- Category: Guitar Tone & Sound
Metallica is a heavy metal and thrash band first formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, CA, by lead singer James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Metallica’s lineup has changed several times over the years, as well as their musical style. Their current lineup includes rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist James Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, bassist Robert Trujillo, and drummer Lars Ulrich. Their original sound was more in a thrash metal genre, such as 1983’s Master of Puppets. While Metallica still plays heavy metal, their sound has softened a bit over the years, evident in newer albums such as St. Anger and Death Magnetic. Metallica has won nine Grammy awards in their career, and in 2009 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield is regarded as one of the best heavy metal guitarists of all time. Throughout his career, he has played and endorsed ESP guitars, as well as the Gibson Flying V. He typically plays custom-made Explorer guitars with EMG 81/EMG 60 pickups. Hetfield does use a range of effects, but in live performances, they are controlled by a stage tech through a pedalboard. Some of the effects he uses are the TC Electronic G-Major, Mesa Boogie Custom Graphic EQ, Boss NS-2 noise suppressor, and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. At the beginning of his career, Hetfield mainly used Marshall heads and cabinets, but in present day, he uses Mesa Boogie preamps and heads, and Roland JC-120 combo amplifiers. Hetfield’s vocals can sometimes be categorized as a tenor, but he is typically regarded as a high baritone. To sing like James, you will need a broad range, and be able to project, scream, and sing loudly. He also can sing quite softly on songs like The Unforgiven.
Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett is on the list of the top 100 Metal Guitarists of All Time. His playing style is heavy and thrash. Throughout his career, he has used almost exclusively ESP guitars, with an occasional 1968 Gibson Les Paul Custom, used on ballads such as Fade to Black. Hammett uses a number of effects, including a TC Electronic G-Major 2 effects processor, Ibanez Tube Screamer, DigiTech Whammy WH-1, an MXR Eddie Van Halen flanger, and ToneBone Hot British Tube Distortion. As with James Hetfield, a stage tech controls Hammett’s effects during live performances. At the beginning of his career with Metallica, he used Marshall amplifiers and cabinets, but he now uses Mesa Boogie dual rectifiers, Randall heads and Randall cabinets. To play like Kirk, you’ll need to be able to play thrash and competent, thorough leads. A good knowledge of thrash and heavy metal music is also a plus.
Bassist Robert Trujillo most often plays Fernandes Gravity 5-string basses with EMG pickups. Occasionally in concert he plays a Fender Jazz Bass and a Yamaha TRB5-P2 5-string bass. For effects, Trujillo uses an Electro Harmonix Q-Tron, a Tech 21 Sans Amp Bass Driver DI, and a Boss OC-2 octave pedal, which are all driven by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power. For amplification, he uses only Ampeg amplifiers and cabinets. Metallica’s bass riffs are intermediate to difficult, and a powerful bassist will be needed to sound like Robert.
Drummer Lars Ulrich plays exclusively Tama drums, Zildjian cymbals, and Remo drumheads. Ulrich’s playing style has changed throughout the years. At the beginning of Metallica, such as on “Master of Puppets,” he had a very thrash-beat style, but that changed on Metallica’s 1991 release, dubbed The Black Album. His playing is now a bit more relaxed, but still heavy metal all the way. He usually tries to play in sync with rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, and uses a lot of drum fills and fast double bass beats. Ulrich is an extremely talented drummer, and to replicate his sound, you’ll need to be a near-expert on the instrument.
To sound like Metallica, you’ll need four very experienced and talented musicians. Powerful vocals are needed, with heavy thrash drum beats and an expert guitarist.
Metallica by Saad Faruque taken on October 30, 2011
James Hetfield by Marc Ben Fatma taken on June 8, 2008
ESP guitar by Mega Udonitron taken on June 6, 2011
Tama drum by screen-box.de taken on August 9, 2009