Kirk Hammett Responds to Criticism Over His New Metallica Solos, Names Only Three Guitarists Who ’Convincingly Play Arpeggios’

In a recently published interview with Total Guitar, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett responded to some of the online criticisms that he received over lead parts in the band’s new songs. While waiting for the new album to drop, Metallica released four songs from the 12-track record, titled “72 Seasons.” And, so far, some of the fans weren’t exactly thrilled by Kirk’s output.

So much so that some YouTube guitarists have taken it upon themselves to rework the lead parts to their liking. Responding to the whole thing, Kirk simply asked “What’s the point?” and singled out sweep-picking arpeggios as something that sounds difficult to pull off but isn’t. Reflecting on the “Lux Æterna” solo and the criticism he received over it, Kirk told Total Guitar:

“Yeah, my fucking friends down the street could probably play a better solo than ‘Lux Æterna’ – but what’s the point. For me, what’s appropriate is playing for the song and playing in the moment.”

Going more into the criticism, Kirk said that he pretty much laughed it off. He explained:

“I was just laughing the whole time. 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.” 

Metallica: Lux Æterna (Official Music Video)

And going more into it, Kirk said that there are only three guitar players in existence who are properly using arpeggios on guitar for proper expressive purposes. He continued:

“The only guys out there who I think convincingly play arpeggios as a means of expression are Joe Satriani, Yngwie [Malmsteen], and Paul Gilbert.”

He also added:

“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.”

To Kirk, it all comes back down to the pentatonic scale because it’s the most appealing one. As he added:

“I know my modes, Hungarian scales, symmetrical scales, I know all that shit. Is it appropriate? Maybe earlier in our time, but not now,” he says. “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.”

And not only that — Kirk argued that implementing the pentatonic scale is much harder than all of the fancy-sounding stuff:

 “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 Hammett - The Unforgiven Solo (Live)

“I love from the heart playing, and I’ve heard real technical playing that’s from the heart. Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Yngwie – they all play from the heart, but for a lot of guys it’s just like sports or the Olympics.

“Music is to reflect beauty, creativity, feeling, life. There is a place and there’s an audience for all that stuff, but I feel there comes a time when people just get tired of that.

Hammett concluded by adding:

“Today, you know, people are doing really interesting stuff with technique. Technique is reaching new boundaries and I love that, but I have to stress it’s important to play for the song. If you do that, your music will have that much more integrity and lasting power.”

Kirk Hammett - High Plains Drifter (Official Video)

Although the songs are proving to be an overall success, a certain portion of fans wasn’t super-thrilled about them. When the single “If Darkness Had a Son” came out, some of the guitar lovers out there just couldn’t help but critique Kirk’s lead parts. Reacting to the new song, YouTuber Become the Knight came to the solo in the song and then said after pausing the video:

“Kill me. Please, fucking end me now. Just repeating a lazy boring lifeless double stop with too much wah and then literally shitting notes in a phrase contour that is so fucking boring.”

“This is the sound of giving up but still wanting to be paid. This is the sound of ‘quiet quitting’ at work where you show up and make money but you do absolutely as little work as possible.”

Icons: Kirk Hammett of Metallica

“I don’t care if this album is about the first 18 years of life and you’re trying to channel that with this solo — this ain’t fucking it, guys.”

He also said:

“If you’re trying to make a mood piece where you get your audience enveloped in a meditative or trance-like state, you gotta focus on timbres, transience, and dynamics, because that’s what sells things like this. This is so modern-metal-compressed that I don’t think it would accentuate that sound or style very well.”

Metallica Live@Rock Werchter Belgium 2022 (Full Concert) HD Quality

Another YouTube guitarist, Scott of the Shred channel, said of the song:

“Overall, the arrangement is a bit sluggish. They needed to make the intro shorter – they came back to it before the second verse, and that was way too much. [The song] could use a bit more dynamic range in terms of key changes.”

Photo: Carlos Rodríguez/Andes (Kirk Hammett 2016)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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