In the spring of 1983, Hammett received a phone call from the boys in Metallica -- which included singer/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, and bassist Cliff Burton -- asking if he'd be interested in trying out for the band (their original guitarist, Dave Mustaine, was about to be booted due to erratic behavior). The group arranged for Hammett to fly out to their new home base of New York, where he passed the test after a single run-through of their early classic anthem, "Seek & Destroy," with Burton comparing Hammett's playing to such Euro-metal guitarists as Michael Schenker and Ritchie Blackmore -- two of the band's fav players. The new lineup instantly began work on their debut album, Kill 'Em All
, issued the same year -- since Hammett joined just a short while earlier, he didn't have a chance to put his own stamp on the material, opting instead to stick to the riffs and approach that Mustaine had already laid down. This would change on the band's next two releases, 1984's Ride the Lightning and 1986's Master of Puppets
, as Hammett developed his own style on what many consider to be among metal's all-time great albums. Metallica was fast becoming one of metal's premier bands, yet Burton's tragic death mid-tour in September of 1986 almost ended the group. With former Flotsam & Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted taking Burton's place, Metallica soldiered on, issuing two mega-hit albums, 1988's And Justice for All and 1991's self-titled release, and establishing themselves as one of rock's biggest acts. Further sold-out tours and hit releases continued throughout the '90s -- 1996's Load
, 1997's Reload, 1998's Garage Inc, and 1999's S&M
-- as the group reinvented their former image from long-haired heavy metallists to snappily-dressed, short-haired GQ men (Hammett in particular even wore eyeliner and nail polish around this time, something that would have warranted automatic termination from the band a decade earlier!). Throughout the '90s, Kirk's guitar playing also shifted focus from his early metal roots to a more earthy (almost bluesy) Jimi Hendrix-esque style, as Hammett's own "signature series" line of six-strings were manufactured through the ESP guitar company.