What do we want from Metallica? Gor those of us who are old enough to remember the ripping, racing debut ‘Kill ‘Em All’ and the surprise of the extremely assured follow up ‘Ride The Lightning’, we’ll be loving that version of Metallica and delighting in ‘Master Of Puppets’, of course.
There will be those who love the rangy, genre-hopping mid-Metallica period of ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ and there may be even those who appreciate the blast from the past/recapturing youth album ‘St Anger’.
But I’ve not met anyone who gives the Metallica-Lou Reed axis album ‘Lulu’ houseroom.
Wisdom v Experience
‘Tallica have been doing this since the early 80’s; that’s 40 years or so. And Metallica have been through changes, some sadly enforced, some by choice; the band have grown up with their fans, we even had a mid-career crisis documentary, ‘Some Kind Of Monster’, which detailed their work with a counsellor in order to keep them together and made me wonder if what they really wanted to do was to salt the ground so that nothing could grow and they wouldn’t have to do this again.
I was wrong. They came back with 2 albums, ‘Death Magnetic’ and ‘Hardwired…’ albums with big songs, long songs, with enough space to stuff in lots of musical twists and turns.
What sometimes happened though is that those bigger songs often seemed to mine one seam and didn’t always delight. I’m a fan of the early and mid-period Metallica, but not necessary the big, blustering brouhaha of the later albums.
And so we come to the new release. We don’t often get a Metallica Album, so it’s always going to be exciting. But I noted that the Twitter trending didn’t last long, which surprised me; perhaps we had heard too many of the tracks as upfront releases.
The title refers to the first 18 years of life which can shape so much of our future, the cover shows a broken crib, the lyrics can be quite bleak
But what of the music?
It’s a mixed bag. On occasion, they take chances and that works rather well. On the other side, there are some songs here which do that mining one seam thing.
The title track itself has a lot in it, there’s no denying that, a sharp guitar dramatically stabbing in, a tight groove, a sprint and a throwback widdling solo, it’s a good measure to kick things off.
‘Screaming Suicide’ barrels along, the ride the thing, don’t look down to think of the song construction, this gathers you up and keeps you moving, the shorter ‘Lux Aeterna’ really benefits from the leanness, with its big gang shout chorus and nasty attack of a six string solo.
And the best thing here for me is martial groove, slapping drums, ominous guitar and a guitar solo which suddenly explodes into life; the different sounds here make such a difference to ‘If Darknes Had A Son’.
As Alex Pitiridis said in The Guardian;
‘…there are issues: moments when said edge appears to be blunted, or when you find yourself wishing the band – who are audibly enjoying themselves – had been a little more judicious with the editing, a recurring problem with latter-day Metallica’
Some of three tracks are mid pace and seem to settle into a comfy mundanity. ‘Sleepwalk My Life Away’ feels like that, even when Kirk Hammett tries to inject some energy.
And although ‘You Must Burn!’ smoulders, it doesn’t catch light, happy to settle into a mid paced attempt to be majesterial. The bass may roll ‘Crown Of Barbed Wire’, but it can’t raise the groove.
’72 Seasons’ is much better when the groove comes from underneath the music, when it’s insidious, rather than being bashed about on top of the song; of course this is often what people love about Metallica, the brash bombast.
That is delivered well and continued here by James Hetfield’s intense bellow, but then all the band plan supremely, as you’d expect.
And many are going to love this they’re not wrong either, it sounds like a couple of Metallica eras and that’s really effective. Plus the reviews are generally good, Kerrang giving an overview;
‘And though 72 Seasons isn’t a game-changer, it’s this that says the most important thing here: Metallica being Metallica and letting fly with all they’ve got is still a mighty, charged-up, exciting, cathartic, deadly thing.’
NME went even further;
‘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.’
It’s just that I might have expected something more, something different, something…’Load’?
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