Metallica History 101: The Story Behind Guitar Equipment on ‘The Black Album’

Metallica History 101: The Story Behind Guitar Equipment on 'The Black Album'
James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

Metallica released the ‘The Black Album‘ mostly also known self-titled album in 1991. This is the fifth album from the thrash metal legends. The album was also recorded at “One on One Studios” in Los Angeles for around 8 months. For this album, Metallica’s members also worked with Bob Rock as a producer.

Also, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett including drummer Lars Ulrich and now ex-bassist Jason Newsted working on this album. With this album, they reached more than 35 million copies sold worldwide, is also the most important heavy metal album ever. The band is on the road with a series of tours. They also released five singles to promote the album: “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, “Nothing Else Matters”, “Wherever I May Roam”, and “Sad but True”, all of these songs ranked the best Metallica songs ever. James Hetfield also said that about the album: “It was all about impressing the other bands with your heaviness, with your speed, with your technical prowess. Everyone wanted to come up with the heaviest riff on earth or the fastest song possible.”

Story Behind Guitar Equipments on ‘The Black Album’

Kirk Hammett also added: “But I’ve never really written a guitar solo with a wah pedal. It’s always been after the fact. And it’s only been to get more intensity and more emotion out of the sound. I’m not from, like, the Eric Clapton school of wah, where I step on it on every downbeat. I don’t think anyone really does that anymore, anyway.”

What guitar was used on The Black Album?

To date, they were already working on this album, James Hetfield already owned at the very least three models of the ESP MX220. It was the MX series guitars that were later changed to the EXP (which meant that the guitars were closely modeled on Gibson EXP’lorersshortly after was discontinued after Gibson threatened to sue. The three guitars could be distinguished through the graffiti they carried They were “Eet Fuk”, “So Fucking What” So Fucking What” and “Fuk Em Up”. At the time of around the Master of Puppets era, Hetfield was pretty dependent on using the ESP Explorers on stage and also employed in the studio too. In actual fact, Kirk and James were both using ESP Guitars and James was also using them. Kirk first started using them in the year 1988. They both had EMG pickups.

What guitar does Kirk Hammett use?

Kirk Hammett also used a 1989 Gibson Les Paul. Other guitars were used for specific parts. However, James Hetfield used a Danelectro Jerry Jones baritone to create an additional layer of quiet “chugs” to boost the bottom in the “Sad but true” riff. A Gretsch White Falcon was used to create the crisp, air-plane sounding dive bomb in “Nothing Other Than That” and a Fender Telecaster with a string bender, which was employed in “My Friendship with Misery” The Tele is believed to be the same Tele that was used on “Unforgiven II” and we know that the guitar used on that track to be a ’52 Reissue. A Danelectro/Coral Electric Guitar was utilized on “Wherever I’ll Go”. He also added: “I remember the day I got it I took it out of the case and said to Bob [Rock]. Let’s do some solos with my brand-new spankin’ guitar! I used it for the solo too. So What, which was recorded during those sessions. About clean parts he said: “That was my white ’63 Strat. And I used an old-school Echoplex for the delay on that song. You can also hear the white Strat at the end of “Enter Sandman” – those chord comps on the way out. I can’t remember what happened to that guitar. I might’ve traded it away. I wish I still had it. ”

James Hetfield had lost his Jose-modified Marshall SLP that he used for Kill Em All and had used other Marshalls on subsequent albums. For the good of Hetfield, Bob Rock also had a Jose-modified Marshall and Hetfield was able to utilize it to record The Black Album to accompany the Boogie Simulclass Mark II that Hetfield used previously on Metallica albums. And, Kirk Hammett employed the Boogie in his studio too, working together with the Bradshaw preamp, which was connected to the VHT power amp that can be heard when he played his lead tones. He also had a Marshall at the time of recording. We don’t know for certain whether it was the same Jose-modified Marshall that Hetfield used, or whether it was a different one.

What guitar does James Hetfield use?

James also added more: “At that time for me it had always been, and always probably will be, my Mesa/Boogie Mark II C++. It’s the ‘Crunch Berries’ amp, and it’s been a part of my sound since we discovered Mesa/Boogie between Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. It was that and my ESP Explorer with EMGs. Yes. Because I really did want to explore different sounds. As you said earlier, the ’80s metal scene was very insular and somewhat limiting in its thinking and in its acceptance and tolerance of other things. It felt like, you know, you get a heavy sound and a clean sound, and that’s it. And most of the metal bands at that time didn’t even have a clean sound. There was a real craving to find a middle ground. So there was the White Falcon, the Tele… Bob just opened up those gates and helped make us feel it was okay to do that.”

The tracks they recorded on his guitar are the product of lots of layering. Each track was created having a distinct setup. The base of his sound was a Mesa Boogie Mark IIC++ that was in the mid-80s. The effects loop was comprised of two Aphex EQF-2 EQ units along with the controls for EQ of the Mesaand one Aphex CX-1 compression unit. The purpose of this EQ was to remove all 1.2kHz sound, and this is not uncommon – Dimebag also used this technique to create his beats. The EQ was pushing through various variations of cabinets, but mostly Marshall 1940 4×12 cabinet. the majority of the tone was created using Celestion Old-fashioned 30s speakers.

Metallica also released the remastered version of Black Album for the 30th Anniversary.

You can watch the “Live at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (1992)” below!


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