The Big Four

In a new interview with Metal Hammer magazine, SLAYER guitarist Kerry King was asked when it was the first time he heard METALLICA.

“I saw them in the Woodstock [The Woodstock Concert Theatre in Anaheim, California] before they were a Bay Area band. I saw them play with Dave Mustaine — that’s how long we’re talking about. Actually meeting the dudes? I don’t know. But we did play with them a time or two before they went to the Bay Area.”

“I liked it,” he continued. “I like speed metal or thrash metal — which hadn’t been named yet – which is what they were to me. I liked what they were doing with it and I was already into VENOM. I’ve always been a big VENOM fan, and I think that a cross between VENOMJUDAS PRIEST and METALLICA kind of made SLAYER what SLAYER is.”

After interviewer said, “in 1984, you briefly played with MEGADETH. Did you have any sense then that Dave Mustaine was resentful towards METALLICA,?” King responded: “Probably. But I looked up to Mustaine ever since he was in Metallica. I was in the crowd with Jeff [Hanneman, SLAYER’s late guitarist] actually, saying, ‘Look at that dude! He’s just ripping up there!’ He’s got a great style and in the beginning, it helped METALLICA become what METALLICA is. And let me tell you something — to this day, he’s a great guitar player. 

“But yeah, I played five shows and then Dave wanted me to stay around, but I didn’t have any reason to stay around because I had SLAYER. I remember having a conversation with him and saying like, ‘Yeah, but we have all this dark stuff’, and MUSTAINE saying something like, ‘Well, we’ve got this song, it’s pretty Satanic,’ and I was like, ‘At the end of the day, dude, it ain’t about that. I came to play with you. I think it went spectacularly well but it’s time for me to get back to my band.’”

When asked what he thinks is the biggest factor in METALLICA‘s success, Kerry responded: “They were probably the best with melody, be it vocal or guitar harmonies. Sure, we had guitar harmonies but they were still on the darker side, whereas with METALLICA, it was more — I don’t want to cheapen it by saying this – but it’s more everyman’s music. 

“Like I said, I don’t mean that in a cheap way; it’s easier to get into for people than SLAYER’s darker tones and darker lyrical vision. METALLICA wrote stuff that anybody could like without going, ‘Why am I liking this?’ or, ‘Is it OK to like this?’ Whereas people have probably asked themselves about us for decades, ‘Is it OK to like Slayer?’ Ha ha!”

On his first thought on METALLICA‘s self-titled album (commonly known as The Black Album), Kerry said: “I may not have been super-stoked on it, but I never hated it the way a lot of people did. To this day, I like that record a lot. I think it’s METALLICA but I don’t think it’s thrash METALLICA. You can hear where all the influences come from, from all of their older stuff. They just super-slowed it down and made it super-heavy; they made it super-catchy. 

“That record probably sold more than all of my records, combined! Ha ha ha! There was so much grief over that when it came out. And to be honest with you, everything that came out after that for a long time, that’s what I have a problem with. But The Black Album? It’s still heavy. It’s got some fast stuff on it.”