Following the release of Metallica’s latest record 72 Seasons, surprisingly, the criticism didn’t fall upon Lars Ulrich. Ulrich, Metallica’s longest tenured member and groups founder is usually the bulk of any new Metallica releases criticisms. Fans perceive his decline in technical prowess behind the kit as a lack of care. Though this time, fans have a new target in mind, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett.
Hammett is something of a tour de force on the first five Metallica records. His solos perfectly match the tempo and groove to the songs, sometimes even adding flare to them. On 72 Seasons however, Hammett seems to be on the decline. The Thrashing Foursomes last record, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct featured Hammett phoning it in, literally. The guitarist recorded nearly 115 ideas to his Iphone and had lost the very phone he had recorded on.
Listen here to the solo for “Lux Aeterna”, the latest single from their new LP. The solo comes in randomly around the minute and a half mark. Sure, it’s blistering old school thrash, but there is no structure to it. It adds nothing to the song and its tone used by Hammett, one designed to replicate their live sound, detracts from the experience. In part because it tonally sounds different from how the other three members of the band sound.
The rest of the record sounds the same, random, Wah Pedal effects driven guitar solos that only detract from the work of rhythm guitarist James Hetfield. This is not to knock Hammett’s ability as a guitar player. He still laid the foundation for many memorable riffs and solos.
Now as for what makes any one of these solos memorable here are a few things to consider:
Matching The Melody:
On the epic track “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, the melody is built up through Hetfield and Ulrichs playing, even Cliff Burtons bass adds to the rhythm created by the three. When the first guitar solo comes in from Hammett, it’s perfection. It follows the melody, adding to the buildup of the first chorus. Once the riffage comes in and Hetfield starts singing, it works because it followed the melody until it reached breaking point.
Even when Hammett solos again later, the man is keeping in line with the foundation laid before him, it still sounds like a natural progression of the song. Going back to “Lux Aeterna”, Hammett is just soloing to solo, it doesn’t match the melody, it doesn’t follow the groove, it’s just there.
Make It Memorable:
This one is tougher than it looks. For “Enter Sandman”, the song is one riff repeated for five minutes and thirty seconds. Repetition helps the track stick into your brain. Kirk Hammett created this riff when awake at 3 am. He plugged in his guitar and out came the riff that would give him the legendary status he deserved.
The solo, as built up by Hammett over the course of the song, is a release of energy for the ages. The solo itself is an extension of the main riff. Despite its different tone with Hammett using the Wah Pedal, it is still memorable because it punches through and is a louder, slightly more distorted version of the main riff.
The repetition of the main riff, and use of a solo featuring a version of that riff helps the song stand out and makes even the most beginner guitar players think that they could play it.
Give Your Voice A Chance To Shine:
Yes, everyone has watched Stranger Things so there will be no talk of “Master of Puppets”. As a lead guitar player, like Hammett, he is essentially the song’s musical voice. When the singer is done telling his story lyrically, it’s time for the guitar player to shine.
“Remember that song with the crazy guitar solo?” Is often said than anyone remembering any lyrics to a song. As previously mentioned, guitar solos are a chance to let the guitar player speak. There is a slow buildup of tension throughout the song, wondering what the guitar player has come to say.
This is because the guitar player knows he or she will never be on the same level of fame or success as the front man. So, when the time is right, they let loose. The song “Creeping Death” is a perfect example of that.
For a majority of the track’s runtime, you can barely distinguish Hetfield from Hammett as they both play the same rhythm parts. Though there is a reason why Kirk Hammett is nicknamed “The Ripper”. When it becomes his time to speak, he earns every second he’s got. The solo touches upon everything that was previously mentioned and that’s what makes this solo stand out. Solo begins at 2:35
In conclusion to this piece, Hammett is not being taken down a peg, he just has lost his way. What were once one of the best parts of Metallica’s songs, become indistinguishable, tonally off-putting bores. He is still an all-time great guitar player. However, when he claims in an interview that his neighbor can write a better solo than “Lux Aeterna”, it’s a telling sign of things to come.