James Hetfield on Metallica's return: "There's been a lot of darkness in my life... but without darkness there is no light"

Metallica, 2022
(Image credit: Tim Saccenti)

For Metallica fans, Christmas came early on November 28, as the San Francisco metal behemoths casually popped up with a mic-drop surprise single, Lux Æterna, the announcement of their 12th studio album, 72 Seasons, and details of an expansive 2023/24 world tour, featuring two-night stands across the globe, from Amsterdam (April 27 and 29, 2023) to Mexico City (September 27 and 29, 2024).

Kicking off the group's promotional campaign for their new work, drummer Lars Ulrich appeared on Howard Stern's SiriusXM show on November 28, and now James Hetfield has joined the fray too, to give fans a little more insight into the background to the new record. 

"72 Seasons came out of a book I was reading about childhood, basically, and sorting out childhood as an adult," says Hetfield, in a statement shared on Louisville radio station Alt 105.1. "And 72 seasons is basically the first 18 years of your life. How do you evolve and grow and mature and develop your own ideas and identity of self after those first 72 seasons?"

"Some things are more difficult than others — you know, some things you can't unsee and they're with you for the rest of your life, and other things you're able to rewind the tape and make a new tape in your life. So that's the real interesting part for me, is how you're able to address those situations as an adult and mature."

"There's been a lot of darkness in my life," Hetfield continued, "and in our career and things that have happened with us, but always having a sense of hope, always having the light that is in that darkness… Without darkness, there is no light, and being able to focus a little more on the light in life instead of all of the… how it used to be and how horrible it is."

"There's a lot of good things going on in life - focusing on that instead, and it helps to balance out my life. And there's no one meaning to it, everyone has some sense of hope or light in their life, and, obviously, music is mine. And the song specifically talks about gathering of people at a concert and [being] able to see the joy and the life and the love that comes out of music and the family and the kinship in that, and just a sense of uplifting."

Hetfield also discussed the band's thrashy new single.

"Lux Æterna is an upbeat, kind of fast and joyous song," he stated, "really indicative of New Wave Of British [Heavy] Metal stuff, so kind of a harkening-back-to-'80s kind of riff. It's just fun and makes me move. It was fun making the video, fun recording a song that comes out really easy, that was a real easy song to write and to perform, like I said, very much like the early '80s for us."

A YouTuber named johnp82 has actually rammed home Lux Æterna's nod to Metallica's early days by re-dubbing the new track with Hetfield's original vocals from 1983 Kill 'Em All-era banger Hit The Lights

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.