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Without Darkness There's No Light: Metallica's 72 Seasons Lyrics Shine Light into our Minds Darkness

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

After much anticipation, fans finally get to listen to Metallica's new studio album 72 Seasons which was released on April 14, 2023. The bands latest album focuses on the first 72 seasons of life, the first 18 years of life, and how that period of growth can cause years of pain and trauma long into our adulthood.

I attended the Cineplex screening the night before release to get an early listening experience, and I was not disappointed (in the album, the volume level in the theatre is another story... turn it up please.) I loved all four singles released before the album dropped, especially If Darkness Had A Son, but I was happy to realize that the tracks I hadn't heard would soon be my favourites. Songs like Chasing Light, Sleepwalk My Life Away, and the eleven minute masterpiece that closes out the album, Inamorata, have been on repeat since the early hours of the morning on release day.

I want to leave the music aside for now, and focus on what makes this album truly a masterpiece in self-awareness and realization. The lyrics.

James Hetfield, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Metallica, is the bands primary lyricist. Throughout the years, folks have praised Hetfield for his meaningful, introspective, and creative lyrics, noting him to be a poet of sorts when it comes to matching lyrics to the heavy music the band creates.

While critics at first glance call the lyrics on 72 Seasons the most positive the band has had yet, there is no denying that these positive lyrics come from a place of deep trauma, specifically, the trauma Hetfield has struggled with throughout his life.

72 Seasons is not Metallica's first album that addresses personal emotions throughout its lyrics. The band shocked its fans with the release of the slow crawling Fade To Black, a song off the bands critically acclaimed second album Ride The Lightning that was released in 1984. Fade To Black is a song that tells the story of a man struggling to want to live, fighting to find a reason to stay when he has lost the hope to carry on.

"I have lost the will to live, simply nothing more to give, there is nothing more for me, need the end to set me free." - Fade To Black

While Fade To Black isn't directly talking about Hetfield himself, it shines a light on that feeling of questioning if it's worth staying alive, a feeling that the singer has felt many times. Hetfield publicly talks about his struggle with suicide, and will often speak about it at concerts, telling fans that if you're struggling, keep going. You are loved.

Lyrics attached to Hetfield's life experiences have shown up in almost all Metallica albums, which makes sense as Hetfield draws from personal experiences and emotions for inspiration. God That Failed off of Metallica (better known as the Black Album), and Lepper Messiah off of Master of Puppets both speak to Hetfield's childhood, growing up in a Christian Science household, and watching his mother refuse treatment when she was diagnosed with cancer due to her faith.

"I see faith in your eyes. Never you hear the discouraging lies. I hear faith in your cries. Broken is the promise, betrayal. The healing hand held back by the deepened nail. Follow the god that failed" - God That Failed

Until It Sleeps, a single off of the Load album, talks about trying to escape the internal pain that comes with hate, and how hate manifests and takes over a persons life.

"I'll tear me open, make you gone, no longer will you hurt anyone, and the hate still shapes me, so hold me until it sleeps." - Until It Sleeps

The album that contains the most raw emotion, of course, is St. Anger, as seen in the documentary Some Kind of Monster. The documentary shows the ups and downs the band faced while recording St. Anger, including bassist Jason Newstead leaving the band and Hetfield deciding to go to rehab for his battle with alcoholism. St. Anger is an album that shows the raw anger and frustration that the band was feeling, and while it is often classified as their worst album, it still shows the real truth of how our anger can manifest within us, and the art we create when not addressed.

Flash forward to 72 Seasons. 20 years since St. Angers release, 72 Seasons shows the level of personal and internal growth within the band, but also within Hetfield. Even though the music is still heavy, the band turns these songs into emotional releases, allowing the lyrics in combination with the music to showcase a healing release, letting fans know that even after everything the band and it's members individually have gone through, they are finally able to see the light.

While some fans aren't "fans" of the positive lyrics, noting that it seems a bit too positive, there is no denying that for fans of Metallica that struggle with trauma, mental illness, suicide, and just coming to terms with their past, are able to find healing through the album. Following Metallica's growth over the 40 years the band has been active shows the reality that no matter what we go through, there will be a light waiting for us at the end. Is it easy? Hell no, but it exists, and you too can find it.

For me, I think it humanizes the band more than ever. My childhood was no walk in the park, pushing me to carry a lot of anger and hatred within me, and when I was in the height of my adolescence (throughout my first 72 seasons) I would listen to Metallica, and many other metal or hard rock bands, to release what I couldn't with my words. If I had a song like Screaming Suicide when I was 15, it would have really helped me overcome the voices in my head telling me I didn't have anything to live for. Being able to listen to these words sung by Hetfield, knowing the depth of what he went through in his first 72 seasons, is eye-opening and instills a lot of hope for those who feel hopeless.

