For all of the time that Metallica put into making their colossal Black Album in the early ‘90s, Kirk actually mentioned that his role was actually pretty easy in the studio (well, for the most part).
Although this might have been the first time that the band played as a unit to get the takes, Kirk had mentioned that every song was screaming for a certain kind of solo, which most of the time got fed through a whole lot of wah pedal.
Kirk may have had good lead instincts at the time, but getting a solo for “The Unforgiven” was apparently a much more painful experience than what he was prepared for.
When talking to Classic Albums, Kirk had mentioned that the solo for this song was actually recorded on the spot, being the result of scrapping one of his earlier solos.
When asked about it, Kirk said “I had come in with a perfect solo that I thought would work for the song, and everyone hated it.”
In the documentary on the making of the record, you can hear Bob Rock complaining that the solo is just not gelling with the rest of the song, saying that Kirk needs to put a lot more work into the solo just like James was putting into a ballad like “Nothing Else Matters.”
Right when they seem to be getting tense, Bob exploded saying “CUT TO THE CHASE AND F*CKING PLAY. NOW THAT YOU’VE WARMED UP, LET’S HEAR THE GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR SOLO.”
In a fit of frustration, Kirk ended up getting the final version of the solo in the next few takes, becoming more and more pissed and just creating the solo to get back at them for getting him so angry.
It’s never easy, but Jason Newsted actually said that this was necessary, saying “Bob’s saying, ‘c’mon let’s see it’ and Kirk goes ‘I can do it’ and then he gets to a point where Kirk’s like ‘DAMMIT’ and then when he goes out there and shreds something…that’s the take that they use on the record.”
There’s a lot of takes that go into getting a song to sound perfect, but there’s also no real substitute for raw aggression like this.
The history books likely thank Bob Rock and the band for giving Kirk such a hard time, because the end result is – in our opinion- one of the most iconic metal guitar solos laid to tape.