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Tech Session

Metallica

Issue #54

Their third album “Master of Puppets” was a turning point for the band, with a shift in their writing style, with more complex progressive arrangements. This album is seen as a seminal metal album and was the first platinum album in the thrash metal genre, Sadly the success of “Master of Puppets” was overshadowed by the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed when the bands tour crashed and rolled over in Sweden; Burton was thrown from the bus and was killed instantly.
Jamie Humphries

Metallica  Tech Session

If ever there was a band that defined a genre it is Metallica; the act responsible for bringing “thrash to the masses.” Jamie Humphries delves deep into the guitar styles James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett in this issue's Tech Session.

When it comes to learning guitar, there are certain riffs that are a must, forming the foundation for the buddy metal guitarists repertoire.  Metallica is responsible for writing and recording some of the most classic metal riffs of the past 30 years. What metal guitarist doesn’t know how to play the riffs from “One”, “Master of Puppets” or “Enter Sandman”. The guitar duo of Hetfield and Hammett have inspired countless guitarists as well as composing so many classic metal songs that have pushed the metal genre from the underground to the mainstream. With several Grammy’s under their belt, as well as being inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, Metallica shows little sign of slowing down, with the release of their massive selling tenth studio album “Hardwired… to Self Destruct”, which sees the band embracing their early aggressive sound.

Metallica came from very humble beginnings, when drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield met via an advert in “The Recycler”. They soon recruited friend Ron McGovney on bass, and Dave Mustaine on guitar. Following the recording of their first demo “No Life ‘Til Leather”, Lars made use of the tape-trading scene, which saw Metallica’s demo explode. Eventually, they relocated to San Francisco Bay area, replacing McGovney with the late Cliff Burton. Before too long, Mustaine was replaced by Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett and the band embarked on Metal world domination. With their first two albums “Kill ’ Em All” and “Ride The Lighting” exceeding all expectations, and during a time when hard rock was dominated by big hair, spandex and makeup, Metallica took the metal music scene by storm with their no-frills attitude, and their aggressive musical style. It wasn’t too long before the band caught the attention of a major label; they were originally signed to an independent label. 

Their third album “Master of Puppets” was a turning point for the band, with a shift in their writing style, with more complex progressive arrangements. This album is seen as a seminal metal album and was the first platinum album in the thrash metal genre, Sadly the success of “Master of Puppets” was overshadowed by the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed when the bands tour crashed and rolled over in Sweden; Burton was thrown from the bus and was killed instantly.


After a lengthy audition process, the band settled on Jason Newsted as their new bassist and went on to record and release “…And Justice For All”. This album became their biggest selling album at that time, with the single ”One” earning them a Grammy. But Metallica’s finest hour came with the 1991 release “Metallica”, often referred to a “The Black Album”. This album saw a slight shift in style, with stripped-down arrangements and more mainstream radio-friendly sound. This album included many of the band's most popular tracks including “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, “Sad But True”, “Where Ever I May Roam”, and the Pink Floyd-esque “Nothing Else Matters”. This album sold over 16 million copies to date as well as earning them another Grammy award.

The band released several more albums including “Load”, and “Reload”, but changes in direction displeased hard-core fans, who accused the band of “selling out”. Newsted left the band in 2001, and this saw Metallica reach a crossroads; Hetfield entered rehab to confront his demons, as well as the band hiring a performance enhancement coach. This was documented in the film “Some Kind of Monster”, a behind the scenes documentary that saw the band overcoming their group and personal issues.

2003 saw a new chapter for Metallica when they found a permanent replacement for Newsted with ex-Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne bassist Robert Trujillo joining the band. They went on to release “St Anger” (this album did not include Trujillo), and “Death Magnet”, the first to feature the new line up.

2016 saw Metallica revisit their thrash roots with their latest album “Hardwired…to Self –Destruct”. This album harked back to the “Master of Puppets” days with a very tight and aggressive sound and was their sixth studio album to debut at number #1.

Metallica is without a shadow of a doubt a genre-defining band, and have carved a sound that as influenced and inspired countless artists, not to mention bringing thrash metal to a mainstream radio audience. The twin guitar work of Hetfield and Hammett is legendary; from their tight aggressive pounding rhythm style, dual harmony lead lines, Hetfield’s melancholic haunting clean chord arpeggios, and Hammett’s aggressive wah fuel lead lines, these guys pretty much wrote the book on heavy metal guitar after Tony Iommi!

Several classic Metallica songs spanning their very long and illustrious career inspired this month’s track. Songs that I used for inspiration include “Master of Puppets”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, “Nothing Else Matters”, “Enter Sandman”, “Sad But True”, “My Friend Misery” and “Moth into Flame”. This is a collective study, so in other words the rhythm and harmony part is based on James and Kirk combined, while the solo is all Kirk!

Bars 1-13 present us with our intro section, which kicks off with the build on the E5 power chord. The next section includes a harmony arpeggio figure that is based around E minor, D major and C major, with the arpeggios switching between the major and minor and diatonic sus4 or sus#4 arpeggios, depending on what chord is being played underneath. The sus#4 arpeggio is performed over the C5 chord, which is chord IV of the parent key of G major. A 4th above C when using the notes of G major is the note of F# which is a raised 4th. The intro concludes with a B/D# implying E Harmonic minor, although we conclude with the chords of G5 and F5; the F5 a semi tone away from our “key chord” of E minor, which is a typical metal interval.

Bars 14-17 introduces a variation on the main riff, which is based around a drive open 6th string accented with two note inverted power chords. The tempo of the track is 175 bpm, which is very fast, so make sure you build up your speed gradually. You also want to make sure your picking hand is precise and accurate. Pay attention to the occasional sixteenth note rhythmic variations on the 6th string. This riff is concluded with the chord of F5.

