Metallica’s Kirk Hammett loves Toronto – but he won’t be playing here anytime soon

Hammett and his metal band mates are limiting their time on the road but not the music itself.

New album 72 Seasons is out Friday.

By Nick Krewen

Special to the Star

Metallica fans, there is some good news and some bad news.

First, the positive stuff: to support 72 Seasons, the San Francisco heavy rock band’s 11th studio album and first since 2016’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, the tandem of singer and guitarist James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, bass player Robert Trujillo and drummer Lars Ulrich are heading back on the road again.

And they’re playing a pair of shows in each location and calling them “No Repeat Weekends” – each concert will be totally different from the first and each appearance will offer a different pair of opening acts. Dates, restricted to approximately 13 locations per year around the world, have already been announced for 2023 and 2024.

Not so positive: Kirk Hammett told the Star that it will be a minimum of three years before Toronto sees them…and maybe even longer.

“Probably sometime after those two tour legs,” Hammett, 60, said last week during a phone interview, “As it stands nowadays,  because we’re just older and we have other lives, we can only tour for a certain amount of time every year.

  “So, what we’re trying to do is just pace ourselves and schedule so many shows. This way, we’re able to play these shows well and take care of everything else in our lives. 

You know, Toronto is definitely on the list,” Hammett, whose band last filled the Rogers Centre in 2017, asserted. “And we will get there eventually…but not in the next couple of years, I’m sorry to say.  I just want you to know, I love Toronto.  I love the city and have spent time there, had a few shows there and The Wedding Band (Hammett’s side project with Metallica bassist Trujillo, Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane, Death Angel‘s drummer Jon Theodore and God Forbid‘s Doc Coyle) has played there.  It’s just a great, great place.”

For now, the closest that the nine-time Grammy winning outfit will appear is August 11 and 13 at Montréal’s Olympic Stadium (as you might imagine and despair, reseller tickets that aren’t nosebleeds are going for low four figures each) and November 10 and 12 at Detroit, Michigan’s Ford Field ( still plenty of good, affordable tickets available, even with the U.S. exchange rate,) with Chicago’s Aug 9 and 11 shows Soldier Field the only show that’s somewhat in our vicinity for 2024. (Metallica’s only  Canadian appearance next year will be in Edmonton.)

Another option is the one off Power Trip Festival in Indio October 6-8, where Metallica closes the final night of this Coachella-type metal-fest that will also feature Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses.

And while the band that has sold more than 100 million albums since forming in 1981 is limiting its road warrior stature, they certainly aren’t slowing down when it comes to the music itself: 72 Seasons is a 77-minute slamming opus that includes the typical pulverizing rhythms  and molten lead guitar solos that fans eagerly continue to embrace 43 years into Metallica’s existence.

Singer Hetfield writes all the lyrics, and the loose concept for the album this time around is that 72 Seasons represents the first 18 years it takes for someone to begin to know and grow into their true selves.

In a way, it’s almost a sequel to 2016’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct offering a bit more hope in its insightful and reflective prose.

Can Hammett relate?

“I can totally relate to James’ lyrics,” he replied. “One thing that James and I share is that we had a super dysfunctional childhood. We share  a lot of the same issues.  So, it’s really easy for me to relate to what he’s singing about all the time.  

“When I hear his lyrics, I embrace the sentiment of it –  and it seems that the overall sentiment of his lyrics this time around are really confrontational  with these issues. He’s shining a light on a lot of  issues that other people won’t touch directly , but doing something positive  in bringing sunlight into them.”

For this album, Hetfield lyrics get deep inside the cranium: one song, “Screaming Suicide,” addresses the harmful voices of insecurity in one’s head that often lead to suicidal tendencies, “Then my voice appears/Teaching you of fears/Are you good enough?/You don’t recognize /Head is full of lies/ You should just give up.” 

But rather than having the subject succumb to those voices, Hetfield offers a lifeline instead: “Then a voice appears/Whisper in your ears/”You are good enough”/Throwing down a rope/A lifeline of hope/ Never give you up/ Listen well, better listen well…”

For “Lux AEterna,”  the shortest song on the album at almost three-and-a-half minutes, Hetfield sings and advises: “Exhilaration/Frenzied sensation/Kindred alliance connected inside/Commiseration/Sonic salvation/Cast out the demons that strangle your life.”

