James Hetfield turns 51 today. YEAH! (Sorry. Had to get that out of my system, moving on…) The singer/guitarist has been at the front of the biggest heavy metal band in the world for over 30 years now, but he’s had some pretty metal moments over the years without the rest of the band tagging along, too. His 1980s-era fu manchu mustache could probably be the sole entry in this list, but then we’d miss out on his cameo in the South Park movie. Feel free to headbang along with each of his most metal non-Metallica moments. He’d want it that way.
1. He provided backup vocals on Danzig’s debut album, Danzig.
A Glenn Danzig song is evil enough with just Danzig singing, but for Danzig’s first solo album he asked Hetfield to provide backing vocals on two of the album’s strongest tracks: “Twist of Cain” and “Possession.” Hetfield wasn’t given credit for his vocal contribution in the album’s linear notes when it came out due to his recording contract with Metallica, but the Misfits were such a huge influence on him that I doubt he had any sore feelings over the omission. James and Glenn have worked together a number of times over the years, most recently when Glenn joined Metallica on stage for “Last Caress” and “Green Hell” during their 30th anniversary shows.
2. Hetfield stepped-in for “Stone Cold Crazy” at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
Hetfield recorded a version of the Queen song with Metallica for Elektra Records 40th anniversary album “Rubaiyat” in 1990, but gave fans a live taste when he joined surviving Queen members along with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi on stage in 1992 for the The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Hetfield can’t hit the Mercury high notes, but he nails the incredibly fast-paced verses which probably provided some good practice for later on “Fuel.”
3. Hell sounds like James Hetfield.
I’d always thought that Hell would have had a Slayer-exclusive soundtrack, but the more I think about it, Metallica seems a just as good if not better. It can’t be speed and thrash ALL the time, right? When South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut came out in 1999 there was actually some confusion over who was singing “Hell Isn’t Good” with some fans thinking it was Trey Parker doing a James Hetfield impression. That hellish growl was all Hetfield though, as confirmed by the band in an interview with Playboy.
4. His cameos on Metalocalypse. Obviously.
If you’re going to make a cartoon about a metal band so big they’re the seventh largest economy in the world, it’s only fitting you have cameos from metal singers, right? Dethklok wasted no time bringing James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet into the fold with an appearance in season 1, episode 3.
Perhaps, not as evil as Metalocalypse, but still pretty cool, Hetfield also voiced a dragon on the Disney’s children’s show, Dave the Barbarian. Cuz it’s important the kids get exposed to Metallica as early as possible.