JAMES HET­FIELD & KIRK HAM­METT

Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Me­tal­lica were a band that ex­isted as a con­cept be­fore they re­ally ex­isted as a band – drum­mer Lars Ul­rich was an­gling to get his new band on the Metal Mas­sacre com­pi­la­tion in 1981 when he’d barely met Het­field – and at first, their gui­tar at­tack was Het­field and lead gui­tarist Dave Mus­taine. How­ever, per­son­al­ity con­flicts and Mus­taine’s chem­i­cal in­take led to the first of what would be sev­eral abrupt lineup changes in the band, with Kirk Ham­mett re­plac­ing Mus­taine the same af­ter­noon that he was sacked.

It proved to be a wise choice: Mus­taine went on to form Me­gadeth, and the riff-heavy Het­field and tech­ni­cally as­ton­ish­ing Ham­mett swiftly de­vel­oped a level of mu­si­cal telepa­thy that made them metal’s an­swer to the Rolling Stones. That ground­ing also meant they had the ver­sa­til­ity to weather the ‘90s and ‘00s, when other metal acts found them­selves wildly out of step with the mu­si­cal fash­ion of the times.

As other bands looked and sounded like hair metal throw­backs, the gui­tarists care­fully worked out how to strip back their ex­cesses with­out sidelin­ing the heav­i­ness, and were re­warded with the big­gest suc­cesses of their ca­reer. While most gui­tarist teams find what works and stick with it, Me­tal­lica proved you can change things up and not lose your iden­tity.

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