James Hetfield is the undisputed master of metal rhythm guitar – and his downpicking will seriously test your abilities

James Hetfield live onstage at Twickenham, England, in 2019
(Image credit: Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

Since the release of the Kill ’Em All album in 1983, Metallica have established themselves as the undeniable architects of the thrash metal subgenre. Metallica’s music has real purpose and authority, and is held in high esteem by many music greats outside the world of metal. 

The unrelenting pace and ferocity of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett’s riffs took the metal world by storm, and paved the way for generations to come. Much of Metallica s intensity comes from the speed and accuracy of James Hetfield’s palm-muted down picking – seriously, just check out his isolated guitar tracks from ...And Justice For All and Master of Puppets.

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Jamie Hunt

Jamie is a regular contributor to Guitar Techniques and Total Guitar magazines. He is also a Principal Lecturer in guitar and live performance at BIMM Bristol. Alongside this, he shares seven string guitar duties with Steve Smyth (ex-Testament, ex-Nevermore, Forbidden), in the modern thrash metal band One Machine. Additionally, Jamie is the UK brand ambassador for ESP guitars, where he creates product demos and delivers clinics across the UK and throughout the Scandinavian countries. More recently, he co-created the ESP School of Metal Guitar, where a team of versatile metal guitarists break down all things heavy.