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Prime Cuts: Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett Critique Key Songs in the Band’s Harsh, Noble History

Prime Cuts: Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett Critique Key Songs in the Band’s Harsh, Noble History

"The Call of Ktulu," Ride the Lightning (1984)

HAMMETT: Again, we were using Marshalls; I tracked the whole album with Marshall amps and my Gibson Flying V. For that song, I knew that I wanted to come up with something really melodic at the beginning of the solo. At that point in the song, there’s just a lot of riffing, a lot of heavy dynamics. I was thinking, Wouldn’t it be nice if we had something somewhat melodic to lead into it? Hence that little melody I played. I can remember thinking, Fuckin’ hell, man, these guys want me to play an awful-long fucking guitar solo! It was our first instrumental, and it was an incredibly long guitar solo.

It was, like, ‘How can I keep this solo going without making it sound like I’m just playing a bunch of notes?’ So I thought that I would break it up into sections rather than play one long spew of notes. I used a modal approach, and there are also arpeggios that I play in the solo. They’re actually ‘broken arpeggios,’ a term that I got from Yngwie Malmsteen. At that time, 1984, Yngwie was big in the guitar world; he influenced me in that he was using all these different scales and different arpeggios, and really got me thinking about that kind of sound. I was also thinking chromatically: there’s that one part at the top of the next cycle where I play a chromatic lick that goes all the way down the high E string with the wah pedal.

I actually wrote out the entire solo on pieces of paper, using my own notes and my own pet names for the individual licks. I would say that 80 percent of it was composed beforehand and 20 percent of it was improvised. When we revisited that song with the symphony on S&M, it was a lot of fun. It felt like I was visiting my guitar technique from, like, 15 years ago or something. I just don’t play like that now—I’m a lot bluesier—so it was pretty trippy.

"Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," Master of Puppets (1986)

HETFIELD: The idea for that song came from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. “Fade to Black” worked well, and we wanted to have another slow, clean, picking type of song, this time with a chorus. I had trouble singing that chorus. It’s really high, and when I went to sing it in the studio, I remember Flemming looking at me like, “You’re kidding.” I said “Shit, I don’t know if I can do this!” So I ended up singing it lower than I intended, but we put a higher harmony on it and it worked pretty well. The riff for that song was lifted from some other band, who shall remain anonymous.

HAMMETT: The beginning of the first solo is an arpeggiated ninth chord figure, where I basically mirror what James is playing. The second guitar figure had some harmonies. I used a wah-wah pedal on the third solo, which was pretty straight ahead. The fourth solo comes out of harmonized guitars; the very last lick was based on something really cool I saw Cliff play on guitar in the hotel one night that I knew would work in that spot.

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