The Top 10 best James Hetfield guest appearances

(Image credit: Jesse Wild)

Even though Metallica frontman James Hetfield frowned upon ex-bassist Jason Newsted indulging in various musical projects outside of the band, Papa Het himself is no stranger to lending his unmistakable roar to myriad releases over the years. Here’s 10 of the best…

10. Cali Hetfield – Crazy For You (2015)

Papa Het collaborating with his 16-year-old daughter on an Adele cover is sweetly heartwarming. This footage shows our Jaymz coming full circle, from the pimply shrieking teen of No Life ‘Til Leather to the proud dad of his own singing teen (albeit one with better skin) – but Metal Militia this ain’t.

9. Jim Martin – Disco Dust/Barsoap Hair (1997)

For his lo-fi solo debut, the former Faith No More guitarist (and old schoolfriend of Cliff Burton) pulled in some favours from his Metallichums, writing the song Fatso’s World with Jason Newsted and inveigling our man Hetfield along for some edge-of-hearing backing vocals on two tracks. Amusingly, the Hetmeister’s contribution to these quirky album highlights largely consists of the sounds “Yeeah-yeeaahh” and “Yo-ooh-whooaa!”

8. Primus – Eclectic Electric (1999)

Hetfield’s six-string contribution to this brooding Floydian jam – alongside Faith No More’s Jim Martin – isn’t immediately evident, at least until the jagged rhythm stabs around the seven minute mark. But the collaboration cemented a longstanding friendship between the two Californian bands; Kirk Hammett went to school with Les Claypool, and the Primus bassist tried out for Metallica following the death of Cliff Burton.

7. Danzig – Possession (1988)

“I’m pretty sure he just sang the Possession parts!” recalls Glenn Danzig of this Het-indebted debut cut, and again that tell-tale growl is in subtle evidence on this irresistible chorus. For contractual reasons Jaymz wasn’t credited on the sleeve, with the result that many fans spent many years thinking “whoa, Glenn sounds just like Hetfield there!”

6. James Hetfield – Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand

Papa Het’s dad Virgil was always a big fan – and latterly a friend – of The Dukes Of Hazzard balladeer Waylon Jennings. So naturally, James seized the chance to rock up this 1978 hit single on a tribute album to the recently deceased country legend in 2003. Hetfield also played all the instruments, including some shit-hot drumming that evokes the apocryphal John Lennon quote about Ringo, suggesting that Lars isn’t even the best drummer in Metallica.

5. Gov’t Mule – Drivin’ Rain (2002)

Once again alongside his old jamming pal Les Claypool on bass, Hetfield dominates the vocals on this song by the Allman Brothers-affiliated jam band for auto-themed NASCAR compilation NASCAR: Crank It U, in 2002, elevating the tune from affable bluesy toe-tapper to a vital must-have for the savvy metalhead. Gov’t Mule are particularly popular within the Metallica famil-eh; Jason Newsted joined the band for a string of live dates around the same time.

4. DVDA – Hell Isn’t Good (1999)

Popcorn went flying in cinemas worldwide when Kenny descended to Hell in 1999’s best-film-ever-made South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. As soon as Hetfield’s uncredited-but-unmistakeable tones barked out, “Little boy you’re going to Hell!” while the poor muffled schoolboy was pummelled and flung by fire demons, it sent an instant excited tingle up the spines of moviegoing Metallifans everywhere.

3. Corrosion Of Conformity – Man Or Ash (1996)

In the midst of the controversial Load era in 1996, Hetfield helped out his North Carolina buddies Corrosion Of Conformity with some powerful trademark snarls on this weighty sludge crawl from the band’s Wiseblood album. In the late 80s, COC had advertised in LA punk zine Flipside for a singer in the James Hetfield vein, and it doesn’t get closer to the James Hetfield vein than James Hetfield.

2. Queen – Stone Cold Crazy (1992)

Metallica’s toughened-up take on Queen’s proto-speed metal headbanger from 1974 – issued as the b-side to Enter Sandman – caught the ear of Brian May, who kindly offered the band the opening slot at 1992’s Wembley Stadium mega-benefit. Hetfield was later invited to crank it onstage with the remaining members of Queen – plus Tony Iommi! – and he did look a little strange prowling the stage sans his Explorer guitar.

1. Danzig – Twist Of Cain (1988)

James originally met the former Misfits frontman at a Black Flag show, and Metallica went on to be Danzig’s biggest cheerleader, taking his new eponymous band on the road as support on the Damaged Justice tour. “He was hanging out with us in LA. I had to go back to the studio. He said he wanted to come along. I was like, ‘Oh, sure!’” Glenn explained to blog site Citypages in 2013, revealing the breezy spontaneity of Hetfield’s discreet but distinctive backing vocal on this classic debut opener.

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Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.