It’s here. Today is the day; the day that most metalheads are all listening to the exact same album, except maybe those pretending to not even be curious. That’s right, Metallica’s first studio album in seven years, 72 Seasons, is out today. With 12 songs, it clocks in at an hour and 17 minutes. Let’s take ride through the seasons and see if it earns that run time.
The album kicks off with the title track “72 Seasons” which the group released as a single back at the end of March. It’s a long song, which isn’t unusual for the band or this album, and it clocks in at over seven minutes. It’s a strong opener for an album, and would honestly be a killer way for them to kick off their setlist on their upcoming tour dates. The band is a musically cohesive unit on this one; your head bangs along with the pounding rhythms while appreciating how nicely it meshes with Kirk Hammett’s guitar skills. When listening to the whole album, this particular song doesn’t feel overly long, but when listening the track on its own as a single it does start to drag a little bit.
The pounding thrash music continues with “Shadows Follow,” which is a fine follow-up to the opener. Hetfield sings about trying to run and hide but not being able to escape his problems, and being “Demonized, liquified, tranquilized” (liquified? okay, James). It clocks in at a little over six minutes, which isn’t that much shorter than “72 Seasons” but somehow feels minutes shorter. This track is followed by the single, “Screaming Suicide,” which deals with the cultural taboo surrounding the word “suicide.” The song deals with the cultural taboo surrounding and Hetfield has been quoted saying “The intention is to communicate about the darkness we feel inside. It’s ridiculous to think we should deny that we have these thoughts” [see link above]. It will be interesting to see if media outlets that dislike the genre will twist the message of this song.
After the first three songs, this reviewer must admit she was enjoying herself, but the next clump of songs is where my interest wains a little. I’m not a huge fan of really long albums in general, and with the first three songs clock in at over 18 minutes already, I don’t think the next track, “Sleepwalk My Life Away” earns the almost seven minute run time. This would have been a perfect time for the band to switch things up with a shorter song instead of another long one. I also personally prefer Hetfield’s more punctuated singing style, such as on the opener, to the singing style he uses here. Then we get another seven minute track with “You Must Burn!” which gives us Hetfield’s patented singing style of overdrawn out syllables.
We finally come to a song that clocks in at under five minutes, but unfortunately that song is “Lux Æterna.” There are rumblings online criticizing the song for having what some people feel is too simple of a guitar solo, but I think it’s time to address my elephant in this review: Hetfield’s lyrics. I don’t particularly think Hetfield is a great poet; his rhyme schemes are simplistic and his word choices are predictable (with the exception of the aforementioned “liquified” – that’s just a bad choice, honestly). While I think there are obviously songs in which Hammett’s playing is more impressive than on this track, I think the repetition of the Latin phrase as the chorus is lazier. The lyrical issues for me continue on “Crown of Barbed Wire.” First of all, the “crown of [uncomfortable material]” feels like a tired writing mechanism at this point in rock music history, and then add in that the lines “So tight / this crown of barbed wiiiiiii-rreee” is repeated twice, followed by “So tight / this crown” to complete the lyrics of the chorus. That’s it. That’s really all a man who has been writing music since the 80s came up with for this chorus.
Next on the track listing, “Chasing Light” is a somewhat forgettable song about overcoming struggles that is way too long. The song sounds like it could be ending at about three minutes and forty-five seconds, but instead it goes into a musical breakdown, and then Hammett has a solo. Then the song wraps up with a refrain of the chorus that has outlived its welcome. After the band is done chasing the light, they follow it up with “If Darkness Had a Son.” It’s a fun song for metal fans (who doesn’t love to bathe in the darkness like the metal community?) and has a fun, catchy guitar riff. Perhaps it’s just that this site deals with extreme / death metal more than anything else, so it’s hard for me to believe if darkness had a son that it’d be James Hetfield, but I tend to forget that they are what a lot of general audience listeners would consider to be on the more heavy and extreme side of music.
As the album nears its end, “Too Far Gone” and “Room of Mirrors” clock in at four minutes and thirty-three seconds and five minutes and thirty-three seconds, respectively. The album closes with the 11 minute track “Inamorata” which is all about how Hetfield loves wallowing in misery: “Misery / She loves me / Oh, but I love her more.” At one point in one of the verses, he even pulls out the commonplace phrase, “misery loves company.” Why this song needs to be 11 minutes, this listener could not discern.
Overall on the album, I feel most of the songs play on past their prime. There are some good songs and some songs that are enjoyable up until a point where they start to overstay their welcome, but there is no need for this album to be this long. But I suppose no one will tell the biggest metal band in the world to their face that they don’t need to make almost every song over five minutes long (we’ll just bitch about it online instead). Ultimately, the saving grace of this album is the musical composition. The chugging, driving rhythm and Hammett’s guitar skills make me overall positive on this album, even in the songs where I think Hetfield’s vocals or lyrics are lacking.
Final Verdict: 3 / 5
Photo at top: Album cover for 72 Seasons.
Find where to listen to the album here.