Kirk Hammett Explains Why He ‘Purposely’ Didn’t Plan His Solos on New Metallica Album: ‘To This Day I’m Wondering if I Pulled It Off or Not’

“It was a huge risk-taking, a huge experiment”, Metallica’s lead guitarist admitted.

Kirk Hammett Explains Why He 'Purposely' Didn't Plan His Solos on New Metallica Album: 'To This Day I'm Wondering if I Pulled It Off or Not'

 

Kirk Hammett explained the decision to fully rely on intuition for his solos on Metallica’s latest album, arguing that he wanted the solos to be a pure reaction to his bandmates’ playing.

On the whole, the sound of “72 Seasons” can only be described as pure, unadulterated Metallica, but there are many subtle homages and sonic allusions beneath the surface. Right off the bat, the album’s lead single “Lux Aeterna” reminded many of Motörhead (with Rob Trujillo later confirming Lemmy’s influence), while Kirk Hammett revealed to Guitar World that “Shadows Follow” do, in fact, feature a call back to the iconic Adam West Batman theme.

Following in Angus Young’s footsteps & letting intuition guide the way

In Kirk’s case, however, Angus Young was the main inspiration for going down the more meat-and-potatoes route in terms of lead guitar, but also in terms of not getting bogged down in meticulous planning and just playing some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll:

“I love Angus’ groove, and over the last couple of years or so I have found a bigger appreciation of his playing because Angus always plays for the song. Some of his solos are crazy and wacky and out there but they always, always are in that context of the song, and it never sounded like Angus worked anything out.”

The solos on “72 Seasons” followed the same philosophy. Instead of deliberately arranging every one (and then sticking to that version during live shows), Kirk would let the song guide him to an intuitive solution; he recorded dozens of solos in such a way, GW notes, and then turned them over to producer Greg Fidelman and Lars Ulrich. The guitarist explained:

“It was a huge risk-taking, a huge experiment, and to this day I’m wondering if I pulled it off or not. But I had to do it this way because it was how I felt inside. I wanted spontaneity. I didn’t want picture-perfect solos because some of my favorite players’ solos were kind of rag-tag and I love that.”

“My solos are a reaction – absolutely 100 per cent – to what’s happening in the song because it was my only point of reference. I purposely didn’t work out anything so that all I had to fall back on was what everyone else can fall back on, which is pure feeling, and that in itself is a challenge.”

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To improv or not to improv

Kirk’s improv-based approach to solos didn’t go uncriticized, and one such remark recently came from Angel Vivaldi. Reacting to a previously published snippet of the GW interview in which the Metallica guitarist downplayed the importance of solos in the eyes (or, rather, ears) of the non-musician audience, the virtuoso said:

“Regarding the non-musician argument. Good and inspiring solos are what MAKE musicians. Kirk himself held a torch of responsibility when it came to flipping non-musicians into guitar shredders, myself included. He himself is a reason why guitar solos are dying!

“He arguably has the largest platform to inspire even more guitarists, but because he ‘opted for a raw, improvisational approach’ (which he does not have the skill set to execute, IMHO) on ’72 Seasons’ and lord knows how many before that, his torch now burns very dimly if at all.

“There was a time during the ‘Some Kind of Monster’-era where he fought for how important solos were. It’s possible that because none of his solos landed the way they did in the past it helped to further extinguish his opinion on how important they are. I can only speculate.”

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