In 1983, four long-haired, leather-clad adolescent misfits from California recorded a thunderous debut album they called ‘Metal Up Your Ass’. Before it was released, their spoilsport label convinced them to change its name to ‘Kill ‘Em All’. While the new title may have made a lot of sense from a commercial perspective, it could never capture the band’s essence quite as well. Even forty years on, you still know what you’re getting with a new Metallica record. You’re getting metal up your ass.
‘72 Seasons’, the band’s eleventh studio album, is a case in point. You’d never guess it was largely recorded during the slow-motion downtime of the pandemic, because this is a ragged beast that explodes out of the traps and never lets up. The opening trio (the title track, ‘Shadows Follow’ and ‘Screaming Suicide’) are particularly relentless, sped on their way by Lars Ulrich’s quick-fire drums and Kirk Hammett’s nimble-fingered guitar work. The whole album roars past in an unremitting and intense 77 minutes, pausing only for a few moments of in-studio banter recorded for posterity. There are no ballads here, just speed demon anthems purpose built for mosh pits, bedrooms, car journeys and anywhere else you choose to head-bang.
Lyrically the album finds frontman James Hetfield at his most confessional, ruminating on growing pains and teenage angst. The title ‘72 Seasons’ refers to the first 18 years of life, how they shape us and how we carry them with us. As Hetfield mines his own youth for material he wrestles with darkness, as you might expect (‘Crown of Barbed Wire’, ‘If Darkness Had A Son’) but in the end manages to find shards of light and traces of hope (‘Lux Æterna’, ‘Chasing Light’) to scatter across the album. It concludes with the longest song Metallica have ever released, ‘Inamorata’, a brooding eleven minute epic jam which features Hetfield declaring love to his own misery and a stand-out guitar solo from Hammett.
For young fans just now learning the joys of heavy rock – perhaps lured in by the appearance of this band’s 1986 classic ‘Master of Puppets’ on Netflix megahit Stranger Things last year – this new record will be a fitting gateway drug. For everyone else there’s simply the reassuring thrill that, after so many decades on stage, Metallica are still capable of delivering sharp, spiky metal – and sticking it where the sun doesn’t shine.
- Release date: April 14, 2023
- Record label: Blackened