Mustaine Says He Wrote Metallica’s ‘Leper Messiah.’ Hammett Says He Didn’t

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Getting booted out of one of the most legendary metal bands in the world was never going to be easy for Dave Mustaine. Even when Metallica was being known as Alcoholica through their early tenure, Dave’s drinking was just a little too much for them to handle, getting to New York and handing him a bus ticket back to California, as Kirk Hammett came in to fill his position. Though Dave definitely carved out a legacy all by himself with Megadeth, that didn’t mean Metallica stopped using his ideas or anything (apparently). 

If you look through the liner notes of both Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning, you can see Mustaine credited for some of the band’s more legendary licks, from the bluesy sounds of “Jump in the Fire” to the haunting sections of “The Call of Ktulu,” which eventually morphed into the high energy stomp of “Hangar 18.” Things seemed to smooth over for the most part, but Dave has said that the Master of Puppets track “Leper Messiah” does include some of his licks as well.

While Metallica were their own functioning unit at this point, there was always a chance that some of Dave’s licks found their way onto the tape, with the middle riff being taken from a demo tape that they were working with before Cliff Burton had even joined the band. Although the tentative title of the song at that stage were “The Hills Run Red,” Metallica have yet to admit that the song actually belongs to Dave in some capacity. 

Mustaine, however, seemed pretty convinced this wasn’t the case. Here’s him telling his side of the story to Ultimate Guitar:

“So I woke up one day, and Lars, James, and Cliff were sitting there. They go, Dave, we’ve got something to tell you. And I went, What? I woke up. This was after we had done two shows out in New York. You’re out of the band. I said, What? No warning? No second chance? They go, No. I just went, Okay.

I packed up all my stuff and I left a reel of tape there, the most stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. When I left, I said, Don’t you ever record my stuff. Then Kill ‘Em All came out and four of my songs were on there. Then Ride the Lightning came out and two more songs were there.

Then Leper Messiah came out and I heard part of my stuff in Leper Messiah from the Master of Puppets album. I asked Lars about that and they were saying that that was stuff that was written while I was in Metallica for Metallica music. I get paid for it; I didn’t get paid for Leper Messiah. I said, Lars, you’re ripping me off! And he goes, Yeah, I did it pretty well, huh? He’s lucky that he’s such a shrimp that I don’t hurt the guy.”

Kirk Hammett has since gone on record vehemently denying Mustaine’s authorship claims:

“Even though Dave might claim that he wrote ‘Leper Messiah,’ he didn’t. There’s maybe a chord progression that was in that song, like, maybe 10 seconds that came from him — that, ironically, is just before the guitar solo. But he did not write ‘Leper Messiah’ at all. In fact, I remember being in the room when Lars came up with the main musical motif.”

All that said, it might not be worth it to get the lawyers involved in this or anything. Dave has already tried to make amends with both Lars and James during the Big 4 shows and even the more uncomfortable conversations in the movie Some Kind of Monster, so starting up the feud again may have been pointless. Both bands have earned their place in metal history, and even if they didn’t make it together, they can still stand as metal warriors.

Dave Mustaine told Lars he ‘doesn’t really care for’ The Black Album, but loved ‘The Unforgiven’