Kirk Hammett

By: Erik Davis
November 18, 2009

Long before they became whiners — carping about Napster and exploring their inner kiddie tantrums in Some Kind of Monster — Metallica were America’s best metal band, or at least the best American metal band of the 1980s, when the Californians helped shape the aggressive, speedy, and vaguely political genre of thrash. Replacing the alcoholic Dave Mustaine early in the band’s history, lead guitarist KIRK HAMMETT (born 1962) proceeded to pull a classic high/low move by simultaneously defining core elements of a popular genre (complete the following equation: hardcore + NWOBHM x Joe Satriani) and busting them. This is especially true on the masterful Master of Puppets (1986), whose epic song structures and moody acoustic filigrees expand thrash snark into prog significance. At the same time, and unlike his rather repellant mate James Hetfield, Hammett — a Filipino-Irish mix from the deeply miscegenated Bay Area — manages to pull off guitar god without domineering white guy bravura. Instead, he projects the air of a thoughtful and even sweet cyborg shredder, a man capable of describing the wah-wah pedal as “an extension of my personality.”


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