Metallica are far from your typical run of the mill band. Instead, they are a religion that has millions worshipping at their altar, and James Hetfield is their undisputed leader. For 40 years, Hetfield has steered the ship as the band tighten its grip into the menacing part of the human psyche, one that aims to seek and destroy everything in its reckoning.
For many people, Hetfield is everything that you’d ever want from a frontman. He parades around the stage with an air of dominance and leaves no question marks over who is in charge. Hetfield might lose points when it comes to technical vocal ability, but he more than makes up for his deficiencies in other spellbinding areas.
Thrash metal is Hetfield’s everything. Since being indoctrinated as an angsty youngster, he’s lived and breathed it, but who are his favourite bands from the genre? The Metallica frontman has guided the genre into uncharted territory and transfigured it into a cultural behemoth. Yet, he gave special mention to a handful of acts when speaking to Little Punk People who don’t receive the same level of recognition as him.
The only rule was that Hetfield couldn’t name any of the so-called ‘Big Four’, which, if you didn’t know, excludes his band, Metallica, along with Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Those aforementioned groups are recognised as the pioneers of the sound, but Hetfield was keen to spread the love to those often left stranded by the wayside.
“Oh, my God! There’s tons of them,” Hetfield exclaimed while buying time to flick through the roller deck of thrash metal bands that are stored at the back of his mind. “Well, Exodus for sure. We grew up with those guys in the Bay Area. Oh, and we stole their guitar player; that too,” he cackled.
“But, yeah, I think they’re great,” the Metallica singer added before naming another band from the same Californian scene that his band spearheaded. “Testament, a lot of bands in the Bay Area, a lot of thrash stuff. I just think even before that, punk rock was kind of the beginning of it for me.”
After naming Testmanent, Hetfield bent the rules slightly to pick Motorhead, who many would argue against their thrash metal credentials. However, Lemmy’s motley crew were the most significant influence of his career, and he does caveat it by admitting they are “kind of thrashy but rock ‘n’ roll”.
Lastly, Hetfield added: “I loved G.B.H., or still do, and I love Discharge a lot. That’s kind of really cool thrash music to me.”
This list of bands provides a peek behind the curtain at the kind of thunderous metal that gets Hetfield’s blood flowing. In truth, his list of favourites isn’t astonishing or surprising, but they do confirm why the marauding frontman is ‘The King of Thrash’.
Watch the adorable interview below where Hetfield shows his more tender side.
Metallica’s James Hetfield favourite thrash metal bands: