Metallica unleash new single Screaming Suicide, a 5:39 min Hetfield masterclass in downpicking

(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for P+ and MTV))

The world is changing apace but some things remain the same, the iron laws of physical science remain unmoved – gravity, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and that one that says there is no higher power in metal guitar than the unerring power-chug of James Hetfield’s merciless right-hand.

That’s right, new Metallica song, same relentless downpicking from the greatest rhythm player in metal as Screaming Suicide, the second track released in advance of the San Francisco Fab Four’s upcoming studio album, 72 Seasons, showcases pretty much everything you would expect from a five-minute ‘Tallica jam.

But with sold-out stadium shows serving as focus groups affirming this direction, why change course now? 

Screaming Suicide opens with a Kirk Hammett lead melody, an electric guitar tone teetering on the edge of squawk with the – shock, horror – wah pedal used as a filter. 

The lustrous splash of Lars Ulrich’s hi-hat keeps the count. The rat-a-tat of snare drum announces Rhythm Figure 1, all churning, midrange crunch, with the band reverting to the monochrome jugga-jugga of Rhythm Figure 2, where, suitably warmed up, that picking hand is locked in. 

The kids, as they say will love it, particularly that bridge section that allows for a little bit of baritone spoken word from Hetfield, a moment to dial it down a bit and build the dynamics for the final furlong, and the chance to bang the heads that didn’t bang. It’s textbook Metallica.

The track comes with an important message, too, with Metallica tackling “the taboo word of suicide” in the lyrics.

“The intention is to communicate about the darkness we feel inside,” reads a statement from the band. “It's ridiculous to think we should deny that we have these thoughts. At one point or another, I believe most people have thought about it. To face it is to speak the unspoken. If it's a human experience, we should be able to talk about it. You are not alone.”

Screaming Suicide comes just under two months after Lux Æterna, and the announcement that 72 Seasons will hit record stores and streaming platforms on 14 April.

The release will be followed by a big ol’ massive tour of various stadia in Europe and North America, kicking off on 27 April in Amsterdam at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, home of Ajax. See Metallica for full dates and ticket information for the M72 World Tour.

The tour will find Metallica playing once more in the round, playing two-night stints at each venue, with two entirely different setlists, “no repeats”, and the tantalising promise of “enhanced experiences” – which include meet-and-greets, the opportunity to watch the set from the ‘Snake Pit’, or a platform by the production tower, pre-show drinks lounges, and all sorts.

Metallica will release 72 Seasons on 14 April through Rhino/Blackened Recordings.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.