The Story Of Metallica’s “Savior” According To James Hetfield

The Story Of Metallica’s “Savior” According To James Hetfield | I Love Classic Rock Videos

James Hetfield for Guitar Center - Guitar Center / Youtube

Few bands have left quite as lasting an impression on the history of metal music as Metallica. James Hetfield, whose right-hand rhythm guitar playing is nothing short of extraordinary, is at the center of their musical attack. In addition to being a maestro of downstroke-heavy riffing, Hetfield also provides the band’s powerful vocals. But then there came a time when Hetfield had an experience that almost changed the direction of Metallica’s history, and as a result, he named John Marshall the unsung hero of the group.

Pivotal Moments and Unsung Heroes

Metallica’s journey could have diverged significantly from its legendary status. Early visuals of the band depict a lineup that includes Dave Mustaine with Hetfield conspicuously absent his guitar, an image that conveys an uncertain frontman unsure of his stage persona. This moment underscored a pivotal shift when Hetfield embraced his role fully, integrating his formidable picking technique to fuel the band’s intensity—a critical factor that propelled hits like ‘Disposable Heroes.’

The progression of Metallica’s career brought with it the monumental success of The Black Album, accompanied by a demanding tour schedule fraught with potential hazards. One memorable incident in Montreal in 1992 crystallized Hetfield’s resilience and Marshall’s crucial role within the band. An onstage mishap led to Hetfield being engulfed by pyrotechnics. Despite suffering severe burns, Hetfield’s primary concern was finding a suitable stand-in to handle his guitar duties to ensure the show could go on. Enter John Marshall, not just any replacement, but a guitarist with credentials from thrash metal outfit Metal Church and experience as Metallica’s guitar tech. Marshall’s readiness to step in not only salvaged the tour but cemented his status in Hetfield’s eyes as Metallica’s savior.

Metallica’s Unbreakable Spirit and Hetfield’s Resolve

Reflecting on that critical juncture, Hetfield shared his perspective with Behind the Music, emphasizing Marshall’s indispensable role: “This [was] not gonna bring us down. It was going to take a lot more than that to stop Metallica. We had [John] come in. I can still sing. So John Marshall has been our saviour quite a few times. So it pays if you’re a roadie: learn the band’s songs. You could end up on stage with them.”

Hetfield’s ordeal didn’t end with Marshall stepping in. The aftermath of the accident necessitated a day in the hospital, followed by extensive therapy to regain his playing capability. The determination to return to form was a testament to Hetfield’s commitment to Metallica and its fans, underscoring a resolve that belied the band’s tenacity and spirit.

The contrast between Metallica’s resolve and the behavior of their tourmates at the time, Guns N’ Roses, was stark. Hetfield’s ability to push through adversity and return to performing made the occasional tour disruptions from Guns N’ Roses, such as Axl Rose considering canceling a show over a minor sinus infection, seem all the more trivial.