The Gear and the Glory: Metallica

From Left: Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield & Robert Trujillo

As any normal music fan, we sometimes aren’t satisfied with simply the songs when it comes to our favorite bands. Some of us want to know their back story, some of us want to know who they’re dating, and some of us even want to know their favorite food! While some fans are simply casual and other are downright fanatical, musicians are a different breed of fans, more like brothers in arms actually. Rather than wanting to know things that have little to do with music and more to do with the trivial personal matters in the artist’s life, musicians want the gear info! And why not? It’s a chance to look at the tools in their repertoire, compare it with themselves, or even just gain a deeper sense of what makes the band work. This week, in honor of their Black Album turning the ripe old age of 21, we will delving into the rise of metal’s most revered band of the last 30 years as well as the gear that got them there. Known for pretty much creating the genre known as thrash metal, Metallica has become one of the biggest bands in the world, let alone metal, so for those of you looking to get to know the band a little better as well as the tools of their trade, read on!


The Beginnings of Metallica

It all started way back in Los Angeles, California in the late part of 1981 when an unknown drummer by the name of Lars Ulrich placed an ad in The Recycler, a local LA newspaper, which read "Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head and Iron Maiden." Hugh Tanner of the band Leather Charm answered the ad, along with unknown guitarist James Hetfield. Even before Lars had formally made the band that would be Metallica, or any band for that matter, he asked Metal Blade Records owner Brian Segal if he would let him contribute a track on the label’s upcoming Metal Massacre compilation album, which Segal accepted. It was after this moment that Ulrich brought in Hetfield as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist and Metallica was officially born, five months after the two first met on October of ’81. Ulrich, a Danish immigrant, introduced Hetfield to a new brand of heavy metal from Britain which was a much faster, punkier and far removed from the commercial glam rock of the US that had seemed to take over the metal genre at the time. It was this sound that governed much of Metallica’s influence in their creation of their “thrash-metal” sound.

Although the group had already been recruited to contribute a track for Metal Blade Records, they still were in need of a lead guitarist and bass player, so Ulrich put another ad in The Recycler. Dave Mustaine, the same one who would later front Megadeth, answered the call and was soon recruited – although this was mainly due to Mustaine having very expensive equipment compared to what the other two were using. In early 1982, Metallica recorded for the Metal Massacre compilation as promised, contributing their first original song, “Hit the Lights.” Since the band had yet to acquire a formal bassist, Hetfield played bass on the recording with Lloyd Grand being brought in strictly for the guitar solo. Their involvement on the compilation got the band a good amount of buzz in the metal scene and after recruiting bassist Ron McGovney, Metallica played their first live show on March 14, 1982 at Radio City in Anaheim, California. Later that year, Metallica recorded their first demo, Power Metal, as well as thier second, No Life ‘till Leather, that same year.

In the fall of 1982, Ulrich and Hetfield went to the Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood to see the band Trauma perform where they were decidedly impressed by their bassist Cliff Burton, specifically his original use of the wah wah effect. At the time, both Hetfield and Ulrich were unhappy with current bassist Ron McGovney as they felt he did little to contribute to the band beyond simply following directions, so they approached Burton and asked if he would like to join Metallica as their bassist. At first, Burton declined the offer but by late in 1982, he agreed on the condition that the band move north to El Cerrito near the San Francisco Bay area, to which the band agreed. Soon after, with Burton on helm as bassist, they recorded the demo Megaforce and felt that the band was finally ready to record their first proper studio album, the only problem was that Metal Blade Records was unable to cover the costs of the album. After listening to the band’s No Life ‘till Leather demo, concert promoter Johnny Zazula tried to get the band a recording deal through his connections with various New York City record labels. When no labels responded with interest, Zazula borrowed the extra money needed and decided to record the group via his own label, Megaforce Records.


