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10 October 2021

Kirk Hammett Talks Writing ‘Enter Sandman’ Riff

Kirk Hammett Metallica
Alamy
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Kirk Hammett of Metallica has spoken about writing the iconic riff for the band’s 1991 single, Enter Sandman. The guitarist said in a new interview with Guitar World looking back on 30 years of the band’s classic 1991 self-titled album, also known as “The Black Album,” that his original intention was to emulate Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water.

“I sat down and I said to myself, as I always do, ‘I want to write the next ‘Smoke On The Water’,’ And I just started messing around. “I got the swing kind of feel going, and then I was thinking of Soundgarden and how they were using dropped tunings.”

Hammett went on to talk more about the influence of grunge, and Soundgarden in particular, on his writing at the time: “This was when grunge was at its earliest stage – we’re talking late 1989 or so. No one was even calling it grunge yet. But I was loving a lot of it, and it was influencing me somewhat. I wasn’t playing in a drop tuning, but with those tunings it’s often octave work – you get the low D, and then you go to the upper D and it sounds really heavy. I wasn’t in drop D, I was just in E, but I was messing around with the low and high octaves, and then I threw a tritone in there, an A#, went to the A, and that’s the riff that came out.”

Hammett continued: “I remember that when the first part of it came to me, I thought, ‘It sounds like it’s asking a question, and now I’ve got to resolve it.’ So that’s where the chunky chord part, with the G and F#, came in. And famously, when I originally wrote the riff, that chunky thing happened at the end of every line.”

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