Metallica Deliver Some of the Deepest, Hardest-Hitting Music of Their Career on ’72 Seasons’

Yellow and black are the colors of caution signs, fallout shelters, and “Baby on Board” placards — warnings of imminent menace and catastrophe if you don’t get your shit together. So it’s fitting that Metallica would adopt the color scheme for the cover of 72 Seasons, their meditation of sorts on the cruelty of youth and the dangers of growing up. Those subjects are nothing new to them (see “The Unforgiven,” “Dyers Eve”), but now that frontman James Hetfield and his bandmates hover around age 60, they’re seeing their journey to adulthood differently.

On their 12th full-length album, Metallica remember their formative years of going “full speed or nothin’,” a lyric Hetfield reuses from the band’s 1983 debut, Kill ’Em All, on “Lux Æterna,” and also feeling “broken, beat, and scarred,” a line from 2008’s Death Magnetic that shows up on the lumbering “Room of Mirrors.”

Metallica have always been masters of corpulent, groove-heavy riffs and labyrinthine song structures, but now, with more than 40 years of experience, they play with more purpose than in their speed-demon days. On “You Must Burn!,” a tune that recalls their Black Album hit “Sad But True,” Hetfield sings, “Question yourself, you may learn/Who’s the next witch you must burn,” before Metallica dip into an eerie bridge with ghostlike vocals that don’t sound like anything the thrashers have recorded before.


On “Too Far Gone?,” which has a punky, Misfits-influenced vibe with its fluttering guitar attacks, Hetfield asks, “Am I too far gone to save?/Help me make it through the day,” and on “Sleepwalk My Life Away,” he wonders, “Should I fall down, I fall down/Would you come, you come ’round?” Whether works of fiction or expressions of real-life vulnerability — since Metallica’s last album, Hetfield both reentered treatment for addiction and divorced his wife of 25 years — the tracks on 72 Seasons show an alpha male breaking the facade of brash metal rage as he searches for his own truth.

The questioning culminates on “Inamorata,” a sprawling, 11-minute jam that slowly uncoils with sludgy, snarling riffs as Hetfield sings insightfully, “Misery, she needs me/Oh, but I need her more.” The track is a master class in melancholy. It’s Metallica’s longest-ever song, but it never feels boring, since Hetfield’s agony sounds authentic. Making it through those first 72 seasons may have been torture for Metallica, but now they’re just realizing they survived the apocalypse to share their wisdom.