Mustaine gets Fired, First Albums and Rise to Fame

In May of 1983, Metallica was finally in the position to record theirn first album and left to Rochester, New York for the sessions with the working title Metal Up Your Ass. It was around this time that the band grew frustrated with guitarist Dave Mustaine’s alcohol abuse as well as his increasingly violent behavior and decided to kick him out. Throughout his tenure with the band, Mustaine was famous for his random acts of violence and verbal abuse of his bandmates, such as an incident in which he poured a full can of beer on then-bassist Ron McGovney’s bass, which then flowed to the pickups, causing McGovney to experience an intense electrical shock. On April 11, 1983, right before the recording session but while they were already in Rochester, Metallica formally fired Dave Mustaine and called on Exodus lead guitarist Kirk Hammett to replace him, which he did and in-fact flew over to New York that very day.

By the time the album was finished, a new problem had arisen; their record label and distributors did not feel comfortable releasing the album with the current name which forced Metallica to rename their debut album Kill ‘Em All. Although the album was not initially a commercial success – it took the album four years to reach its peak position of 120 on the Billboard 200, mainly on the popularity of subsequent Metallica releases – it did much to solidify the band’s growing reputation in the underground metal scene.

Their next album, Ride the Lightning, was recorded at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark and released in August of 1984, reaching number 100 on the Billboard 200 chart. Mustaine was given writing credits for two songs on the album, the titular “Ride the Lightning” and the instrumental track “The Call of Ktulu.” In September of 1984, Elektra Records A&R director Michael Alago and Q-Prime Management co-founder Cliff Burnstein saw the band in concert and were impressed enough to sign them to Elektra Records as well as making Metallica a client of Q-Prime Management. By the time they were ready to record their third album, Master of Puppets, Metallica was already playing shows with thousands in attendance, such as the ‘85 Monsters of Rock Festival in England where they played for over 70,000 concert goers. Master of Puppets was recorded at Sweet Silence Studios and was released in March 1986, reaching number 29 on the Billboard 200 and spent 72 weeks on the chart. This would become the band’s first album to be successful from the get go, being certified gold that same year in November and six times platinum by 2003. The band had definitely made it to the big time.

Metallica’s next studio release, 1988’s …And Justice For All, would become the groups most successful album upon its release, reaching number 6 on the Billboard 200 and certified platinum a mere nine weeks after its release. In 1989, Metallica received their first Grammy nomination for the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instruments category and were seen as the favorite to win. When the award was given to Jethro Tull for the album Crest of a Knave many felt as though Metallica had been snubbed. Metallica’s win was so expected that not only did the band remain onstage for the announcement of the winner after performing “One,” Jethro Tull's manager had even told him not to attend the ceremony since he was also expecting Metallica to win. Entertainment Weekly included that particular incident on their “Grammy’s 10 Biggest Upsets” list.


The Release of The Black Album and Subsequent Success

Metallica album cover

In 1991, Metallica released what would become what many consider as the group's crowning achievement, their self-titled album, Metallica, which would popularly be referred as The Black Album due to its overtly black album cover design. The album entered the charts at number one in ten countries, selling 650,000 records in the US the first week and was pretty much responsible for bringing the band into the mainstream. The album has since been certified platinum 15 times (making it the 25th bestselling album of all time in the US), cost over a million dollars to produce and ended three marriages.

Metallica would go on to release four more studio albums, finally winning a Grammy (multiple ones at that) and remain of one the biggest bands in the world today. Although they have experienced a number of setbacks, such as the death of bassist Cliff Burton and the fallout of his replacement Jason Newsted, ultimately being replaced by current bassist Robert Trujillo, they still endured and are one of the longest spanning bands ever. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 and are still Performing and recording to this day.


Metallica Discography:

Kill 'Em All (1983)

Ride the Lightning (1984)

Master of Puppets (1986)

...And Justice for All (1988)

Metallica (1991)

Load (1996)

ReLoad (1997)

St. Anger (2003)

Death Magnetic (2008)



