OPINION: Happy Friday! It’s Spotify Wrapped Week, that strange and mesmerising time of the year when an app exposes you for having spent 3,500 minutes listening to AC/DC and Lana Del Rey on repeat.
I’m usually stoked with my Wrapped break down – I love Lana Del Rey and vintage AC/DC a completely normal amount, OK? This year, however, I’m a little bummed because I didn’t have enough time to force-feed my top 100 songs of the year with the tune I’ve been listening on repeat to for the last 72 hours: Metallica’s Lux Æterna.
Like a poorly mounted lighting fixture at a metal show, Metallica’s first new song in six years landed on music streamers seemingly out of the blue.
No warning, no hype, just a bright yellow thumbnail with the band’s very metal font smeared across it, and enigmatic title, heralding a high energy, thrashy, trip down nostalgia lane.
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(FWIW: It means Eternal Light for the non-Latin speaking metal heads amongst us.)
The second I hit play I was transported back to the heyday of 80s thrash: double kick drums like a heart going tachycardic, thrashing guitar riffs cascading down your central nervous system like a migraine, if migraines made you feel like you were 15 and hearing Master of Puppets for the first time again.
And over it all singer and lyricist James Hetfield, a voice that’s 60% gravel, 40% bloody knife fight vocals, screaming, “full speed or nothing… full speed or nothing!”
In other words, it’s the goddamned full-metal-jacketed song of the Summer, and I am 100 per cent in love with it. As soon as it was over I hit repeat, and it’s been the soundtrack of my week ever since.
The thing is, Lux Æterna doesn’t sound like an offering from four 60-something elder statesmen of rock, content to lean into their well-earned “legends” title. It doesn’t sound like some blokes who’ve mellowed.
It’s scrappy, and a bit silly, and upbeat in a way no one over 60 is supposed to be.
What Lux Æterna does sound like, is four 20-somethings who’ve just found their manhoods and their guitars for the first time, and are hungry to put both to good use. In short, it’s an absolute banger.
It’s a bunch of guys who are clearly having great time, who want everyone to stop being a bunch of wowzers and join in, or they’re going to melt your party pooping faces off with this red-hot riff.
An album, 72 Seasons, (which is 18 years, just FYI) is set to follow next year.
“The first 18 years of our lives that form our true or false selves,” singer James Hetfield told Loudwaire magazine about the album. “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.”
Like the rest of us, the band has had a rollercoaster couple of years.
In 2020, they were forced to can their world tour when Hetfield went into rehab for alcohol addiction. Then Covid hit, and they weren’t able to return to the tour, or events like Lollapalooza, until this year. That’s a lot of down time to reflect on that theme – one they’ve returned to a lot in their 41 years as a band.
But return they did, and on the crest of a Stranger Things shaped wave, having made a hoard of new fans thanks to a certain scene from season 4 that featured their 1986 classic, Master of Puppets – the first time the band ever allowed their music to be used on screen.
Belted out from atop a battered trailer home by the season’s break-out fan favourite Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), Master of Puppets shot the band back into the UK charts for the first time in 40 years.
No wonder Lux Æterna sounds like a rallying cry for all the newbies, and a wake-up call for all the dies hards. Full speed or nothing, indeed.