Kirk Hammett Says This Is His Favorite Metallica Album, Reflects on How Cliff Burton Impacted the Band’s Music

With a band like Metallica, it may not be the easiest task to pick a favorite record. However, for Kirk Hammett, the answer to this question seems to be pretty. Kirk’s favorite Metallica album is “Master of Puppets.” Recently talking to Rock Candy magazine, Hammett looked back on this album and said:

“We weren’t trying to make an album that 35 or so years on people would put on and think still sounded great. We didn’t set out to do anything, really. We were just trying to make the best album we possibly could and that’s what came out.”

“From a technical viewpoint, when I listen to the album I’m really surprised at how good it sounds so long after the fact. The recording of the album, the recording of the songs, the production… It all holds up still.”

Of course, this marked the last studio album before the tragic bus accident that took the life of Cliff Burton. Reflecting on his contributions to the band’s material on this record, Hammett said:

“Cliff’s contribution to ‘Master of Puppets’ was very melodic and very musical. His contribution wasn’t so much the big heavy riffs. It was all melody bass, and it was a lot of really, really cool stuff. When Cliff went it was the end of an era, and we all knew it. We knew it.”

Discussing this landmark album further, Kirk said:

“A lot of the music from that time now sounds samey and similar. But there’s really nothing on ‘Master of Puppets’ that dates it to any particular period — sound-wise, production-wise, recording-wise. ‘Master of Puppets’ is my favourite of all the albums we’ve ever done.”

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Released in 1986, what makes “Master of Puppets” so special is that it’s the first metal album to be selected by the Library of Congress for National Recording Registry for its cultural significance. Although not the most commercially successful album by Metallica, it was a huge breakthrough for the band. And even Dave Mustaine, who was fired from the band only a few years before its release, praised “Master of Puppets.”

But funnily enough, Kirk Hammett recently admitted that he’s kind of bored of playing the title track’s lead section. After all, it’s been almost four decades of concerts since its release and “Master of Puppets” is the absolute champion when it comes to the times the song was played live. From all of Metallica’s songs, the band played this one over 1700 since its live premiere in late 1985.

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Reflecting on the solo, Kirk said:

“What I’m going to say people are probably gonna hate, but it drives me nuts having to play that fucking guitar solo in ‘Master of Puppets’ every time.”

“People love that guitar solo and they come to see that. That’s fine. For that part of our career, all those solos are locked in.”

“I don’t view them as solos anymore; they’re parts. I’m freaking bored of it, but it’s exciting for people to hear.”

Metallica: Master of Puppets (Manchester, England - June 18, 2019)

But taking a moment to think about the song, Kirk clarified what he really thought:

“You know, I’m not bored of the solo; I just get bored of playing the same thing all the time.”

Well, as we already mentioned, playing the same song for almost four decades over and over again on almost every live show, it could get boring. The problem, however, is in the fact that he’s expected to play it note-for-note.

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As he further explained, a song like “Fade to Black” gives him more room for improvisation, making it one of his favorites to perform. Kirk continued:

“I’m inviting all sorts of criticism and opinions but I don’t fucking care. It’s like the solo on ‘Fade to Black.‘ I play the first eight bars and then I go on a tangent for like 20, 24 bars and then come back in the last four bars and play parts that everyone knows. That’s one of my most favourite parts of playing that song live because I don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna play.”

The band is currently gearing up to release their brand-new album “72 Seasons.” So far, we’ve gotten four songs from this new record, the latest one being the title track. Elsewhere in this interview, Kirk explained how he approached writing solos. Well, not exactly writing but just jumping in and improvising and sticking with what works well. He said:

“With this album I went in intentionally to improvise 20, 30 solos, give them all to Lars and Greg [Fidelman, producer], and go, ‘You guys edit them!’”

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“I know I’m gonna play something completely different live. That’s my thing these days and if people don’t like it, that’s just tough. But I can offer something a lot different than what people hear on the album, and I can offer something different every time you see Metallica.“

“When you buy a ticket to a Metallica show you’re gonna hear different versions of the songs. You’re not gonna hear carbon copy versions of the album.” 

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Nonetheless, this approach comes with its risks. He continued:

“Usually, I surprise myself; sometimes I die a fucking death. It’s horrible to die on stage in front of 50,000 people, but it only lasts an instant and then it’s gone. Then I can go on to other pastures and make up for what I didn’t do.”

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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