Thu, 01 June 2023
Verdict: Functional yet formulaic from the metal icons.
What’s the story?
72 Seasons is the 11th studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica. Of the album’s title, frontman James Hetfield stated: “72 seasons. 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.”
Worth a listen?
Never before has Metallica seemed so comfortable being Metallica, embracing their identity as a collective and letting each member play to their strengths: Lars Ulrich’s drums are pushed forward in the mix, Robert Trujillo roams wild with his bass, Kirk Hammett gets plenty of room to solo, while Hetfield processes all he’s learned in therapy. The album is filled with meditations on mortality and morality, looking back on formative years with clarity, not anger. There are no slow moments, there are no ballads: the entire record barrels forward at an advanced clip and crushing volume. It’s heavy but it’s not grimy or gritty. Metallica are old pros at this point, so they favour clearly articulated production, and they know how to reserve their energy so they play for endurance, not speed; even when this comes close to thrash tempos, the band never threaten to give themselves over to abandon.
Everything But The Girl
With Fuse, the first EBTG album in 24 years, it’s clear the duo of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt are not interested in dwelling in the past. The taut beats and vibrating bass of marvellous lead single ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ plunk EBTG’s sound firmly into 2023, yet the sparse, clear production makes it unmistakable that Thorn’s voice has roughened up a bit, even since her last solo record. This only adds more emotional weight to her lyrics, which are as thoughtful as ever, yet especially relevant for the 2020s. Fuse contains the most adventurous production EBTG have ever attempted, showing that the duo haven’t lost their touch for pairing up-to-date music with relevant, affecting subject matter.
Great bands adapt to change, and Mudhoney have certainly done that. Plastic Eternity sees the band in solid, engaging form. Mudhoney devote less time to the hard fast tunes and more to the mid-tempo grungy slog they love while using additional instruments to fill out the atmosphere, with bongos, keyboards, and occasional lo-fi electronic buzzing augmenting the dirty guitars on several cuts. This album shows Mudhoney are capable of surprising us (and themselves) 35 years in, and judging from the results, it won’t be the last time they’ll pull that off.
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
An ambitiously sprawling rock opera, 2023’s Atum finds Billy Corgan dipping into the sound of pretty much every era of Smashing Pumpkins’ career. For fans keeping track of the concept, the album (presented over three discs) continues the story of Shiny, the main character first introduced on iconic album Mellon Collie, though you’d have to dig pretty deep to pull any strong narrative threads out of the material. Conceptual conceits aside, these are some of the strongest melodic and heartfelt anthems Corgan has written in years. The album runs the gamut of the band’s sonic palette, from shimmering sunburst synths and pummelling acid-rock guitar pyrotechnics to more introspective piano and electronics-accented balladry.