The Gear Behind Metallica


Performing with Metallica in 2012

James Hetfield  - Rhythm Guitar


ESP Horizon Double Neck

ESP James Hetfield Iron Cross Signature Series Electric Guitar

ESP James Hetfield LTD Truckster Electric Guitar

ESP JH-1 Flying V

ESP LTD EX-400 Electric Guitar


Fender Stratocaster

Fender Telecaster

Gibson Explorer '76

Gibson Firebird

Gibson Flying V

Gibson Les Paul '59

Gibson Les Paul Custom '73

Gibson Moderne

Jackson King V

James Trussart Metal Explorer

James Trussart Steel DeVille

Ken Lawrence Dragon Les Paul

Ken Lawrence Explorer

Line 6 Variax Acoustic

Zemaitis GZ Series GZV500MF-MBK




Diezel VH4 Heads

Krank Krankenstein

Krank Revolution head

Marshall 1960A

Marshall JCM2000 Dual Super Lead

Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+

Mesa Boogie standard cabs

Mesa Boogie Stiletto Deuces

Mesa Boogie Triaxis

Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier

Roland JC-120

Sears Magnatone

Vox AC30

Wizard Modern 4x12 cabinet

Wizard Modern Classic Amp heads




ATI Nanoamp SUM 100

Behringer Multigate Pro

Boss CH1 Chorus pedal

Boss NS2

DBX 1074 Quad Gate

Digitech Whammy WH1 pedal

DMC GCX Audio Switcher

Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth

Furman PL Pro Power Conditioner

Klon Centaur

Line 6 DM4 Distortion

Mesa Boogie High Gain AmpSwitcher

MXR M-107 Phase 100 Effects Pedal

Peterson Strobe 520 Tuner

Shure UR-4D Wireless Receiver

TC Electronic G-Major

Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro

Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus




Custom picks from Pick Factory

Dunlop .88mm Picks

EMG EMG-60 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup Black

EMG EMG-81TW Active Coil Tap Humbucker Black

Ernie Ball 2221 Nickel Regular Slinky Electric Guitar Strings




Live with Metallica - August 29, 2010

Kirk Hammett - Lead Guitar


Dean Michael Schenker V

ESP KH-2 Kirk Hammett Ouija Electric Guitar

ESP KH-2 Kirk Hammett Signature Series Electric Guitar

ESP KH-3 Hardtail

ESP LTD KH-202 Kirk Hammett Signature Electric Guitar

ESP LTD KH-602 Kirk Hammett Signature Electric Guitar

ESP LTD KH-603 Kirk Hammett Signature Electric Guitar


ESP V custom guitars

Fender Classic Series '60s Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Fender Telecaster Blonde ‘59

Gibson ES-335

Gibson Flying V Electric Guitar Heritage Cherry

Gibson Les Paul ‘59

Gibson Les Paul ‘87

Gibson Les Paul Custom

Jackson RR1 Randy Rhoads Select Series Electric Guitar

Martin D-28

Parker Fly Mojo Electric Guitar Transparent Cherry




Hiwatt custom 50

Marshall 1959SLPX Vintage Series 100W Tube Head

Marshall 1960A

Marshall DSL 2000

Marshall DSL100MLB

Marshall JCM 800 2203

Marshall Mode Four

Mesa Boogie 4x12 w/ Celestion Vintage 30s

Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier

Mesa Boogie Tremoverb combo

Mesa Boogie Triaxis amp

Mesa Booogie Stilleto

Peavey 5150

Randall Kirk Hammett Signature Series KH15 Guitar Combo Amp

Randall Kirk Hammett Signature Series RM100KH 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head

Randall Kirk Hammett Signature Series RM100KHLTD 100W 4x12 Tube Guitar Half Stack

Randall Kirk Hammett Signature Series RS412KH100 400W 4x12 Guitar Speaker Cabinet