The beautiful thing about any underground or non-mainstream genre of music is that there is a closer relationship to the artists and a closer connection to their fans. While Metallica is arguably one of the biggest bands to ever exist, it still feels like they connect to fans in a special way. When you look at Metallica's beginning, their fans (and fans of any underground genre) were thought of as "outcasts" or "trouble makers", when really, a large percent of them I would argue, were just looking for a place where they fit in to call their own. And they found that in metal, and in Metallica.

The lyrics throughout 72 Seasons bring courage, hope, and positivity, yet stem from the complete opposite. It's all about having to live through that darkness, work through to break free, and finally being able to see that light at the end of the tunnel. As Hetfield himself would say, the work never stops, but once you see the light you know that what you're working towards has all been worth it so far, so keep going.

72 Seasons Songs and Their Messages

72 Seasons

  • The title track from 72 Seasons explains the first 72 seasons of life, and the idea that our paths are chosen; the situations we are placed in when we are born dictate what we go through, how we handle things, and who we are. It asks the question "does our past really define us, or can we break through that?"

Shadows Follow

  • Shadows Follow is about trying to run from your demons. Even though we think we can escape the cruelty of our own minds, our shadows, our traumas, will follow us no matter how far or fast we run. The only way to truly escape these shadows is to bring them into the light.


My demons

Now I know

If I run

Still my shadows follow

I say "No"

Still my shadows follow"

Screaming Suicide

  • Screaming Suicide plays on the voice inside of our heads that tell us we don't deserve to be here, fighting with the back and forth that is suicidal thoughts. This songs title and repeating lyric is telling people to not keep these thoughts inside, but rather scream them loud so others can help you overcome them. Even though speaking up about these thoughts is hard, when you release them you realize you don't have to overcome them on your own.

"Curse another day Spirit locked away Punish and deprive Hate to be awake Living a mistake More dead than alive

Then a voice appears Whisper in your ears "You are good enough" Throwing down a rope A lifeline of hope Never give you up"

Sleepwalk My Life Away

  • This song is about being stuck in a cycle of fogginess, going through life day to day living the same routine and feeling lost within the monotony. Like dissociation, our bodies go on auto-pilot and we aren't able to ground ourselves in the world around us.

"All isn't what it seems

Cannot comprehend it

Captive inside a dream

Where the dawn won't end it"

You Must Burn!

  • One of the more difficult songs to really decipher, You Must Burn! revolves around topics like heresy, the Salem witch trials, and dark figures looming. discusses the idea that cancel culture is being touted here, calling on lyrics like "foul fingers spin mob mentality" expressing the perfect the protagonist is referring to is what is socially correct in the eyes of the public. While this may be the case, I like to believe that You Must Burn! is about burning the part of us that thinks we have to think or act a certain way. Much like ... And Justice For All messaging, this song highlights the freedom we must have in life to make our own opinions. With Hetfield growing up in a religious household, and it often causing much internal confusion for him, I think here he writes about burning the idea that we have to act a certain way because of how we grew up, and as we gain more knowledge in life, we can burn away the parts of us that we don't really agree with anymore that may cause us pain. (Maybe it's my own catholic guilt talking.)

"Smile as it burns to the ground

The perfect don't want you around

Question yourself, you may learn

You are the witch, you must burn

You must burn!"

Lux Æterna

  • This song highlights the power of being surrounded by people who deliver support and light to hard times. Through the lens of Metallica, this song talks about the light that comes from performing live, the band thriving and healing through bringing their music to people who are looking for a release, much like the band themselves. Deeper, it can highlight how through creating music and sharing it with fans, the members of Metallica found their Lux Æterna or "eternal light".

  • This song features a lyric from Motorbreath, a song off their first album Kill 'Em All. The repetition of "full speed or nothing" could be a tribute to how far they have come and how much their music has meant to them, and their fans.


Never alive more than right here tonight"

Crown of Barbed Wire

  • On the surface, this song tells the story of a ruler or a monarch whose destiny to wear their heavy crown causes them to forget the truth, succumbing to greed, delusion, and inevitably their downfall. Looking through the lens of 72 Seasons, this song represents the heaviness that we can inherit in our own life depending on how we exist during our first 72 seasons on earth. The wearer of this crown doesn't see the destruction that occurs as they are too busy struggling with the weight of their destiny. This can relate to unresolved trauma or emotions that swirl around our head, weighing us down. We often let our internal turmoil build up, causing us to not realize how that effects others in our lives, but we sometimes feel like it's our destiny to be this person. It's a struggle of giving up the "crown", and being open to truly seeing the carnage that it can cause.

