Scott Ian says Kirk Hammett is the most underrated rhythm player in metal

Kirk Hammett and Scott Ian
(Image credit: Theo Wargo / Roy Rochlin / Getty)

Anthrax frontman Scott Ian was recently asked by Revolver magazine to name his favourite rhythm players in metal, and his surprise pick was Kirk Hammett, Metallica’s lead guitarist.

While Metallica frontman James Hetfield regularly tops polls of the world’s best rhythm guitarists, Ian points out that fellow guitarist Hammett is, perhaps understandably, rarely considered.

“For me, in the world of metal, I think the most underrated rhythm player is Kirk Hammett,” says Ian. “Because he's in a band with James, who, when it comes to metal, is the best – there's no better right hand…

“[But] nobody ever talks about Kirk as a rhythm guitar player. But he's gotta go fucking note for note with James. And he can't cheat. There's no fucking cheating, he's down-picking all those fucking parts. Nobody talks about that. So Kirk, to me, is the most underrated.”

Ian also had warm words for Meshuggah’s mechanical rhythm wizard Fredrik Thordendal, who he rates as the only guitarist capable of giving Hetfield a run for his money when it comes to rhythmic prowess. 

“Fredrik [Thordendal] from Meshuggah [may] have the best right hand,” says Ian. “I’m convinced he was a Terminator sent back. But instead of killing Sarah Connor, he was here to make all other rhythm guitarists feel bad about their right hands. So technically, he's the best, but James is James, he's the fucking god.”

The last player in line for Ian’s picking props is Slayer’s Kerry King. “I’ve watched him close up so many times, standing with him for an hour, doing shots before they go on, and he's warming up the whole time,” says Ian.

“It's just jaw-dropping sometimes, the ability and the stamina ... I remember talking to [Exodus guitarist] Gary Holt when he joined Slayer and he's like, ‘My fucking forearms are dying!’”

Back in September, Scott Ian sat down with Guitar World to discuss his long association with Jackson guitars, while Kirk Hammett is readying himself for the forthcoming release of Metallica’s 12th studio album, 72 Seasons

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.