Love ’em or hate ’em heavy metal megastars Metallic definitely know a thing or two about composition and songcraft. Sure, they may have dropped all the guitar solos at some point, and Kirk may overuse the wah pedal…but let’s dig into one overlooked facet of their songwriting; the chords they use.
Under the onslaught of James Hetfield’s downpicking and Kirk Hammett’s wah-soaked leads, you’ll find exceptional tuning work. And when the band returns to some of its most tender moments, its penchant for interesting and sometimes unsettling chords kicks in.
Let’s discover four really interesting chords from the band’s varied catalog!
The minor add 9 chord is the perfect backing chord for any moody metallic ballad. This is heard in the track Welcome Home (Sanitarium) but Metallica also references chords similar to this in tracks like Fade to Black and One.
The added 9th interval gives the chord a slightly haunting sound that makes the E minor key slightly more unsettling.
This chord appears in the intro to The Call Of Ktulu, a song that in itself is full of weird and wonderful chords, and features the former guitarist’s last credited contribution to songwriting. Dave Mustaine. This particular chord appears in the intro and it’s quite an unsettling sounding chord, perfect for setting the scene.
What you have here is a Dmin chord, but with the 5th interval accented, giving it an augmented feel inside a minor chord.
This chord that triggers the title Battery. This is a very moody sounding chord and in a larger context you could probably consider it a minor chord, but in this specific intro the 3rd is not played. The track is however in a minor key, so you would assume that if you extend this chord it would contain a minor third.
The name sounds creepy, but it’s just an E5 power chord with the highest note accented by a semitone giving you the b9.
This chord appears in The Four Horsemen track, however, its sporadic appearance raises the question of whether it was intentional or accidental.
Regardless, it’s an interesting deal to watch. It’s just a normal C5 power chord, but the 5th of the chord (the G note) is also added an octave lower in the bass. Having the 5th down adds an extra punch to the chord and is a great way to spice up rooted power chords on the A string.