  • It could be said that this song adds commentary on the antagonist in King Nothing off of the Load album, where Hetfield sings about a king who falls under the weight and responsibility he was given that he could not keep up with. "You point your finger but there's no one around," Hetfield sings, as we see that this king has abused his power, and has lost the people he once ruled due to selfishness and greed.

"This rusted empire I own

Bleed as I rust on this throne

Piercе me with torment

And all the rust that I own"

Chasing Light

  • Probably one of the more straightforward in it's meaning, Chasing Light calls out to those who are lost within the darkness to go towards the light, putting their trust in others to help guide them to the light. When we find support we can depend on, opening up about the darkness that surrounds us, we can truly find the light. We can't always do it alone.

"Chase that light, lean on me!

Face that fight, lean on me!

Catch your fall, lean on me!

End it all, lean on me!

Struggle on 'cause without darkness

If Darkness Had a Son

  • The third single released for 72 Seasons is all about temptation, and the way it dominates our minds. Temptation to fall back on old ways, to do something we know isn't good, to do something that sets us back. Temptation's are all around us, and it's up to us to fight them. If Darkness Had a Son shows the level of temptation and power the "darkness" has over the protagonist, and truly all of us at some point in our lives. This song, to me, draws real inspiration from Hetfield's struggle with addiction, and how hard it is to truly overcome it, but the want and drive to be rid of that temptation that haunts our every move.

"So paint your eyеs as black as sorrow

Hide yourself behind tomorrow

In domination, captivation

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

Temptation, leave me be"

Too Far Gone?

  • Too Far Gone? asks the question "am I too far gone to save?" Is anyone too far gone to overcome their demons and break free of the chains that keep us isolated from light? It brings the self-realization of what is going on inside your mind, asking if it is too late for you to free yourself from these restraints. In the end, we realize no one is ever too far gone to try to heal.

"Am I too far gone?

Am I too far gone to save?

Help me make it through the day

All away

I am desperation

All away

I am isolation

All away

I am agitation

All away"

Room of Mirrors

  • The second last song on 72 Seasons is all about self-reflection and internal recognition of what is going on inside our minds. Stripping away the surface of our lives, digging deep into our psyche, this song shows the struggle of coming to terms with the turmoil that surrounds us, and the fear that comes from actually addressing them. Sure, we can understand what's going on inside, but are we ready to actually speak about it, open up to those who could help? Will you be judged for showing the real you? When we break down the exterior elements that keep our truth hidden, we expose the rawness of our mental health, which isn't always the easiest thing to look at. Hetfield sings "you might judge, you might just bury me", and then adds "or you may set me free." This chorus line shows us that opening up may bring up pain and frustration, but it could also set you free on the path of healing. "Am I ready?"

"In a mirrored room, all alone I stand

Strip away the phantom fame

Exposing all sides to see

The good and bad in me

In a mirrored room, all alone I stand

Seeing past the flesh and bone

The shame and the fear I hide

Could I show you what's inside?"


  • The last track on 72 Seasons, also Metallica's longest song, brings a sense of peace within the protagonist, finally realizing that they no longer have to live with their co-dependency with misery, the cycle of self-destruction. This song amplifies the realization that we hold the ability to end the pain we feel within. When darkness surrounds us, more darkness ruminates, causing a sense of love for it. Feeling like we can't break free from that vicious cycle we throw ourselves into because the pain is what we are used to. When we realize that we can end that cycle and push that darkness away, we begin the healing process. This final song shows the protagonist stepping into the light, shining reason and logic to our pain and how to overcome it.

Misery loves company

Sullen, I created you

I suppose that I could end you too

No matter where 72 Seasons falls on your ranking of Metallica albums, there is no denying that shining a light on our internal demons and how to overcome our darkness will save people. It saved the band; their music was their Lux Æterna and it can be ours too.

1 Comment

Oct 12, 2023

"72 Seasons" by Metallica is a powerful song that delves into the complexities of the human experience, using its lyrics to shed light on the interplay between darkness and light in our lives. It's a testament to Metallica's ability to not only create incredible music but also to convey profound themes and emotions through their lyrics. This song reminds us that even in our darkest moments, there is always the potential for light and hope to emerge. You need to post your songs and Spotify and popularize them with spotify promotion:

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