Friday Top 10: Greatest Metallica solos

Last week, for the first time ever, we missed the chance to write a Top 10 because we were lazy busy. Instead of publishing a ‘Friday Top 10’ on a Saturday, we’ve decided to simply work on a bigger Top 10 for ‘next Friday’ — which is this Friday cause this happened last week. Confused? So am I.

Anyway, this is more than just a Top 10. I will also talk about 5 runner-ups and will make it a Top 15.

Now, let’s get back to business. I talk a lot about how James is THE guitarist of Metallica, and people give Kirk a lot of shit for his playing. But truth to be told, Kirk wrote some of the best metal solos of all time. His 80s lead work is legendary and has probably influenced countless lead guitarists.

You can get the most technically proficient lead guitarist in Metallica, it won’t guarantee better songs. Kirk’s soloing just gels with James’ riffs, in my opinion, and this Top 10 will take a look at some of his best work.

Arranging the solos by ‘quality’ is very hard. You tend to ‘root’ for your favorite songs. So I tried to be as objective as I could and simply judge the solo itself, regardless of how much I like the rest of the song.

Disclaimer: This article will not talk about speed, length or other technical aspects. It is simply about what I think are Metallica‘s greatest solos, judged on how good they sound on their own and how well they fit the song itself. So all you guitar dorks out there, watch out.

Now that we got out of the way, we can carry on with the top itself. Make the jump.

#15 – The Day That Never Comes

Well, well, well. A 2008 song made the top. I actually love this solo and everything about the second half of the song. Death Magnetic may not be Metallica’s return to their roots per se, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. This song has all the classic ‘Tallicangredients (Metallica + ingredients — Get it? Fuck off): Long intro, slow buildup, long breakdown, fast solo.

But the solo is not here because I like the song. It’s here because it’s pretty good. It’s reminiscent of Kirk’s Kill Em All days and it fits the song nicely. The long ‘jamming section’ (as I’d like to call it) of the song builds up to this very fast and aggressive solo. This may be controversial, but the last part of it (00:34 – 00:38) may be one of the best things Kirk has played in Metallica.

Don’t worry, this is the  only entry that isn’t at least 2 decades old.

#14 – Ride The Lightning

This one is great. The first half of it teases you into thinking a slowish solo is all you’re gonna get, then BOOM: Another 40 seconds of shredding.

Truly a solo that lives up to the song title.

#13 – Dyers Eve

I’d like to call this a ‘vanity solo’ because it sounds as if Kirk is just showing off. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing at all, just sounds like a solo one would play to impress the chicks.

Of course, one could argue that the term ‘vanity solo’ is redundant. A bit like saying ‘fat fatass.’ I agree, but some solos are tame and this one is anything but.

#12 – The Four Horsemen

Ah, the first solo in The Four Horsemen. This is what I mean by tame lead work. As far as I’m concerned, this is the total opposite of the solo above (or the second solo of this song) but it’s not inferior in any way, shape, or form.

I love the idea that they simply decided to put a soft, melodic solo first and then end with a bang. I do like this solo way more than the second one. That’s why this made the list and the other one didn’t. Something about it just sounds perfect.

#11 – The Shortest Straw

Many fans might disagree with this, but I think this is a very underrated solo (and song). It has a country vibe to it and it’s just atypical for thrash and especially for Metallica (at least during the 80s). It just takes you by surprise.

Even though I’ve heard it countless times, I still feel that uncertainty while hearing it: Where’s this solo going next? It keeps me interested and excited. I applaud Kirk’s initiative to diversify a bit.

So, five awesome entries and we’re just getting started. Ladies and gentlemen, the actual Top 10 starts now:

#10 – Battery

Kicking off the Top 10 with a solo from the album Master Of Puppets. I was thinking of some lame pun like ‘The solo in Battery totally recharge my batteries,’ but that sounds awful.

Anyway, what else can I say? This is the quintessential Metallica solo. Short and to the point. Fast enough to be shredding, but not quite fast enough to sound like a Nintendo on LSD.

