James Hetfield's isolated guitar tracks from ...And Justice For All and Master of Puppets prove his picking precision is unrivaled

James Hetfield
(Image credit: Ross Marino/Getty Images)

With his out-of-this-world picking accuracy and laser-precise time-keeping – Lars Ulrich follows his leads onstage, according to Gojira's Joe Duplantier – it's no wonder James Hetfield is often regarded as one of the world's best rhythm guitar players.

Yes, the Metallica frontman's playing is perhaps the eighth wonder of the modern world, but rarely do we get the chance to hear his recordings in isolation.

However, in a new video posted to YouTube by a user named MetalliGeek, Hetfield's playing on classic Metallica tracks Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Blackened, One and Dyers Eve is put under the spotlight.

The clips reveal Hetfield's astonishing down-picking ability, with every single note perfectly executed to the point that his double-tracked takes are near-identical.

In the video's description, MetalliGeek describes the precision of Hetfield's guitar tracks as “almost unhuman (given that it was all on tape, no Pro Tools)”. They continue: “James [has] still got it, but Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All will remain his top riff jobs ever.”

Metallica are currently in the process of putting together a followup to 2016's Hardwired... to Self-Destruct, one that lead guitarist Kirk Hammett hopes will cut through “the division in the world”.

“It should be a celebration,” Hammett explains in a new interview with Classic Rock. “That's what music is about. It's not about selling albums or getting Grammys, it's about putting out good music and helping the situation with that music.”

In a recent video message to Road Recovery, Hetfield offered insight into his writing process. “When I get really emotional, that's when I write lyrics,” he said. “When I get in a really happy, good mood, that's when I start writing riffs.”

We'd be pretty happy, too, if we could riff with that level of precision.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.