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James Hetfield Thinks Cliff Burton Would Have Been His ‘Ally’ Against Metallica’s ’90s ‘Reinvention’

Brian Lew, Bazillion Points
Brian Lew, Bazillion Points

Metallica‘s musical path would have been different in any number of ways if Cliff Burton‘s life hadn’t been cut tragically short, and although there’s really no way of knowing what might have changed, James Hetfield thinks Burton’s presence might have affected their output during one decade in particular.

Hetfield imagined Metallica’s alternate history in a recent interview with Metal Hammer, allowing that he “would have thought there would have been some resistance, for sure” when the group enlisted producer Bob Rock for its self-titled 1991 release. While arguing that they’d reached the end of a particular path with … And Justice for All and saying they “needed to bring in another set of trusted ears” behind the boards, Hetfield still believes Burton would have had a strong influence on the LP.

“I think Cliff would have probably interjected some different stuff, getting his bass heard and some more musically challenging things, probably,” added Hetfield. “I would certainly think that … Load and Re-Load, I would have had an ally that was very against it all – the reinvention or the U2 version of Metallica.”

Much as that might sound like Hetfield’s disavowing that period of the band’s history, he insists it isn’t the case. “There’s some great, great songs on there,” he noted. “But my opinion is that all of the imagery and stuff like that was not necessary. And the amount of songs that were written was … it diluted the potency of the poison of Metallica. And I think Cliff would have agreed with that.”

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