After spending two decades releasing albums that got increasingly worse, Metallica managed to turn things around with 2008’s Death Magnetic and 2016’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, both of which recalled the originality and ferocity of their 1980s work. The Californians’ 11th album, 72 Seasons, feels like a step backward in their wake.
Although the 12 tracks on this album are unquestionably the heaviest they’ve ever recorded, the tempo is far too frequently “chugging” throughout the 77 lengthy minutes, with the exception of a few bracingly thrashier songs and the more subtle closer, Inamorata.
You wouldn’t be too far off if you tried to recreate 1991’s Black Album, the album that launched them into the spotlight, without any of the hooks or melodies. At least the lyrical exploration is more daring.
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Some of James Hetfield’s most intimate lyrics to date draw on his troubled upbringing, most notably on the depressing track Chasing Light: “Lost his way through wicked streets, but he is someone’s little boy” (as he did for the first time on 1988’s Dyers Eve).
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(Not every song is as revealing; the lyrics of the ferocious Lux terna instead make reference to their own Motorbreath and early influences of Diamond Head.) Despite all of Hetfield’s vulnerability, 72 Seasons is ultimately considerably more reliable than remarkable and looks to signal the end of its late-career revival.
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