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Metallica's new album, '72 Seasons,' has met critical acclaim. What's their secret?

Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich of Metallica perform during Global Citizen Festival 2022. Their new album, <em>72 Seasons</em>, is out now.
Theo Wargo
Getty Images for Global Citizen
Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich of Metallica perform during Global Citizen Festival 2022. Their new album, 72 Seasons, is out now.

More than 40 years after they formed, the music of Metallica is still resonating with new audiences.

Just last year, their 1986 track "Master of Puppets" entered the Billboard charts for the first time in its history after appearing on Stranger Things.

Months later, a string cover of their song "Nothing Else Matters" appeared on The Addams Family spin-off series Wednesday, popular among younger viewers and the TikTok crowd.

But on their new record 72 Seasons, Metallica proves they're still making inspired music for hardcore fans. For a metal band with many of its members approaching 60, that's no small feat.

NPR's Ailsa Chang spoke with drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo about what keeps that creative spark lit after all these years.

This has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

On the staying power of older songs like "Master of Puppets"

TRUJILLO: For me, you know, Metallica's always been what I call cutting-edge and kind of going against the grain and taking the most grooving, heavy riffs. But then, all of a sudden, you get these kind of gear shifts, so to speak.

For me, before I even joined the band, I was always motivated by Metallica's music. In fact, I used to go running up in the Santa Monica Mountains to Ride The Lightning — to the album. And that would motivate me for tours with, actually, Suicidal Tendencies, the band. So there's something about the music that has everything you need and all the ingredients.

On how their new album 72 Seasons is about revisiting the past

ULRICH: I'd spent a lot of my time in those first 72 seasons of my life alone, kind of a misfit, kind of disenfranchised. And I think a significant part of the reason that I wanted to be in a band was I wanted to be in a group, a collective, a gang. I wanted to belong to something bigger than myself. And so we all have our own versions of that.

TRUJILLO: Your first 18 years, you know, you discover love. You discover heartache. But also, for me, growing up in Southern California, there were things like catching your first wave. Surfing. And it's just like ... wow.

On the things Metallica has let go off in their past to evolve as a band

ULRICH: I guess the first things that come to mind is stuff around health. Just the late nights and the shenanigans — all that have pretty much all fallen to the wayside. The one thing that we also share is that, as we get older, we become very comfortable sharing who we are to the world. And I enjoy it because, when I am on stage or representing the band, you do feel good about what you're contributing, and you know you're not letting your brothers down.

TRUJILLO: You become, like, a faction. You become a part of the tribe. A lot of people can play. But at the same time, you're touring together. The rehearsals, your hang time, all that stuff — you know, the balance of it is super important.

On the band's vulnerability and kindness, and how it fits into the idea of metal music

ULRICH: Well, I don't look at it like vulnerability in metal. I look at it as four guys who are sharing an experience together and have been for the better part of 40 years. And we play music, first and foremost, that we really enjoy. We love each other endlessly, and we enjoy playing music together. And the vulnerability and that transparency that we're comfortable with is something that we're actually quite proud of.

On when Metallica will know to stop making music

TRUJILLO: When we're 120 years old (laughter) ... well, let me just say this: we love what we do. We love music so much. I mean, it excites us. I always say, when Metallica gets in the room and puts the guitars on or Lars gets behind the drums, it's fun. And there's no shortage of riffs and ideas. That's probably a blessing and a curse, and that's why you hear a lot in the music, because there's a lot of good stuff, and it's just a good time.

ULRICH: You know, spiritually, I mean, this could, like Robert's saying, go on forever. It's the elbows and the knees - that is what may put a wrench in it eventually. There is obviously a certain physicality that it requires to play this music, but that doesn't feel like it's imminent. So excuse me, I got to run and get on my Peloton!

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Jonaki Mehta
Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.