“That was it for me, a rock god lead guitarist playing on it”: how Metallica’s Kirk Hammett helped a dance classic to come full circle

Metallica's Kirk Hammett
(Image credit: Javier Bragado/Redferns)

The pioneering dance duo Orbital have rock to thank for their biggest ever hit. The brothers were at the beginning of their career when they decided to write a song in defence of Judas Priest, who had recently been taken to court accused of putting subliminal messages in their music encouraging listeners to commit suicide. They would call the song Satan. In an interview published this week, Orbital co-founder Paul Hartnoll explained the track’s genesis. “We’d been hearing about the whole Judas Priest, Rob Halford thing about them being taken to court for putting secret messages in their track, the classic ‘play it backwards and it says Satan is king’ kind of thing or where they thought it had some kind of suicidal message… we always thought rock bands got hit in the neck unfairly from the religious right for saying things like that and we just thought ‘Well, hang on a minute, if they were gonna say it, they’d say it outright, these guys are big tough guys, they’re not just gonna hide it!’. So in support of Rob Halford and Judas Priest, we thought ‘Let’s do it forwards, let’s make a pro Satan track!’.”

Sampling its one-word hook from a Butthole Surfers’ song titled Sweat Loaf, the track was, Hartnoll explained, an attempt at making “hip-hop rock music”. Originally released on the band’s 1991 release III EP, it became their biggest success a few years later when a live version went to number three in the UK Charts in 1997. For Hartnoll, though, one of the most pleasing incarnations it took on was when the group enlisted Metallica axeman Kirk Hammett for a reworked version of the song that appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 comic book movie Spawn. “That was it for me, it had come full circle,” Hartnoll said, “the most enigmatic rock god lead guitarist is now playing on this track that was a tribute to those guys in the first place. It was so great to get him on there.”

Listen to Orbital and Metallica unite on the Spawn version of Satan below:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.