Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett discussed how most music listeners these days just won’t care about guitar solos simply because they’re not guitar players. Speaking to Total Guitar in a recent interview, Metallica legend offered what the source claims is a “hot take.”
“I hate to say it for all your readers out there,” Hammett said, “but non-musicians, who are the majority of the f***ing listening world, they are not going to remember guitar solos.”
Instead of focusing on elaborate lead parts, Kirk says that what will stay with your average music listener is the melody and, overall, a great song. As he continued:
“They are gonna helluva remember a great melody, and they’re really gonna remember a great song – especially a song that’s gonna bring them to a different place from where they were five minutes previously.”
Speaking of the importance of songs over flashy lead guitar parts, Hammett claims: “I figured it out when I was 15 years old.”
To prove his point, Hammett recalled jamming and messing around with John Marshall — Metal Church guitarist and a temporary replacement for James Hetfield, after the Metallica frontman suffered that infamous pyro accident live back in the early 1990s. As he added:
“John Marshall and myself had literally been playing guitar for six months when I said to him, ‘We need to start writing tunes. Look at KISS, they write all their own songs… And Aerosmith, Van Halen.'”
“So John and I started writing music. And it was a lot of crap, but it was something!”
Sure, it may not have been the best stuff, as Kirk admitted, but he did prove a point — it’s always good to at least try and create original stuff.
However, Hammett got some flak for his lead parts on Metallica’s latest album, “72 Seasons.” Kirk himself was very open about improvising all or most of these lead guitar parts, even adding that he planned on improvising at every live performance. Some of the most noticeable critiques included accusations of “lazy playing.” However, Kirk would have none of that.
“Yeah, my f***ing friends down the street could probably play a better solo than ‘Lux Æterna’ – but what’s the point,” Kirk said in an interview from earlier this year. “For me, what’s appropriate is playing for the song and playing in the moment.”
“Lux Æterna” was the first single to come out from Metallica’s eleventh studio record “72 Seasons.” Its release cam in late 2022 while the full album was finally out on April 14.
“I was just laughing the whole time,” Kirk said of the album’s recording sessions. “I could string together like six or seven three-octave arpeggios in 16th notes, sit there every day and practice it and go, ‘Hey, look what I can do!’ but where am I gonna put it? That won’t work in any Metallica song!”
“Arpeggios? Come on! In a guitar solo, mapped out like a lot of people do, four or five chords with a different arpeggio over each one? It sounds like an exercise. I don’t want to listen to exercises and warm-ups every time I hear a song.”
“The only guys out there who I think convincingly play arpeggios as a means of expression are Joe Satriani, Yngwie [Malmsteen], and Paul Gilbert.”
“Sweeping to me is a weird thing to begin with because sweeping’s incredibly easy but it sounds incredibly hard. That’s cool once or twice, but I mean, why do it? When it first came out in the late ’70s, by the early ’80s everyone was doing it. By not doing it, you stood out.”
“I know my modes, Hungarian scales, symmetrical scales, I know all that sh*t. Is it appropriate? Maybe earlier in our time, but not now. What’s more appropriate is coming up with melodies that are more like vocal melodies. And guess what? The best scale for mimicking vocal melodies is the pentatonic.”
“It’s actually harder to say stuff with pentatonics because you don’t have that many notes. It’s easier to play modal. I will challenge anyone on that.”
Kirk’s words came not long after one of the prominent guitar YouTubers shared an alternate version to the “Lux Æterna” solo. Named Bradley Hall, he got a lot of attention around that time and, after reading Kirk’s words, he felt like he needed to share his take on the whole thing back in April this year.
“People are not mocking him and his solos because they’re not hard to play. People are mocking him because the solos sound lazy and completely throwaway.”
“This is the most common deflection that people use when they’re criticizing their playing. It’s not about who can play the most complicated solo, he’s missing the point, the point of the criticism.”
“I think most people understood what I was trying to do with this video. But some missed the point, of course, including Kirk, I guess. It was not to try and one-up him… That’s cringe. Like, who cares?”
“The idea of the video was just to try and show what could have been done if you just paid a bit more attention to what’s going on in the backing. You know, like follow the riff and the rhythms and chords and all that stuff. You know, things that you should do when a good memorable solo.”
“Kirk’s original solo — I can kind of see what he was going for. He just wanted sort of a raw off-the-wall unhinged kind of sound. But that’s not that sort of song. That solo would sound more in place in like a really thrashy sort of Slayer song.”
“This is actually insulting to read coming from someone of Kirk’s caliber. If you can’t implement arpeggios into a solo and make it not sound like an exercise, then that’s just a you problem. That just means that you’re not good enough at guitar.”