Metallica’s Kirk Hammett Responds to Critics of His ‘Lux Aeterna’ Guitar Solo
Critics! Metallica have a bunch of them. That comes with the territory of being the biggest band in metal, so it was no surprise to Kirk Hammett when there were haters online that started to pick apart his guitar solo in the band's recent single "Lux Aeterna."
Speaking with Total Guitar as shared by Guitar World, Hammett hit back at those who suggested that his solo is bad because it's not necessarily hard to play. “Yeah, my fucking friends down the street could probably play a better solo than 'Lux Æterna' – but what’s the point?” he explains. "For me, what’s appropriate is playing for the song and playing in the moment."
While Lars Ulrich recently confirmed that he's read the comments on "Lux Aeterna" to get a feel for how the public was responding, Hammett has apparently been aware of some of the online chatter concerning his work on the song as well. It wasn't long after the song was released that YouTubers started to incorporate their own solos into the song, replacing Hammett's work and some reaction videos also garnered some traction.
"I was just laughing the whole time," Hammett says upon seeing the response. "I could string together like six or seven three-octave arpeggios in 16th notes, sit there every day and practice it and go, ‘Hey, look what I can do!’ but where am I gonna put it? That won’t work in any Metallica song!"
“Arpeggios? Come on! In a guitar solo, mapped out like a lot of people do, four or five chords with a different arpeggio over each one? It sounds like an exercise," says Hammett. "I don’t want to listen to exercises and warm-ups every time I hear a song.”
He then offers a couple of highly-seasoned exceptions to his comment, explaining, “The only guys out there who I think convincingly play arpeggios as a means of expression are Joe Satriani, Yngwie [Malmsteen], and Paul Gilbert."
Metallica, "Lux Aeterna"
Hammett admits that the types of solos required for Metallica songs has evolved over time. “I know my modes, Hungarian scales, symmetrical scales, I know all that shit," says the guitarist, then asking, "Is it appropriate? Maybe earlier in our time, but not now. What’s more appropriate is coming up with melodies that are more like vocal melodies. And guess what? The best scale for mimicking vocal melodies is the pentatonic.”
He goes on the add that playing the minor pentatonic scale is a more challenging proposition, explaining “It’s actually harder to say stuff with pentatonics because you don’t have that many notes. It’s easier to play modal. I will challenge anyone on that.”
That said, Hammett says that he loves playing from the heart and even with some of their more technical players, he can still hear the playing that comes from the heart. “Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Yngwie – they all play from the heart, but for a lot of guys it’s just like sports or the Olympics. Music is to reflect beauty, creativity, feeling, life. There is a place and there’s an audience for all that stuff, but I feel there comes a time when people just get tired of that."
“Today, you know, people are doing really interesting stuff with technique,” Hammett concludes. “Technique is reaching new boundaries and I love that, but I have to stress it’s important to play for the song. If you do that, your music will have that much more integrity and lasting power.”
You can check out Hammett's guitar work on full display when the 72 Seasons album arrives in full this Friday (April 14). Pre-order the set here. Plus catch Kirk Hammett embracing his improvisational skills and delivering iconic guitar solos during Metallica's 2023-2024 tour. Get your tickets to catch the band live here. And you can check out Hammett's full Total Guitar interview by picking up the latest issue here.