Metallica’s Personal Playlists

For much of the digital-music era, Metallica have been one of rock’s most high-profile holdouts. Even after their infamous 2000 lawsuit against Napster, the band waited until 2006 to make their music available on iTunes, and waited until late 2012 to get on board with Spotify. And there’s perhaps no greater sign that Metallica have not just surrendered to the changing times but are actually embracing them than the fact all four members of the band recently uploaded playlists to Metallica’s official Spotify page. The playlists, posted during a few days of downtime on the massive two-year tour in support of 2016’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, range from an hour to over 100 minutes, and shed some light on the listening habits of the biggest metal band in the world.

In the ‘80s, Metallica started to hint that their influences reached beyond metal, with The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited betraying their fondness for punk. But James Hetfield’s Spotify playlist goes deeper into mellower sounds that Metallica would never touch, from jazz guitarist Bill Frisell to Portland-via-Auckland indie-rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Still, Hetfield’s playlist is heavier on metal than those of his bandmates, with representation from the veteran thrash bands that influenced early Metallica like Venom and Dark Angel, as well as contemporary doom metal bands Pallbearer and Ghost B.C. Some songs appear to have caught Hetfield’s ear through films, like “Who Can You Trust” (Ivy Levan’s Bond theme-like track that opened Melissa McCarthy’s action comedy Spy), and the Gary Jules rework of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” that was made famous by Donnie Darko. And Men At Work frontman Colin Hay’s emotional 2011 track “Dear Father” may have struck a deeply personal chord with Hetfield, who had a complex relationship with his own late father.


Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett has long been known as the most musically open-minded member of Metallica, the guy who actually knew the bands they were playing with at Lollapalooza in 1996, and who praised Radiohead’s Kid A while many hard rockers sneered at the album’s lack of guitars. And Hammett’s Spotify playlist casts a suitably wide net, including Captain Beefheart, The Isley Brothers, and, of course, “Everything In Its Right Place.” Hammett’s guitar-god influences are in full effect with Jimi Hendrix and Thin Lizzy deep cuts. But he still has, by far, the band’s most stylistically unpredictable playlist, including two different, back-to-back versions of Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock” (the original and a live version with Jack Johnson) and Carole King’s title song for the 1975 animated musical Really Rosie.


Lars Ulrich’s playlist opens with a little music from one of his bandmates, Robert Trujillo, who played on the Suicidal Tendencies track “Tap Into The Power” during his six-year stint with the L.A. thrash-funk band. Outside of a couple of groovy tracks from Bob Marley and Stereo MC’s, Lars Ulrich’s playlist is loud and guitar-driven, ranging from proto-metal influences (Diamond Head and Deep Purple) to ‘90s alternative rock (Nirvana, Oasis, and Rage Against The Machine). Ulrich also singles out the title track from The Osmonds’ 1972 album Crazy Horses, lending some credence to rock critic Chuck Eddy’s decision to include it in his list of the 500 best heavy metal albums of all time.


While the other members of the band have dedicated their lives to Metallica and little else for nearly their entire careers, Robert Trujillo had a varied résumé before joining the band in 2003, and his playlist features some of the people he’s played with over the years. Like Ulrich, Trujillo picked a track from his tenure with Suicidal Tendencies, although he chose a classic Alice In Chains song in lieu of his work on Jerry Cantrell’s solo albums. The most intriguing tip of the hat to a collaborator on Trujillo’s playlist is to Ozzy Osbourne. In 2002, Osbourne controversially reissued two of his classic ‘80s albums with the original rhythm section tracks re-recorded by members of his then-current backing band, which included Trujillo. In 2011, those albums were reissued again with the original instrumentation restored, and Trujillo opens his playlist with “S.A.T.O.” from Diary Of A Madman, in its classic form with Bob Daisley on bass.

This feature is part of our Thrash 101 online course that was produced in partnership with the good rocking folks at GimmeRadio, a free 24/7 metal radio station hosted by heavy-music experts like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe. Check them out here and sign up for the Thrash 101 course here.