June 29, 2017
Metallica - Kirk Hammett Spills The Beans On New Album

Matallica fans have been foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the band's new album, something they haven't experienced since the 2008 release of the critical and popular hit LP Death Magnetic. Recently, Metallica's drummer, Lars Ulrich, gave a vague indication that the band was actually in the process of recording the new album. More recently, Robert Trujillo, Metallica's bass player, gave a more detailed explanation of what the four metal gods were up to, saying that the new Metallica album would be "heavy, but unique." Now, while discussing the reiteration of his successful bay-area Fear FestEvil with Billboard, Kirk Hammett has given fans the most concrete information yet concerning where the band is regarding the band's new album.

"I don't think we hit the middle point yet. I would say we're at the 25 percent point, maybe 30 percent point. It's hard to say, but I mean we are working on it and there are songs and we're making plans to write more songs and record."
How many songs has Metallica written for the new album?
"We have a lot of good songs. The songs are ever-changing at this point. Nothing is etched in stone. We still have a lot of material to sift through, still. We have well over a dozen songs and we still have well over two or three hundred riffs, too..."
The writing process for the majority of Metallica's albums have followed the same process. A large slew of guitar riffs written primarily by James Hetfield, sometimes Kirk Hammett, and rarely the band's bass player, (that now being bass virtuoso Robert Trujillo) are reviewed and selected. Hetfield and Ulrich then mix and match the various riffs, with Ulrich usually taking the lead on providing structure and song design. Lyrics and melodies are then added almost exclusively by Hetfield, guitar solos are written and recorded by Hammett and "first pass" demos are then created. In the past, Metallica has usually put together around two-dozen of these demos before an album's worth of tunes are finalized and released.

From Hammett's comments to Billboard, it sounds like Metallica is about halfway through compiling a few dozen "first pass" demos. When another dozen or so are compiled, the band will start whittling away at them to find their final tracks for the new record.

Hammett himself composed the primary riff for Metallica's perhaps most iconic - and probably most popular - song, Enter Sandman.

There's no word yet on who will produce the new album. Uber-producer Rick Rubin was brought on to produce the band's last album after the dismissal of Bob Rock, the band's longtime producer that put together Metallica's breakthrough self-titled 1991 LP, sometimes referred to as The Black Album. Metallica has been criticized for the production value on at least three of their LPs. On ...And Justice For All, critics complained that the bass guitar was all but inaudible. That was partly because Hetfield's rhythm guitar was layered several levels deep to attempt a heavier, deeper guitar sound. It may also have been a backlash at the band's then-new bass player, Jason Newsted, who joined the band after Cliff Burton's death in a tragic tour bus accident in 1986. On St. Anger, the band's 2003 release, critics and fans alike decried the strange snare drum sound that was often described as sounding like Ulrich was hitting a tin can. Even on Metallica's most recent release, Death Magnetic, which was viewed by many as a return to form for the band, critics said the production on the record was too loud, often distorting the music. A sentiment that the album's recording engineer, Ted Jensen, said was the fault of the band not listening to his recommendations.

Whatever the criticisms concerning production and length of time between albums, Metallica remains one of the largest musical draws in the world. Since 1991, Metallica has released 6 LPs and each one has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Over the span of their 33-year career, the band has sold well over 100 million records.

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]