James Hetfield And Kirk Hammett Look Back On Metallica's "Ride The Lightning"

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This weekend, Metallica will perform 1984's Ride the Lightning and 1991's Metallica during their Orion Music + More Festival in Atlantic City. In the spirit of reviving those albums, frontman James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett agreed to look back on a few tracks from both. Here's some dirt on several of the tunes from Ride the Lightning.


Metallica, "For Whom The Bell Tolls" (live in 1985)

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" isn't a very complex song, structurally, compared to most of what you were doing at the time, and it's become one of your best-known.

James Hetfield: I remember writing that song, and I was the only one that knew what the vocal pattern was going to be, everyone else just heard a bunch of open chords, and that was the song. They were thinking, "Are you sure?" and I was like, "Just wait." I sang the words, and that really brought it all together. I think simplistic works, and obviously it worked. I'd say at least half the black album is pretty simplistic. There's less complexity than ...And Justice For All or Puppets. A song like that was probably the single that never was, a single before we were allowed to have a single. I think the song is amazing. It works great, and Cliff [Burton]'s bass playing is highlighted on it.

"Fade to Black" was a big change for the band, there's a lot of melody in that song.

Kirk Hammett: "Fade to Black" was a song we had a good four to five months before recording. We had a lot of time to settle into it and get into the groove of it and get the arrangements down. That was a song that people accused us of selling out—that was the song we heard our first cries of sellout, which is pretty funny. It was the beginning of a long chorus of people screaming "sellouts." Every time we've put out an album, there's a contingency of people who aren't satisfied. What can you do? You can't drive yourself crazy to please a small pocket of people. You have to do what you do, what goes best, what feels like the right thing to do. We follow our gut instincts, and sometimes that instinct lands us in pretty weird spots. For us, it's all part of the journey.


Metallica, "Creeping Death" (live in 1992)

"Creeping Death" might be the song that involves the most crowd participation in your live shows, how did that evolve?

James Hetfield: There's a couple songs we've stretched out and gotten a bit more crowd involvement going on, and there's nothing cooler, no better moment, than you getting 20,000 to 40,000 people singing along or doing backups for your song, it's the ultimate. You feel a part of something, you feel like you're doing the right thing. "All right, I'm on this planet for a good reason here." Everyone's getting to yell and get some aggression going out, and it gets a family feel going.

Even if they're chanting "die" over and over?

James Hetfield: It doesn't matter the word, it's that they're doing it together. In Germany, it means "the." "The, the, the!"


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