It's 2023 and we're still talking about Metallica's ...And Justice For All and the role bass played (or didn't play) on the record. Even Kirk Hammett's mind is continuously occupied by a "what if" scenario surrounding the historic 1988 album, wondering what it would've sounded like if Cliff Burton had been alive to play on it.

The guitarist's reasons for maintaining this point of curiosity are completely valid, which he lays out in an exhaustive 103-minute interview with multi-instrumentalist, producer and teacher Rick Beato.

Hammett first speaks about Metallica's 1986 masterpiece Master of Puppets and how the stars all began to align for the band, both in terms of career success and fortified songwriting as the four-piece band continued to gain momentum.

"Master Of Puppets, for a number of reasons. I really felt that [album was] that lineup's peak, and I mean that we were peaking with Cliff Burton… Arrangement-wise, songwriting-wise, sonically, playing-wise, we coalesced in a way that we had not coalesced at that point," Hammett explains (transcription via Blabbermouth).

Tragically, Burton died in a bus accident in September of 1986 while Metallica were on tour in Europe, touting their major label debut, Master of Puppets. His bandmates have continuously praised the late bassist as the one who brought a genuine sense of musicality to the band with his knowledge of theory as well as his pioneering bass playing.

This left the group without one of their crucial songwriters as they embarked on making a technical, progressive thrash album as the follow-up to Master of Puppets.

Hammett doesn't think about the alternate reality of ...And Justice for All with Burton simply because it probably would've had audible bass, but for more holistic reasons.

In reference to the notion that Metallica's classic lineup was peaking in the mid-'80s, Hammett says, "And it just makes me wonder what …And Justice For All would've been like with Cliff. That's a thought that I still contemplate."

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Still, he's grateful for the memories and what that lineup was able to achieve during Burton's lifetime.

"But Master Of Puppets, for me, it's a very sentimental album. We knew we were on to something and we knew it was provocative and we knew that it might not be accepted by anyone, but we were fully, a thousand percent committed to it — every single note. And we had to be, really — we had to be. And I think it shows. When I revisit it now, I get flooded by a bunch of memories," the guitarist enthuses.

Watch the full interview further down the page.

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