The mistake that haunts Metallica’s Kirk Hammett

When it comes to the genre of metal, Metallica is just about as classic as it gets. Whether or not you’re a devoted fan, their music is sure to linger in the cultural consciousness. Not only do they have a legendary historic presence in the industry, but they are still active to this day, continuing to produce studio albums and perform live.

One of Metallica’s primary members and contributing songwriters since the early days is none other than Kirk Hammett. He joined the band in 1983 and has been with them ever since, collecting a mountain of accolades and etching his name into the annals of history in the process.

However, even the greats make mistakes, and Kirk Hammett is no exception. The awareness of little errors during studio recordings is nothing new, but as technology developed past single-take requirements, they’ve phased their way out. You’ll find mistakes in recent recordings much more rarely than in classic tracks.

Thanks to digital studio technology, it’s simple enough to smudge out any mistakes and create clean, near-perfect sounding recordings — and it can be easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way. As Brian Eno has said, “The temptation of the technology is to smooth everything out.”

This can be a part of why finding little mistakes and quirks in classic recordings can feel a bit like an Easter egg. And, as luck would have it, Kirk Hammett has one of his own that might just surprise you.

In a 2002 interview with Guitar World shortly after his induction into the magazine’s hall of fame, Hammett revealed a little bit about a little-known moment in Metallica’s discography that always makes him cringe.

You’ve likely heard the song ‘Seek and Destroy’ from 1983’s Kill ‘Em All at least once in your life. This track – recorded the very year Hammett joined the band – features a hall-of-fame level guitar solo. However, when asked about the solo, Hammett has this to say: “There were no frills, no contemplation, no overintellectualising. On a couple of notes in that solo, I bend the notes out of pitch; for 18 years, every time I’ve heard that guitar solo, those sour notes come back to haunt me”.

Of course, nobody can be completely satisfied with everything they produce, especially at the beginning of their career, so nobody can fault this hall-of-famer for feeling a little haunted by those few early slips. It’s safe to say that if this same track was recorded today, those notes might have been corrected or dubbed over. It is an interesting thing to look back on, even if it does make the prolific guitarist cringe just a little.

This song might not be among the most popular of Metallica’s tracks, but it certainly is a great throwback to throw on, especially if you want to take a look at just how much Kirk Hammett has grown — and how Metallica’s studio approach has changed throughout the years.

If you want to take a listen and hear it for yourself, check out this classic track.

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