Could Metallica have finally returned to their old ways with ‘72 Seasons‘, and delivered an album that is a worthy companion to their flawless early discography?
I would imagine the answer to this question has been the topic of discussion amongst circles of fans the world over, since news of the bands eleventh studio album damn-near broke the internet back in late November.
In short, ‘72 Seasons‘ is an unnecessarily large body of work that has whale-like proportions of fat that just don’t need to be there. There are moments that shine through, most notably, ‘Lux Æterna‘, ‘Screaming Suicide‘, and ‘Room of Mirrors‘. When wading through the additional nine songs (each averaging in excess of four to seven minutes in length) the ability to remain captivated, and excited begins crumble like cake in the rain.
Opening track ‘72 Seasons‘ has elements of early ’80s NWOBHM vibe, (most noticeably Diamond Head), in places, and as openers go, is a strong foot forward, and even has a sort of ‘Master of Puppets‘ structure about it, with the many key-changes, alongside a driving, pulsing presence. “Not a bad start“, you may think.
‘Shadows Follow‘ comes with the continuing habit of over indulgent intros that simply don’t need to be there. If anything, it’s one of the biggest issues that Metallica seem to have with their songwriting of late. The desire to cram as much into each song as possible, is puzzling to say the least.
‘Screaming Suicide‘ is a refreshing break from the meandering riffs that are peppered all over this album. This is one of the few examples on this album of Metallica writing with melody, and a digestible structure that keeps a grip on the listener. What follows is ‘Sleepwalk My Life Away‘, which has strong opening bass riff from Rob Trujillo, and is a grower if anything, but could easily be trimmed in duration, with no loss to the song whatsoever. Do you see where I’m going with this?
‘You Must Burn‘ sees the band tip their collective hats to the ‘Black Album‘ era, with a riff that sounds like the more unfortunate sibling to ‘Sad But True‘. Like the overall mix on the album Lars’s drums are very much front and centre throughout, leading another decent into a jam-like collection of repetitive riffing.
Up next is ‘Lux Æterna’, which is a reminder to us all that Metallica CAN write absolute bangers… when they choose to do so. And just as you find yourself pumped-up and reinvigorated, ‘Crown of Barbed Wire‘, comes with a Doomy tritone riff, that trails off into repetitive elongated territory, once again killing the energy.
At this point, a common thread becomes apparent with James’s lyrics, most of which seem like some sort of cry for help, with each song suggesting depression, darkness, frustration, and in some cases, feeling trapped. Take from that what you will, but I get the impression that he’s had enough of the circus that comes with being the frontman of one of the biggest bands in the world. But who am I to know for sure?
‘Chasing Light‘ follows with a more urgent tempo, but sticks to the same blueprint, and I’m sorry to say, is an instantly forgettable blur of trailing riffs, loaded with that guaranteed wah wah solo from Kirk [every song by the way].
Previously released ‘If Darkness Had a Son‘ presents itself here, leading into the second shortest track on the album (‘Lux...’ being the shortest), ‘Too Far Gone?‘, which is one of the better tracks that sees some nice twin guitar work, and a driving pulse, but nothing to write home about.
Thankfully, we see another tip of the hat to the NWOBHM influence with ‘Room of Mirrors‘, which has lashings of personality reminiscent of bands’ like Holocaust, and Diamond Head embedded throughout the riff structure.
The final offering from ‘72 Seasons‘ is an eleven-minute plus composition that sees James singing lines such as; “Longing for the day I’m free‘, over a backdrop of ’70s-style jamming that has a Sabbath, Deep Purple, Zeppelin feel about it in places. Does it need to be eleven minutes long? In my opinion, no…not at all.
In fact, ‘72 Seasons’ could have been reduced to a nine track album, with most of the songs trimmed down. Each to their own, but I personally don’t understand the need for over-indulgent riff sequences that take away the simplicity and engagement of a good song.
It’s hard to understand what Metallica’s vision was for ‘72 Seasons‘ as it feels disjointed, bloated in parts, and somewhat frustrated as an overall body of work. Their ability to write punchy, melodic slices of heavy music is still present, (but only just), thanks to ‘Lux…‘ and ‘Room of Mirrors‘ etc, but overall, it begs the question if they have another album in them? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
72 Seasons is set for release on April 14th via Blackened Recordings. Order your copy here.