by Jack Ognibene
Metallica is unquestionably a legendary thrash metal band, having released some of the most seminal and essential material in the genre to date. Their virtually perfect 5-album run from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All to 1991’s self-titled release (the black album) essentially set the blueprint for what thrilling and adrenaline-fueled metal music was, and then some. However, it’s been evident ever since the release of St. Anger in 2003 that the band is long past its prime. And yet, they kept chugging along with releases that ranged from mediocre to okay from then until now, where they’ve released yet another record that sounds completely uninspired. On 72 Seasons, Metallica manages to essentially sound like a ripoff of their former selves for 1 hour and 17 minutes straight.
The album begins with the title track, which is indicative of the qualities of practically every single other song on the record for the remainder of the run time. It has a boring riff that rests on a singular low note with occasional interjections of higher notes, a very bare-bones solo, and a drum pattern that just functions as a backbeat and adds nothing more to the song. It also is way too long for the actual amount of substance it has. Metallica then proceeds to rinse and repeat this formula for 11 more tracks. In contrast to most of Metallica’s prior work, the guitar riffs, melodies, and general instrumentation sound completely uninspired. This is especially evident on tracks like “You Must Burn!” and “Chasing Light,” which are somewhat exhausting to listen to, especially at their length. Even when Metallica seems to be doing something interesting, like “Sleepwalk My Life Away” beginning with a very gritty-sounding bass line and Tom Morello-esque metallic guitar sounds, it is instantly ripped away and replaced with generic, boilerplate, meat-and-potatoes thrash riffs. The one solid aspect here are some of the solos on the record, namely, those on “Lux Aeterna,” “Too Far Gone?,” and “Room of Mirrors.” The latter two actually have an interesting dual-guitar effect going on which adds to the music a lot, especially considering how boring everything else is, and the former is probably the only fully solid, fun song on the album. It is genuinely moshable and is a singular glimmer of hope among the bleak sea that is the rest of the album.
“72 Seasons” is particularly frustrating as the title track of the album in that the lyrics are nonsensical. According to the band, the album title has to do with the experiences one goes through in the first 18 years of life, and by extension, this song should address that directly. However, it does not. This is not the only point in the album where James Hetfield’s lyrical prowess is shown to be lacking – it honestly might be the most glaring issue in the album. There are a few times on the album where James engages in Myspace-era level edgelord cringe, namely on “Shadows Follow” with the line “hanging by a thread and my mind is code red” and on “If Darkness Had a Son” with the line “if darkness had a son, here I am.” Truly bottom of the barrel, complete cornball lines. The crown jewel of this, though, has to be “Screaming Suicide,” which is a song that talks about suicide with all the tact of a tiktoker who made a clip explaining how they “made a song from the perspective of” a mental illness. It feels extremely hamfisted and vaguely ableist, which is disappointing considering the fact that this song has some of the better instrumentation on the record that almost creates the feeling of a rollercoaster. It is a little sad to see someone who probably held the title of the best lyricist in the thrash metal genre fall to standards this low.
For lack of a better description, 72 Seasons sounds like a bunch of old dogs trying to regain the bite they had in their youth, though their teeth have long since fallen out. They say you can try and teach them new tricks, but evidently, they just keep on attempting to do the ones that they are physically incapable of doing at this point in their lives.