica have never been one to stagnate, and they haven’t started now. With a smattering of new influences combined with the homage to their own past, Metallica’s 72 Seasons
is another solid release in their discography. It’s an album that feels more consistent and original than anything they’ve done since the Load
releases from forever ago.