In May 1983, Metallica traveled to Rochester, New York to record its debut album, Metal Up Your Ass. Due to the lead guitarist’s (Dave Mustaine) substance abuse and violent tendencies, he was fired from the band, and would eventually form the band Megadeth. Hammett received a phone call from Metallica the same afternoon. Even though he had never left California before, Hammett gathered some money together and flew out to New York for an audition. According to James Hetfield: – “The first song we played was “Seek and Destroy”, and Kirk pulled off this solo, and it was like…things are going to be alright!”; so Kirk was instantly asked to join the band. All of this happened prior to the recording of Kill ‘Em All.
At the time, Hammett was taking private lessons from guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. He was also still a member of Exodus at the time he was offered to join Metallica, and although the offer may have come as a surprise to him, he was already well acquainted with Metallica. While in Exodus, Hammett had shared the stage with Metallica on more than one occasion.
Hammett has written a number of riffs for Metallica since Ride the Lightning (the band’s second album). One of his riffs was used on “Enter Sandman” – which went on to become one of Metallica’s most popular songs. It was the first track and the first single on the band’s self-titled album Metallica (also known as The Black Album), and was ranked 399th on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.