Vox AC30




Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal

DBX 1074 Quad Gate

DigiTech Whammy Pedal with MIDI Control

Digitech XP-300 Space Station

Dunlop KH95 Kirk Hammett Crybaby Wah

Ernie Ball Volume Pedal

Furman PL Pro

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

Line6 DL4 Delay

Line6 DM4 Distortion

Line6 Duoverb

Line6 FM4 Filter

Line6 MM4 Modulation

Line6 POD XT Guitar Multi Effects Processor

Lovetone Brown source

Lovetone Meatball

Lovetone Wobulator

MXR EVH-117 Eddie Van Halen Flanger

Palmer Y-Box Guitar Splitter

Randall Kirk Hammett Signature Series KH1, KH2, KH3 preamp modules

Shure PSM600 WirelessTransmitter and UR-4D receiver

TC Electronic G-Major Effects

Voodoo Lab GCX Guitar Audio Switcher

Vox Wah pedal

Way Huge Swollen Pickle




Audio Technica microphones: AT4050 for guitars, AT4054 for vocals

Custom Levy's straps including M7GG3

Custom Yellow/Black Picks

Dunlop .88 (Green) Picks

EMG EMG-KH20 Kirk Hammett Pre-Wired Pickguard/Pickup Set Black

Ernie Ball 3220 Nickel Power Slinky Electric Guitar Strings

Peterson 490 8-Octave AutoStrobe Tuner

Peterson Strobe 420 Tuner



Live with Metallica on July 8, 2007

Robert Trujillo - Bass


Custom Yamaha TRB5PII 5-String Neck-Thru Bass

ESP 5-String Electric Bass

Fender Precision Bass

Fernandes Guitars Gravity 5-string basses

Jaco Pastorius' defretted personal '60s Fender Precision bass named "Bass of Doom"

Musicman Stringray basses (all 5-strings)

Rickenbacker 4001 Bass Modified With EMG Pickups

Tobias Basic 5-String Bass

Tobias Classic 5-String Bass

Warwick Robert Trujillo Streamer Signature Bass Guitar

Zon Guitars Robert Trujillo Signature Bass - Sonus RT 5-String




Ampeg SVT-410HLF Classic Series Bass Cabinet

Ampeg SVT-810AV Cabinet

Ampeg SVT-3Pro Bass Amp Head

Ampeg SVT-AV Amplifier

Ampeg SVT II PRO Bass Amps

Mesa Boogie Rectifier Amplifiers

Mesa Boogie 4x12 speaker cabinets




BBE 482i Sonic Maximizer

Boss OC-2 Octave pedal

DBX 160X Compressor/Limiter

Dunlop Crybaby 105Q Bass Wah Pedal

Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron Envelope Controlled Filter

Furman PL-Pro Power Conditioners

Korg DTR-1000 Rackmount Digital Tuner

Morley Power Wah Volume Pedal

MXR M-107 Phase 100 Effects Pedal

MXR M-135 Smart Gate Pedal

MXR M-80 Bass Direct Box with Distortion

Shure UR-4D Wireless Receiver

TC Electronic D-Two Multi-Tap Delay

TC Electronic Stereo Chorus Flanger Pedal

Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver DI

Tech 21 XXL Bass Edition Overdrive Stompbox with Warp

Voodoo Labs Ground Control Pro




Dean Markley Bass Strings - Magnum roundwounds with a heavy B (.130)

Dunlop Robert Trujillo Icon Series Bass Strings - Uno Mas 5 String Set

EMG Bass pickups




Performing with Metallica in 2008

Lars Ulrich - Drums

Current Drum Kit Setup:

TAMA Starclassic maple drums

Model: TAMA Starclassic Maple Drums

Colour: Sparkle Silver

6,5"x14" Bell Brass Snare Drum

9"x10" Tom Tom

10"x12" Tom Tom

16"x16" Floor Tom

16"x18" Floor Tom

16"x22" Bass Drum (x2)


Zildjian cymbals:

14" Z Custom Dyno Beat High Hat

17" A Medium Crash Brilliant

18" A Medium Crash Brilliant

12" Z Custom Splash

19" A Medium Crash Brilliant

18" Oriental China Trash

18" A Medium Crash Brilliant

20" A Custom Ping Ride Brilliant

20" Z Custom China Brilliant



Tama Titan Cymbal Boom Stands HC104TB (x8)

Tama Iron Cobra Beat Pedal (x2)

Tama Titan HS90 Snare Stand (x1)

Tama Titan HT90 Throne (x1)

Tama Lever-Glide HH95NL Hi-Hat (x1)

Tama X-Hat HH95XH (x1)


REMO drum heads:

Tom Tom Batterheads: Clear Pinstripes

Tom Tom Bottomheads: Coated Ambassador

Snare Batterheads: Coated CS Dot

Snare Bottomheads: Ambassador Snare Resonant Head

Bass Drum Batterheads: Clear Powerstroke 3 with Falam Slam kick pad



Easton Ahead Alloy Drumsticks






**All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and free to use via multi-license with GFDL and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 and older versions (2.5, 2.0 and 1.0)

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