Label: Blackened Recordings
Date: April 14th, 2023
Of course I went and bought the CD. I would’ve even gone for the vinyl but the price is downright ridiculous for Serbian standards. Not that the CD is cheap, but it’s less than half of what the double LP costs. On that note I cannot really blame Metallica because all the vinyl records’ prices skyrocketed since the whole retro mania started and vinyl made a comeback we’re still dealing with. In all honesty, though many will surely yet again blame the greed of Mr. Ulrich and his buddies, seeing how even the musical minions are charging massive amounts of money, Metallica has every right to do so as well.
Reviewing by numbers, seeking a price tag and checking out the cover are the first two things one does when coming upon his object of desire in the record store. At least if you’re old and have habits you just won’t let go. Or the new school hipster retro freak on the prowl for brand new, expensive toys for the record player. Otherwise, you’re probably already acquainted with the content prior to even stopping to judge the covers.
Whatever the case may be, the cover art might be the most direct and to-the-point one Metallica had since the crumbling lady Justice. The silhouette of a fully developed man that blasted through the crib’s railing, charring the remnants of youth in the process, depicts the title (track) and its meaning to perfection. Further intensified with the brutally honest close-ups of aging band members in the album’s inlay, “72 Seasons” reacts to stages from early adulthood to old age with all the hurdles life places ahead of an individual. The artists in charge collaborated on a tribute to the scars and the man’s (in)ability to handle them.
While on that, the same topic resounds through the majority of the record. Not that it is a novelty in Metallica’s opus; it is, in fact, one of the most frequent occurrences within their lyrics. This time though, there’s a feeling it is laid bare, pushed out raw and unrestrained. Somewhat of a similar situation to “St. Anger” but with different types of emotions; it is the similar level of utter exposure of what’s on the inside. Taken only from the song titles, one can already feel the mood Metallica is looking to share. From “Shadows Follow” to “Crown of Barbed Wire” to “Room of Mirrors”. All the insecurities and weaknesses, wave after wave drowning a person. Quest for support, emotional lifejacket or any other type of light at the end of a tunnel dominates the album.
On the flip side, the guys deliver a shellshock in the form of “Lux Æterna”. A track much alike “Lords of Summer”, with its melodic wink to early eighties British heavy metal and lyrics which immortalize the bond of brotherhood between the members of ‘Tallica family, fifth member and all. Being the only clear ray of light on “72 Seasons”, the song splits the album in two as a hole in the cloudy sky. Lyrically speaking, of course. In that regard, I must say it would’ve been a better idea to leave it as a single or add it as a bonus, so as not to disturb the whole.
Still, as a happy pill that soon loses effect (just under three and a half minutes long), it doesn’t interfere too much. Especially since overall it is by far the most straightforward, catchy and memorable of the record. Therefore, though it uses “cheap tricks” to occupy the listeners’ minds, it still comes from the kitchen of a five-star restaurant and is definitely one that will mark “72 Seasons” for eternity. Something of a “Fuel”, though more melodic.
Remainder of the record resonates deeply with the author of this review, but it is once again in jeopardy from the heavy metal prudes. On a spiritual and emotional level Metallica still shoots for the core of my own being. Topics, music and sensitivity in execution. The later in particular gets better and better with age, while the quartet overpowers many internal restraints, allowing them to express more openly and honestly. Even more particularly, I have a feeling Mr. Hetfield never sang more from the heart than right here. And on “St. Anger”, but that’s a whole other story.
Speaking of that voice usage and adding the musical side of “72 Seasons” to the table, clear connotations with mid-era Metallica can be drawn. Twists and turns on guitars, as well as omnipresent, firm yet playful bass lay bare the parallels. Snakelike, writhing arrangements just add to the effect. But there are again segments within the record that remind you of all Metallica’s faces and facets. Very much in vein with their latest efforts that tried (more or less successfully) to wrap the whole of band’s career into single tracks, the band exemplifies the same recipe on this record.
Now, admittedly, they’ve done a much better job at that than on “Hardwired”. Yet, with just the creative prowess at hand, “72 Seasons” would (also alike its predecessor) fall in line of “good enough” Metallica albums. The thing that separated Metallica, as well as any other rock ‘n’ roll monolith, from the bandwagon mediocrity, is their ability to step out of bounds and still hit a homerun. The progress that stopped for a second (granted, there were a whole lot of seconds there) on “Death Magnetic”, for the band to regroup after the whole turn of the century contusion, went onward on “Hardwired”. With that record, there was the awkward second CD that attempted different approaches and creative streams. It was unfortunate, even for the most uncritical fans of the band such as myself. It was the very first time I allowed that Metallica didn’t do a top-notch job.
Thankfully, I will not have to repeat, as the guys didn’t make the same mistakes. Concretely, it was the issue of meandering nowhere in particular that brought a whole lot of confusion. In turn, it ended up being a set of bland songs that wind up into nothingness.
As it sits with “72 Seasons”, Metallica went a bit more predictably for the old British heavy metal melodies, as in the mentioned “Lux Æterna”. The same echo of an era long gone can be found in a couple of other tracks as well (“Chasing Light”), though fused into atmospheric thrash metal (oh no, I didn’t just write that!). The influences from old Maiden, Saxon or Diamond Head were ever an integral part of Metallica, but now they shine in a bright new light, according to modern standards and are quite chirpy and more than successful in displaying where the band might head to next time around. Following an example of “Lux Æterna”, we might get a thirty minute steamhammer that could shatter the existing standards of heavy metal.
But there’s yet another flip side to “72 Seasons”. It’s called “Inamorata” and its sheer ambition stands on its own. Again it’s the atmospheric thrash (fine, I’ll stop it now) but this time laden with doomy, stoner feel which could only be interpreted as an evolution of “Bleeding Me” or “The Outlaw Torn”. Length, size, structure, impact… Whichever way you look at it. The track is a bombshell Metallica dropped to end what is decidedly their most mature work yet.