By Roly Meza
TW: Suicide, Death, Drug Abuse, Mental Disorders
Some say Metallica is having a type of resurgence with the younger generation partly due to the iconic Eddie Munson scene in Netflix hit show Stranger Things. Now you can see young kids sporting a Master of Puppets shirt, girls rocking vintage Metallica shirts from Forever 21and young adults whose fathers introduced them to the band in their growing years. Not to mention, the classic older gentleman wearing their old ’88 tour shirt. Some of which keep the stereotype alive by rockin’ a beer gut, tattoos and are always ready to tell you about how many times they’ve seen them live through reminiscing anecdotes. That’s the beauty of a band that has been going strong for 40 years. It’s a fish net thrown into the deep ocean of music capturing all the heavy metals from past to present.
In those 40 years, they have accomplished more than any other Thrash band in almost every single category. It feels a bit trivial to introduce the band, so I’ll let some of the facts speak for themselves. They have always been a four-piece metal band that’s sold over 163.6 million albums worldwide and have released 11 studio albums, three EPs and eight live albums. Metallica has 23 Grammy nominations with nine wins. Next to those, they have an array of MTV, American Music Awards, Classic Rock awards, and many more, including the prestige induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. In short, they have done it all, and even seen it all, as they set a Guinness World Record for becoming the very first musical act to perform on every continent.
Leaving the past behind, Metallica released a new album earlier this year and fans around the world are surprised the aged geezers can still play as hard and fast as they always have! The album sold 146,000 copies in the first week. They landed at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart while Morgan Wallen took the first spot only selling 12,000 copies of his album. However, Morgan had approximately 208 million streams as Metallica topped around 16 million. This new age of streaming has broken Metallica’s streak of charting at number one for each of their album releases since 1988. I have a feeling Napster is somewhere having a chuckle. Just goes to show that the band still has old-school fans that take pride in owning a hard copy of their music. Nonetheless, the reviews across the board give the album a 4 out of 5 stars. Enough with the facts let’s get into the mosh of the album!
First off, let’s start off with the music. It is fast as ever and weaves in beautiful melodic melodies that allude to their old iconic material. The dual guitar of Hetfield and Hammett has aged like fine whiskey and burns smoothly as always. The drumming of Lars has changed from previous albums and sounds more refined and calculated, never missing a single beat. With the backing of the dependable bass of Trujillo it carries at certain points a punk-style grit making intricate breakdowns easily digestible. Their shortest song is called “Lux Aeterna” a Latin phrase that translates to “Eternal Light.” This quote is used as a hymn in the Catholic church to honor the dead. This song sets the tone for the album and is incidentally the first single released from 72 Seasons.
The inspiration behind this album was distorted by the lead singer James Hetfield after he read a book expounding on the voyage of childhood into becoming an adult. There are 72 seasons that one must go through to become an 18-year-old. With this in mind, certain themes were highlighted by the band that became relatable to the new wave of fans coming to their shows.
The music has always been there and will always be there by the master thrash band, but the lyrics and relatability are something that can only be manufactured by exploring the nature of mankind. Their titled song “72 Seasons” explores the topics of trauma shaping into adulthood and the struggles that come with it. Many of the songs on this album deal with growing up and trying to find one’s way through life. A classic metal attribution that wasn’t there in their early albums which focused heavily on thrashing, jumping in the fire and the speed of drinking. After all these years, they were able to develop an album that articulates the convoluted cycle of growing up as an outcast.
Songs like “Shadows Fall” follow a narrator trying to outrun his demons. He’s in obvious disarray and trying to hide, bury, or deflect all the negative emotions that come with being a misfit. The album then leads into “Screaming Suicide” which hints at depression and the battle of keeping suicidal thoughts suppressed. It comments on bipolarism that’s passed down through genetics, but the thought of all those things being too heavy to articulate, so the young move to do is bottle it up inside. A common trait we see among the youth today.
The song list goes on and on in this tone, but there is something uplifting about the infusion of strong music with real dire lyrics. It’s not cartoonish in any way, it speaks from the heart, something that metal bands have strayed from nowadays in order to fill the venues with a catchy chorus that won’t have people looking at you side eyed. The tough act is still saluted by the heavy metal kingdom, but Metallica has taken a different approach with this album’s premises. “Crown of Barbed Wire” talks about religion and the oxymoron of messages this divine thinking brings. It is not a knock-on religion, but more so a commentary of a young lost child unable to relate to the teachings of the church empire. “Room Full of Mirrors” focuses on the existential crisis of being unable to escape oneself. No matter where you look, you are left with a reflection of yourself and if that reflection is sour…well what do you do?
The album ends with a song entitled “Inamorata” which translates to a person’s female lover. Dissecting the lyrics, it’s apparent that the narrator has become addicted to his misery. It has become something dependable and almost a friend.
Now, considering all the song innuendos it could be classified as a “depressing” album, but if you listen closely, it is quite the opposite. It is what old-school metal was about, touching on real-life emotions and finding an outlet to make peace with the mental turmoil. None of the songs talk about giving up and in fact “72 Seasons” highlights the power of going to a metal show and singing along with other people who are relating to the hardship.
James Hetfield’s father abandoned him at a young age and soon after his mother fell ill to cancer. She refused to believe in medical science and insisted she would be cured by her religious faith. Hetfield lost his mother at the age of 16. Lars, the drummer, dealt with feeling like an outsider as he immigrated from Denmark to the United States at the age of 17. Both found solace and an outlet in Heavy Metal music. All members came out the other end through the success of their music. The fact that Metallica is expressing their vulnerability and reflecting on their anguish is a sign that maybe we can never escape our past, but we damn sure need to acknowledge it and do whatever means necessary to make some peace with it. If we can’t find someone or something to do it for, then let’s fight for ourselves. We must turn it into a driving force to climb that f****** mountain!
All in all, say what you will about Metallica, but they don’t have to make music anymore. They have paid their dues and have the blessing of retiring as legends. However, they are still on tour and making music! There’s only one reason for that type of commitment and that is for the pure love of music. They are playing two shows at each venue without repeating a song. What other band can do that? If you can think of one, are they doing it? Probably not, so at the very least salute the 40-plus years of roadwork, believe in the connectivity of music, but most of all don’t forget to headbang!
Written by: kadencemakenna