#9 – Seek & Destroy

I remember an interview with James where he said Kirk pulled off this solo as his audition to enter the band. Doesn’t surprise me they let him in after hearing it.

The song has been used for years as Metallica’s closing song and I can see why. My only complaint nowadays is that Kirk doesn’t quite play it the same.

#8 – Jump In The Fire

The second solo of Jump In The Fire makes you literally go and jump in a fire, with excitement. Damn, here I go again with the puns.

Anyway, this is one of Metallica’s first songs and I think this is actually Dave’s solo. No idea if Kirk changed it or anything. So I don’t know whom to credit nor do I give a crap. This solo kicks ass and considering this was recorded when they were drunken teens, it’s pretty impressive.

Imagine starting a band and writing that as your first track. Not bad.

#7 – …And Justice For All

The song is long as hell and the solo comes at a very good time in the song. Lars really shines in this album and his drumming within the solo really works well with everything.

Like I said, judging the quality of a solo right now has a lot to do with how well it fits the song, and this is a prime example of what a solo’s supposed to do to a song: Make it way better.

#6 – Creeping Death

So let it be written. The 6th best Metallica solo is in Creeping Death. Kirk gives us a taste of his sweeping skills, but unlike other guitarists, he simply doesn’t overuse it.

The “DIE!” moment right after the solo is probably one of my favorite things to see live. No wonder they’ve used this song as an opener a million times. It’s a great time to be turning on the house lights and interacting with the audience.

#5 – Enter Sandman

Metallica’s most commercially successful song is pretty basic and that’s what makes it a great track. The solo is probably the only time Kirk uses wah correctly.

This solo is actually pretty easy to play once you master Kirk’s favorite pedal, so it’s a lot of fun to just jam to this song, especially since all the chicks you’ll try to impress will recognize it.

#4 – Fade To Black

I know I said length is not important, and it isn’t. But I can’t help but mention just how long this solo is. It’s pretty impressive.

This is an all around great ballad and it came in a time where Metallica were known to go really fast and really heavy. The solo itself is a testament to Kirk’s ability to keep it melodic amidst the mayhem that are some of his other solos (mainly KEA ones).

Don’t know what else to add, I’m pretty sure everyone agrees this is one of their finest lead pieces.

#3 – Master Of Puppets

It’s getting down to the top three so obviously the title track from Metallica’s classic album is gonna be in here. Of course, it’s not here because the song is awesome. It’s here because the solo is equally as awesome and fits the song perfectly. Just hear the verse riff in the background and how well it gels with the solo.

Metal guitar wizardry at its finest.

#2 – One

I’m pretty sure you were expecting this solo to be high up. It’s usually on the top spot, so it’s not like I have to sell you on how awesome it is.

After the actual solo finishes, Kirk and James keep jamming — This makes it special part of the song (00:53). If you have the ‘Live Shit’ DVD, they actually do a guitar battle after the main solo. I wish they’d still do that crap on stage.

#1 – Blackened

This is it, folks. In my opinion, the best Metallica solo ever.

The whole solo is great but the part at 00:46 is really what makes it stand out. Unfortunately Kirk ‘slops it up’ when playing it live, and he usually omits that part altogether. Really disappointing seeing the performance for this, but the recorded song itself kicks major ass, and the solo kicks way more ass.

A very underrated solo as it never makes any “Top Guitar Solos” lists. Well, it made this one, and my opinion is better than your opinion.

So there you have it. Fifteen Metallica solos that make your brain melt. Let’s see which albums have the best solos then:

1. …And Justice For All (5 entries)
2. Ride The Lightning (3 entries)
3. Kill ‘Em All (3 entries)
4. Master Of Puppets (2 entries)
5. Metallica (1 entry)
6. Death Magnetic (1 entry)

Join us next week for another Top 10, probably less interesting than this one.

Photo credit: Metallica.com

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