Hammett offered his interpretation.

“He’s saying that  there’s truth and positivity and beauty in the light in all of us, and if you face your darkness, you will eventually find light.  You just have to hunker down and do the work.  And a lot of people don’t always do the work.”

Fans  of the “Enter Sandman”  and “Until It Sleeps” hitmakers recall that the band has done the work – quite publicly, as chronicled by the 2004 documentary, Some Kind Of Monster, where the heavy metal group threatened to split apart at the seams and, after Hetfield spending time in rehab for alcoholism and the hiring of Robert Trujillo on bass following the departure of Jason Newsted, managed to weather the storm and enjoy even greater heights of popularity out the other side.

“We’ve been doing the work for decades already – and it’s something we had to do to be able to deal with day-to-day situations, you know?” said Hammett. ” I’d like to say that I’ve been better – it’s ongoing with me – but it’s basically what is in Metallica. These situations will never ever be pushed out the back door.  We’re learning to live with the radical acceptance of things you can’t change.” 

One of the big creative changes from the last album is four co-author credits for Hammett on 72 Seasons for the title track, “Crown Of Barbed Wire,” “Chasing Sunlight” and “If Darkness Had a Son.”

He had no such contributions to Hardwired.

“Six or eight years ago – I forget when it was – I had lost my cell phone with literally 600 musical ideas,” Hammett explained. “And so, after that happened I just started writing and writing and writing and building up my reservoir until I was back up to 400 or 500 of them.

“I reached that point about three or four years ago,  so going into the writing sessions for this album, I just had a ton of music to pick and choose from. ’72 Seasons’ and ‘Crown Of Thorns’ are probably two of my biggest contributions. 

“Then I’ve added a few bits and pieces here and there in a couple of other songs.”

Hammett says although he and Hetfield, both being the guitarists, come up with the lion’s share of riffs when in creative mode, the process is surprisingly covert.

 “All of it goes into one big pile,” Hammett clarified. “Then we go into that pile and everything is pretty much anonymous.  It’s not like, ‘Oh, hey, here’s my riff and we need to make a song out of it.’  

“It doesn’t happen that way.  Instead, the quality of the riff takes priority. The riff becomes the basis of a song and then we take it from there. So, if we have eight A-level riffs that show a lot of potential, that are really catchy, have lots of energy and are heavy, we’ll single out that riff and build a song around it.

 “It’s not like there’s a name attached to any of this music.  We try to approach it as purely as possible – this is what we have to work with and we’ll shape it as much as we can until it turns into something that begins to take form as Metallica. And that’s pretty much how we do it.”

Hammett also complimented Rob Trujillo’s songwriting role, as the bassist co-wrote “Screaming Suicide,” “Sleepwalk My Life Away” and “You Must Burn!”

 “Rob Trujillo wrote some of the best music on this album – at least, for me,” Hammett admitted.

As for Hammett’s wildly tasteful solos as lead guitarist…he thinks it’s best when he pulls them out of the air.

“I really don’t try to think about it too much,” Hammett explained. “In the past, when I think about it too much, it kind of loses the spark and sucks the life out of it.  My very first initial attempt at creating a solo for a section of a song is usually my best idea.

“For this album, I didn’t work on anything in advance. I showed up, figured out what the keys were, what the scales I was going to play in – and that was it.  It’s honest. It’s spontaneous and it feels like it’s a direct flow from whatever that creative space is from the universe I rely on that all the time. It’s just a musical energy of pure heart and beauty, bro –  that’s what I live for these days. That, to me, is like real f$%^@ magic.”

Guitar aficionados will appreciate the fact that Gibson Custom Shop guitar manufacturers are issuing 200 replicated instruments of Hammett’s 1979 Flying V guitar for $14,000 (U.S.) each, and the Metallica axeman couldn’t be more stoked about it.

“I love that Flying V so much,” said Hammett. “That was my first great guitar, and I played that guitar on the first five Metallica albums.  When I was 18 or 19 years old, I modified and customized a lot of it because that’s what me and my friends did to our guitars, and I’m glad I did that because it makes the guitar really interesting for collectors. 

“You’re not just buying a stock Gibson that I owned; a lot of it has  my own personal modifications and customizing. Because of that – it’s so personalized to me – I feel that when someone buys that, they’re buying my concept of what that flying V should have been back then.”