Metallica – Blackened Out Of The Solo

Metallica – Blackened Out Of The Solo

I was planning on writing essays examining this song in riff order from start to finish but this section is just too damn spicy to leave ’til later 😀

There’s a secret to playing this riff which I will reveal at the end!

16th notes for a bar

This riff is essentially a link riff.

The bar before it, the last bar of the solo, is all 16th notes. See below:

I’ll examine the solo section in another post because that too has some interesting issues with timing and placement of the one…

7th Fret E is the one

If you’ve read the essay on the intro to this song you’ll know where the one is in the main motif riff that everyone thinks is in 7/4.

A quick recap though: it’s in alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4 at 92bpm. The very last bar of the riff is a daunting looking bar of 15/16 but as I show in the essay, when you chunk it down it’s not that difficult to play.

The main riff begins on the 7th fret E on the A string and NOT on the low open E as everyone seems to think.

With this in mind, see the tab below for the riff out of the solo and you’ll see that with only cosmetic differences it’s exactly the same as the riff from the top of the song.

Which sounds like this:

a slight departure

I am a bass player and I write out tabs and examine music from that vantage point but sometimes a bass tab only makes sense in the context of being connected to the drums. It is the rhythm section after all…

Blackened is one such song where the bassline alone, without the landmarks of Lars’ distinctive drum parts, can often make little sense and leave you kind of adrift.

Below is a REALLY rough tab of Lars’ drum part. The details like flams and buzz rolls etc are missing (and so is the hi-hat due to it being such a tinny and digital sound that it’s not much use) but the kicks and snares and crashes (and China) are all there to orient you.

Here’s how the pattern sounds:

The keen of eye...

If you’re reading the drum tab carefully you’ll notice something odd (you may even hear it; it’s what makes this riff sound so “off” on the record.

At the end of the second time through the riff, Lars comes in on the kick/crash one 16th note early.

Now, if this was deliberate then we may perhaps owe the excitable wee Dane an apology for all the years of sledging him for his timing…

This one dropped 16th note in his pattern does 2 things:

1 – it throws the riff off center making, disorieting the listener, forcing us to stop and consider what we’re hearing and feeling and

2 – it slips the rest of Lars’ pattern backwards by one 16th note (without losing the regularity of the kick/snare backbeat) meaning that when he gets to the end of the whole thing and twats the hell out of his China twice, the very next note he plays is the downbeat for the verse.

This is either a very happy accident or Lars is actually a genius… I’ll leave that up to you…

You know you’ve listened to this song and felt this riff was a bit “off”. This is why…

Here’s how the bass and the drums sound together. After this I’ll reveal the secret to playing it.

Link Riff at 96bpm

Link riff @ 60bpm

the secret... Shh!

The secret is simple, perhaps hard to do, but ruthlessly simple.

Learn your riff and completely IGNORE Lars!

Have faith that you and the drums will end up in the same place because you will but if you listen to Lars you’ll find your one slipping away from you and you’ll get lost.

I couldn’t resist writing an essay on this riff.

When I tabbed out the bass and then the drums and put them both together and I could see and clearly hear and feel the shift I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.

I felt like I’d cracked an ancient, secret code. 💪🏽

There you have it. This is a riff that’s been bugging me and haunting my dreams for decades.

I imagine it’s been something that’s confused you too.

If you’re a music nerd like me who loves to understand what’s happening inside the riffs and songs we love then I hope that this helps to explain what’s happening here.

It’s such a subtle thing he’s doing (either by accident or design) but the difference it makes is staggering. And the fact that he finds his way home too…