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Criticism: Metallica’s ‘72 Seasons’

Pop+culture+critic+Emma+Ehle+says+%26%238220%3B72+Seasons%26%238221%3B+hard-hitting+hurricane+of+fiery+metal.%26%23160%3B
Photo courtesy of LENXWAH

Pop culture critic Emma Ehle says “72 Seasons” hard-hitting hurricane of fiery metal. 

Rating: 8/10

This Friday, April 14, Metallica released their first project in over seven years: “72 Seasons” (2023). An impressive No. 11 studio album for a group in which most band members have surpassed the age of 60, “72 Seasons” is not only a delightfully gritty nod to the band’s earlier sound, but is also being referred to by some as their best work since “Metallica” (1991) — more commonly known as “The Black Album.”

While Metallica’s establishment as a steadfast pillar of American heavy metal is not really an arguable assessment, the group’s 2023 fanbase doesn’t necessarily match that of the 1980s. After their move from thrash metal to regular heavy metal with the release of “The Black Album,” Metallica was labeled by many as a “corporate sellout,” losing a fair amount of original fans who preferred the band’s thrashy aggression to their slightly softer, 1991 attempt at mass appeal. 

“72 Seasons” — despite not being the “Master of Puppets” (1996) “Ride the Lightning” (1984) thrash rock return that some may have hoped for — still contains one of the most honest, solidified sounds the band has produced in a long time. Between the album’s vulnerable nature, piercing guitar riffs and James Hetfield’s raw, raspy vocals, “72 Seasons” is another step in the right direction for the band, which has experienced a multitude of sonic shifts over the course of its career. 

Coming in at the top of “72 Seasons;” “If Darkness Had a Son,” “Screaming Suicide” and “Shadows Follow” all produce the fiery vigor of the group’s thrash roots. “If Darkness Had a Son,” which is arguably one of the best tracks on the album, not only includes an addictively catchy guitar riff, but also showcases a phenomenal solo from lead guitarist Kirk Hammet. 

Both “Screaming Suicide” and “Shadows Follow” are equally as impressive, with “Shadows Follow” maintaining a simultaneously melodic, yet head-banging aggressive effect that can be difficult to achieve in heavy metal. 
Other standouts include “Too Far Gone” and “Inamorata,” which both continue the album’s trend of impressive shredding and act as strong conclusive elements to the work as a whole. 
While “72 Seasons” produces very few faults as a cohesive work, one of the chief complaints about this album is that it is just too long. At 1 hour and 17 minutes in length, the album is one of the longest the band has produced, however still comes in behind “Load” (1996) and “Hardwired … To Self-Destruct” (2016) by one to two minutes.
Furthermore, despite arguments that could be made for the cutting of several of “72 Seasons” longer tracks, many of the album’s solos feel too impressive to condense. 
Ultimately, “72 Seasons” is yet another venomous , gritty and skillfully done notch in Metallica’s edgy metal belt. Considering the fact that today’s musical climate — in the United States that is — does not necessarily embrace rock, let alone heavy metal, in the same manner that it did in the 1970s and 1980s, this album is a great example of an older band that has not lost themselves in the sea of modern music. It blends elements from their classic and more contemporary sounds, and does not falter in the lyricism department. 

So, honestly, if this album is the product of thrash metal “sellouts,” perhaps Metallica should sell out more often.

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