Saturday, May 27, 2023

Metallica-72 Seasons; Blackened Recordings Records 2023


Obviously in terms of Rock culture, a new Metallica release is always a really big deal. That said, in the ramp up to 72 Seasons, Disaster Amnesiac perceived even more anticipation than is usually the case with their records. Lord knows, I got swept up in it. Thus, I have listened a bunch of times, and as I sit here doing this review, I feel kind of like the guy in the mail room after being asked what the CEO does. I have some idea about what goes on "up there", but that idea is limited in the extreme. And yet, it has its effects on me. So, why not try to write about it? 

An undertaking as big as any Metallica endeavor necessarily demands lots of compartmentalization, therefore, Disaster Amnesiac has decided to break 72 Seasons down into smaller chunks.  When dealing with the Kings of Rock Music In General and of Heavy Metal In Particular, it's the only way. Metallica's view is so much wider, so world-wide, my brain can barely take it. Hence, compartmentalization it has to be. 

The Parts 

James Hetfield-A badass magnet on par with Ken Stabler or Sonny Barger, Hetfield is much more than just a singer in a successful band. James's voice is the voice of a LOT of people. The cool thing is that he's aware of it, acknowledges it, and is probably not a douche about it. Disaster Amnesiac has reflected upon that a lot as I've spun 72 Seasons. How can one not relate to his lyrics, at least anyone who has ever worked or been confused or beaten down or aspired to.....anything? Metallica lyrics have had lumpen relevance since Kill 'Em All and this remains the case on the new songs. I'm not sure that the average subscriber to the New Yorker would find them that compelling, but then again they're not delivered with just those people in mind. Hetfield is nowhere near the "best" singer, but it just doesn't matter. Put on a Metallica album, and if you're at all a fan or even familiar with him, you know his voice is imbued with a deeper, more soulful truth therein. I lived in the East Bay for many years, and I swear I could sometimes hear that voice of his echoing of walls that the guy hasn't probably even ever stood near. This is probably the case in just about any other city, town, village, or hamlet anywhere you'd throw a pin at. Millions hear Hetfield's voice as one which gives voice to them. I suspect most of them will continue with that as they take 72 Seasons in. It's still there, big time. As for his guitar playing, Disaster Amnesiac has realized that Hetfield is one of the greatest rhythm guitarists of all time. The proof lies within those signature Metallica block chunks, which are all over the record, if not completely covering it. They never fail to achieve that sheer physicality necessary to genuine Rock music (and its odd Heavy Metal stepchild), and James delivers them with finesse and clarity that are stunning. At this point, he can play them with a certitude that is on par with that of Johnny Ramone in his signature style. Dude's got nothing to prove, he knows his style kicks ass, so he uses it. And we all love it. Hell, his rhythm is so controlled, one may as well call him the other drummer in the group.

Lars Ulrich-Who is this man? There certainly have been many occasions with which to use Ulrich's public persona for ruminations upon the Human Condition and its many facets. Does Lars care about any of that? Disaster Amnesiac has spent some time caring about these things, and Lars's journey has certainly shed light upon them. Thank you Lars. What am I talking about here? A slight diversion from music, my bad. Surely that's what Lars would want from a 72 Seasons review. The dominant impression from his drumming on the record is JUST HOW RIGHT ON THE ONE his kick drum is. There's a point in every one of these songs at which that right foot of his takes on the shape of a giant brick wall: impassable. Many drummers slag him, but he's got as singular a musical style as Bonham or Rudd or Peart, and that style is well represented by the way in which his bass drum states the one with such undeniable authority. Again, it's the physicality thing; Ulrich is Hetfield's equal when it comes to that. Really great hi-hat/snare patterns are readily heard, too. When they sync up with that bass drum, the formed layers move the rhythm right along. Lars is tapping into some primordial Heavy Metal flows all through 72 Seasons. Engineers Jim Monti and Sara Lyn Killion capture a nice, wide drum kit sound. I hear it breathing as a full instrument throughout the record. Surely they'd have needed Lars's sign off there, he sure was astute for having done so. 

Kirk Hammett-The je ne sais quois that Hammett brings to Metallica has something to do with earlier forms of music. Along with everyone else, Disaster Amnesiac has long heard strains of Classical music from his guitar sound. This has given their songs, since Ride the Lightning, a piquancy that has been imitated buy not quite equaled. And, yes, it remains on 72 Seasons. As mentioned is the case with James's trademark chug, Kirk embraces his right to utilize his own musical strengths on the album. The wildness and tonal leaps of his solos must also be brought into that dynamic, and they're in all songs. What else can one expect from a student of pre-Heavy Metal bands such as Thin Lizzy, UFO and Scorpions within his own Heavy Metal band. While we're here, please let Disaster Amnesiac opine that Metallica has re-imagined themselves as being the Heavy Metal band that they were at the start. Not Thrash. Not Metal. Not Thrash Metal. HEAVY METAL. Could have stated that at any point so far in this piece. Kind of like the way Kirk will flip the fuck out at any point within his solo passages. 

Robert Trujillo-Kind of perplexed as to what exactly to say about Robert, except that his bass playing is chewy and rubbery even as it provides the low end sonic ballast for the all-important Metallica high end churn on 72 Seasons. He's been in the band longer than any other bass player has at this point, so it's not as if he couldn't show boat a little bit. Instead, he makes his statements without too much fanfare, and it really deepens the listening experience. 

The Pieces

Naturally, if one comes to a Metallica album, they'll be wanting Metal. As stated above, Disaster Amnesiac has listened to and reflected upon 72 Seasons and I keep coming back to the fact that Metallica is The Heavy Metal band. Sure, they'll put some Thrash moves in, or sprinkle some Grunge-ey vocal lines around, or cop a riff or two from the Doom scene, but in the end these just serve to enhance the twelve tracks of pure Heavy Metal presented on the album. I love the entire thing and tracks such as Screaming Suicide, Lux Aeterna (the guitar solo on this one OMG) and the booming closer epic Inamorata are all tied at this time for top tier in my book. But hell, for this listener, there are no duff tracks on the album: it's all fun, powerful, moving and exciting Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal that rises above slotted genres and into that rarefied area which Metallica staked out some forty-odd years ago and never left. Not sure if other people see or hear that from 72 Seasons, but it's quite clear to Disaster Amnesiac. This group of Titans uses these songs to dash out elucidations to mere mortals such as you or I, and what more could you or I ask for from them? Just dig on You Must Burn! and you'll be intimately keyed in on that topic. It's not all self-congratulatory moves though, as Crown Of Barbed Wire and If Darkness Had A Son have lyrics that unpack some serious vulnerability. That they're intoned by Hetfield give them an authenticity that will not be denied. 

The Conclusion

All told, there's an underlying theme or concept to 72 Seasons, and, indeed I'm sure that I've seen heard it described as having such. Can't say that it's a clear, Tommy-like line to follow, the story is more oblique than that, but it's there. On the other hand, one can just headbang or fist pump along to its individual tracks as the singular statements which they are. Metallica's pure Heavy Metal chants will allow for either option, and they're both hella cool.

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