Prime Cuts: Metallica
Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield look back on some of Metallica’s brightest moments.
"Enter Sandman," Metallica (1991)
HAMMETT: Again, I was playing my ESP with a wah pedal, and this time I used a bunch of different amps. We were combining Boogies and modified Marshalls; I also think we had a clean old Fender in there, and maybe even an old Vox amp, and they were all blended together to get that tone. I can remember getting that lead guitar sound together very quickly, very spontaneously. When it came time to start thinking about that guitar solo, I just thought, Well, this is a great guitar song, and it’s in the spirit of all my favorite guitar bands, like Thin Lizzy and UFO, but kind of modernized. So I kept thinking, Michael Schenker, Michael Schenker… But then I started thinking, If Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy played on this song, what would he play? With that mindset, I started playing what I thought Brian Robertson would play on a song like that, and the entire fucking guitar solo wrote itself!
You know how the guitar solo plays out, and then there’s a lead guitar break that leads into a breakdown? I think the time has come to tell where I actually got that lick. It’s from ‘Magic Man’ by Heart, but I didn’t get it from Heart’s version; I got it from a cut off Ice-T’s Power album, where he used it as a sample. I was listening to Power a lot while we were recording Metallica, so I kept on hearing that lick. I thought, I have to snake this! I did change it around a little bit, though.
"Don’t Tread on Me," Metallica (1991)
HETFIELD: A lot of the songs on this album are more simple and concentrated. They tell the same story as our other shit but don’t take as long. There aren’t a hundred riffs to latch on to—just two or three stock, really good riffs in each song.
I used my ESPs and tons of other guitars: a 12-string electric, a Telecaster, a Gretsch White Falcon, a sitar and other things. I also used a B-Bender, a bar installed in the guitar that twists the B string up a full step. It’s used a lot in country music. But “Don’t Tread” is just real heavy guitar—there’s really nothing else to it.
HAMMETT: I used a Bradshaw [preamp] because the mids were clean and the low end sounded real percussive, and I put it through a VHT power amp. The harmonic distortion also sounded nice and dirty. For the highs we used two Marshalls. We combined all the sounds and put it all through Marshall cabinets with 30-watt speakers and blended all the room mikes. My sound is a lot thicker and punchier than before, and I think it’s better than ever. For the majority of the leads on this album I used a third ESP guitar. I also used my 1989 black Gibson Les Paul Custom. For the clean sound, I used a ’61 stock white Strat and a Fender blackface Deluxe. I also used a ’53 Gibson ES-295 style, and an ESP Les Paul Junior with EMG pickups.
I used the ’89 black Gibson Les Paul Custom and a wah-wah pedal on “Don’t Tread on Me.” At one point I had to play these ascending lead fills, and it just wasn’t happening at all. So I wound up playing harmonics instead of lead guitar fills, and it worked really well.
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