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Music

Kirk Hammett names his favourite Metallica song to play live

Metallica remains one of the most impressively inventive bands of their generation, having amassed an incredible 125 million albums worldwide. The band boasts one of the most impressive back catalogues in heavy metal and is also notable for introducing Dave Mustaine into the world.

Mustaine was asked to leave in the early 1980s, which hurt the guitar player, but rather than drown in the emotion, he channelled the hurt on Megadeth’s excellent debut album. “We’re all different,” Mustaine conceded. “We’re dads. We’re older now. And I think that probably was the most shocking and hardest thing to tolerate or to accept at the end, was that when the band stopped, I kind of felt like I stopped. I know that’s not true. But what’s a young kid at the time to think? I had no mentors, I had no one talking [to me through] my life and saying, ‘You’re gonna get through this, and you’re gonna be so much happier for it.'”

Mustaine was replaced by Kirk Hammett, who matched James Hetfield’s romanticism with Lars Ulrich’s frenzied form of musicianship. Indeed, Hammett, Hetfield and Ulrich have provided the band’s core lineup, standing as a station for bassists to walk in and out of.

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Robert Trujillo stands as the band’s current bassist, having replaced Jason Newsted in 2003. If you ask me, Trujillo is Metallica’s finest bass player, who brings swagger and punch into the proceedings. Like Hammett, he manages to combine the flavours and colossal musicianship of the two main songwriters, and the latest iteration of Metallica remains the band’s most accomplished variant.

Naturally, Hammett was asked what his favourite songs were to play live, and he gave the tried and tested answer of “all.” But during a run down through some particular favourites, the lead guitar player singled out this particular tune as one that means a great deal to him.

“Of course, I like playing ‘Dyers Eve’,” he said, “because it’s a challenge every time we play it. Every time I play that guitar solo and I pulled it off and I’m like yeah I did it again. It’s a really difficult guitar solo for me to play.”

Clearly, he’s wowed by the technical feeling of the track and feels a great sense of accomplishment every time he manages to nail the particular instrumental passage. The song itself features on …And Justice for All and is credited to Hammett, Hetfield and Ulrich. Newsted was relatively new to the band, so he was only credited on one track, but it was a shame to hear his bass buried so low beneath the final mixes.

The guitars, by contrast, soar through the track, cutting through the edges, chipping and chiming like a bullet ricocheting from the barrel of a gun. It demonstrates Hammett’s pulverising skills, creating a new, fiery form of protracted solo that pivoted from the sidelines, plunging headfirst into the final mix.

Like most Metallica recordings, the album track served as a prototype for the concert, which was altogether more ferocious and explosive in design. And although the song chips along with a blistering, barrelling guitar pattern, the recording provides a fresher, more varied facet to the track. The recording is relatively urgent, but the concert performance is remarkably so.

In the same interview, Hammett highlighted ‘Seek & Destroy’ and ‘Jump in the Fire’ as songs he enjoys playing live, particularly as they show a jauntier side to the band, while ‘Dyer’s Eve’ highlights the band’s more esoteric ventures. Indeed, it might be their one and only nod to the progressive rock genre that had imprinted many of their earlier songs, and the song is only a keyboard solo short of becoming a freshly lit, fully-fledged Genesis number.
But rather than pander to the ghosts of a bygone, progressive era, Metallica was eager to assimilate these influences into a more hard-edged, turbo-charged monster rock number.

The tune, like the album it came with, was designed for the live stage, where it transformed into something grander and more frantic in design and texture. Metallica was firing on all sides creatively during the mid-1980s, which likely explains why …And Justice for All is considered by many die-hard fans as the zenith of the band’s songwriting capabilities.

Ulrich’s colossal drumming also permeates the tune, as the percussionist finds himself playing from all sides of the kit to demonstrate an explosive sound that enacts the bombs thrown onto the playing field of a battle zone. The drummer made sure that everyone could hear him, no matter the intensity of the lyrics, or the ferocity of the guitar players heard in front of him. And in many ways, the band were propelled into hungrier territories because there was such a healthy balance between riff and propulsive backpedal and cymbal. Rock bands rarely sounded so vital again.

Kirk Hammett’s favourite Metallica songs to play live:

  • ‘Dyer’s Eve’
  • ‘Seek and Destroy’
  • ‘Jump in the Fire’