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| 14 April 2023 | Reply

14 April, 2023
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

It’s been seven long years since ‘Tallica’s Hardwired… To Self-Destruct album, and on FIRST LISTEN ONLY, it certainly seems like it’s time well spent.

Not only are the riffs crushing, the solos untamed and the lyrics interesting, the whole vibe of the band seems different – energised, perhaps. Certainly more inspired. Ahhh, I know – they’re not trying too hard, they’re just doing what they do so well, letting it come naturally.

The last few studio albums have felt overtly self-conscious and been underwhelming as a result. Here – FINALLY – Metallica sound like a band who have reconciled who they were way back when with who they are now.

What that means isn’t an old school thrash album – there are plenty of young bands out there doing that, copying Metallica & Co’s blueprints, laid down on black wax tablets in 1983 – it means an album that is as comfortable with their thrash beginnings as with the more mature hard rock outlook they now have at sixty (Kirk Hammett) or on the cusp of that milestone (James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich turn sixty later this year, with Robert Trujillo only a year behind).

Tempo changes are rife, riffs rampage all over the ears, and the guitars are like a swarm of locusts at times. Thankfully, with Greg Fidelman in the producer’s chair (alongside metal twins Hetfield & Ulrich), everything sounds crisp, clear, full of depth and heart, and well balanced (yes, even the drums and bass) – the lessons of previous albums seemingly learnt and not to be repeated.

On first listen, standouts include the sensational opener, title track 72 Seasons, a title incidentally which Hetfield explains refers to, “the first 18 years of our lives that form our true or false selves. The concept that we were told ‘who we are’ by our parents. A possible pigeonholing around what kind of personality we are. I think the most interesting part of this is the continued study of those core beliefs and how it affects our perception of the world today. Much of our adult experience is re-enactment or reaction to these childhood experiences. Prisoners of childhood or breaking free of those bondages we carry.

You Must Burn! is a slower paced, almost Sabbath-like groove with lashings of wah wah guitar from Hammett; first single Lux Æterna, whose double bass drum punches deep in the solar plexus repeatedly; Chasing Light has a heavy chugging mid-section blues riff (amongst others) not a long way from Train Kept A Rollin’; In Darkness Had A Son has an almost funky swagger quite unlike the sound we’d expect from the former “Bay Area Thrashers”, but don’t worry, this is still Metallica not Rick James; and Too Far Gone contains an echo of Damage Inc. 

Lyrically Hetfield is channelling the rage and searching for answers which made the band stand out so brightly on their earlier albums. Whether songs such as Sleepwalk My Life Away, Room Of Mirrors, Crown of Barbed Wire and Screaming Suicide relate to his own oppressively religious upbringing and subsequent battles with alcohol are perhaps out of the remit of this review, but whatever the inspiration they are thoughtful and will be pored over by fans in the coming weeks and months.

Whilst 72 Seasons will never stand as tall as their quintet of classics – Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning; Master Of Puppets; And Justice For All; The Black Album – Metallica have truly redeemed themselves with this one after a far too long fallow period.


Category: CD Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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