AUDIOJUNKIE: Metallica's new single echoes best sounding era

Metallica photo from official Facebook. From left: Robert Trujillo, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

Trash/speed metal legends released rockin' new single as countdown to new album nears.

Metallica is a band that doesn’t need an introduction. That is if you haven’t listened to hard rock or heavy metal in the past 30 years or so. Even if you didn’t, chances are high that you’ve heard of them. They’re not the most popular heavy metal band in the world for nothing.

As newer acts like St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers and even Miley Cyrus, to name a few, have acknowledged Metallica’s influence in rock, the band continues to forge on 40 years into their solid gold career.

And forging on means staying relevant. And the band just did that by releasing a new single titled “If Darkness Had a Son” as the month of March 2023 hit. 

Right off the bat, “If Darkness Had a Son” recalls the feel of “Shortest Straw” from “..And Justice For All” or even “Holier Than Thou” from the “Black” album. Which is to say, that this is the Metallica of old that we seem to be hearing on said new track.

Gunshot snare hits and a chugging metal rhythm gallop open the track as vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield intones in that all too familiar gruff voice: “If darkness had a son, here I am/temptation is his father/If darkness had a son, here I am/I bathe in holy water,” in the choruses.

Intense yet expressive in his delivery, Hetfield goes heavy in his imagery as he sings, “Return again to where it’s darkest/ dragging home this heathen harvest/and all the children subjugated/manipulated, propagated.”

Running at six minutes and thirty-six seconds, you can be sure that a big part of a Metallica song will include an ample amount of Kirk Hammett’s lead guitar. And at this stage, his sound is almost like a voice all its own that runs contrapuntal off Hetfield's. And maybe I’ve listened to Hammett’s solos hundreds of times over the years, but I swear I’d recognize Hammett’s style anywhere to say that he’s interpolating off of himself from previous guitar solos.

Hetfield, Hammett, drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo have previously released two tracks titled “Screaming Suicide” and “Lux Eterna.” Both tracks, including the new one, are singles from an upcoming album that the band is calling “72 Seasons” that is due out on April 14, 2023.

According to James Hetfield, the album title, “72 Seasons – the first 18 years 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 interesting part of this is the continued study of those core beliefs and how it affects our perception of the world today,” said Hetfield as he described the theme of the upcoming record.

Over the years, a lot of Metallica’s fans have criticized the shifts that the band naturally went through over the years. From Hetfield’s lyrics, or their riffs, or Ulrich’s drumming, to booting former bassist Jason Newsted out, or even the way the band looks. Fine, but if there ever was an era that everyone can agree on that Metallica was at its best, it was during their late 80’s and early 90’s phase. And so far, these new songs harken back to those sonically.