Bars 18-25 illustrates the first part of our verse riff, and kicks off with the same progression seen in the previous section, following the intro. Bar 21 includes a new riff based around the E Blues scale, and is reminiscent of the type of line heard in “Enter Sandman”, although played much faster! Bar 22 introduces the original riff but the end of this four-bar cycle has another riff with the inverted power chords of Bb5/F, A5/E, F5/C and Eb5/Bb, performing on the drum accents.

Bars 26-33 include another eight-bar cycle of the verse progression which is the same as the previous section, although we have a final bar that concludes the verse. This bar features the sliding power chords of A5 and Bb5, but here we have a different time signature of ¾. This bar is reminiscent to a figure heard in “Master of Puppets”.

Bars 34-50 sees our verse section repeat in its entirety; make sure your picking hand stays very relaxed as you’ll need a lot of stamina to keep those constant eighth note down strokes. As well as the occasional galloping sixteenth note flurry. Bar 50 is an additional riff that follows our drum fill leading to the chorus, and is made up of two beats of muted sixteenth notes followed by the E5 power chord performed as eighth notes on beats 3 and 4.

Bars 51-58 illustrate our chorus section with a shift to a half-time feel, although the tempo is constant. We also modulate to a new key, D major, although our tonal centre is around the III chord of F#5 resulting in the Phrygian mode. The riff is based around the F#5 power chord with a single note figure that uses notes from both F# Phrygian and the F# blues scale. Bar 54 includes a descending F# Phrygian line which is performed in a 4th harmony to the second guitar. At bar 57 we introduce the Ev5 chord with the verse cycle concluding with the chords of E minor and B/D#, implying E Harmonic minor.

Bars 59-69 sees our chorus section repeat, with bar 67 concluding with the same figure we saw at the end of our verse. At bar 69 we leave the open 6th string sustaining for two bars, as a link to the middle 8 solo sections. During these two bars, a slightly slower tempo of 170 bpm is introduced, with a hi-hat count on beat 4 preceding the solo section.

Bars 70-75 illustrates our first solo section, and is performed over clean chorus soaked chords reminiscent of both “Nothing Else Matters’ and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. This section includes a twin guitar harmony section based on ideas heard in “My Friend Misery”, performed over the chords of Emadd9, C major, B7, Aadd1, Bmadd9 and G5. The main guitar part shown features a melodic line based around E Aeolian followed by the arpeggios of E minor, D major, C major (#4), B7, with the B7 chord embellished with the A diminished 7th arpeggio climbing in minor 3rd intervals.

Bars 76-77 conclude the eight-bar figure with a sliding 5th interval figure that outlines the accompanying chords.

Bars 78-87 repeats the arpeggio section but is concluded with the E notes over the final E minor chords. This note is held for two bars, reintroducing the tempo of 175 bpm and returning to the original feel of the first verse; in other words very fast!

Bars 88-89 include another riff that precedes our verse and includes fast sixteenth-note picking on the open 6th string accented with the chords of E minor and B/D#, once again following a drum fill, so keep it tight!

Bars 90-93 and its solo time, with the focus on Kirk’s lead style. We kick off with some wah fuelled double stops based around E Dorian and E minor pentatonic, concluding with a signature Santana inspired unison bend.

Bars 94-95 include a two-string arpeggio based around Amadd9 and C major 7th. This figure is performed with alternate picking, but you could also include a pull off on the 1st string to make things a little easier.

Bars 96-97 is classic Kirk, with a rapid-fire E minor pentatonic repetition figure performed on the 2nd and 3rd strings. This lick concludes with a whole tone bend.

Bars 98-97 included a descending E Aeolian pattern performed with alternate picking with a slightly more sedate eighth note rhythm.

Bars 100-101 include a single string fast ascending alternate picking figure that uses a sixteenth note rhythm. This line is based around the E Harmonic minor scale for a stylistic edge to the solo.

Bars 102-103 features a climbing legato figure on the top two strings based around the E minor pentatonic scale and an E minor triad arpeggio. This lick is fast and includes some position shifts and left hand stretches so take your time building this lick up to speed.

Bars 104-105 is the final bar of our solo, and is a pretty tricky bar to get your fingers around. This bar includes a pretty basic pull off figure, two fretted notes with the open 1st string, similar to a lick heard in “Enter Sandman”, but this lick uses a cross rhythm. The rhythm is based on a quarter note triplet idea, but each of the quarter not triplets is divided into an eighth note triplet, giving the effect over playing “across” the beat. This figure concludes with a high string bend up at the 22nd fret of the 1st string.

Bars 106-108 includes our tight drum fill unison figure that concludes our track.

The Metallica tone has set the overall tone for metal for the past 30 years, and comprises of a thick distorted tone and shimmering chorus soaked cleans. Both James and Kirk are long time endorsers of ESP guitars, loaded with EMG pickups. James favours Mesa Boogie amps, typically the legendary Mark II C+, although he also uses Deizel and Marshall. He has also been bending in a Fractal that goes directly to the front of house. For cleans, he uses Roland JC120’s. Kirk favours his own signature model Randall as well as his own brand of pedals. He also uses Fractal effects. For this session,

I used my Music Man tribute Axis running into my Boogie JP2-C, in the classic Mark II C+ mode. I have some mid’s scooped, but not fully, as you want there to be something in the middle of the mix. I ran this into a Two Notes Torpedo studio using an IR of a classic Mesa Recto 4x12 cab with a Royer Ribbon mic and a dynamic 57 for some upper frequencies. For cleans on the backing track, I used the clean channel of a Mesa TC50 with an IR of a JC 120 cab. I added a vintage boss chorus plugin from my UAD 2 satellite. I also added some guitar harmonies using an ebow during the harmony lead section.

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