Before Kirk had even thought of becoming a part of the thrash titans, he looked at them as heroes of the scene, saying “when they said Metallica I was like…that’s the greatest name I’ve ever heard…We went down there and I was like ‘these guys are pretty goddamn good.”
Kirk had originally formed the band Exodus in the Bay Area to become a part of the local thrash scene, but once he left town for New York to cut Kill Em All with Metallica, he ended up taking a few of his riffs with him.
When the reigns were turned over to Gary Holt to carry on with Exodus, he was horrified when he heard some of the songs that came out on Ride the Lightning.
As he says, the breakdown section of “Creeping Death” was originally taken from a song he wrote with Exodus called “Dying By His Hand,” saying “I remember calling him [Hammett] up and giving him a great deal of grief and he said ‘Ah, I thought I asked you if it was okay.’
I’m like ‘no, you didn’t.’ So I have the pleasure, and I use that term loosely, of watching sixty thousand people chant that shit yet I’ve never received a penny for it. I’ve had people say ‘Man you should have sued.’ But I’m like whatever, you know. It is what it is. I laugh about it now. I had one conversation with Kirk about it then I let it go forever.”
That wasn’t even the only lick that Kirk supposedly lifted either, saying that their song “Impaler,” which was later featured on Another Lesson in Violence, turned into “one of the best riffs on Ride the Lightning on ‘Trapped Under Ice.’”
Hammett seems to remember it all a bit differently, though, saying: “What I think happened was when Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were thinking about getting rid of Dave Mustaine, our sound guy, Mark Whitaker — who was Exodus’ manager — gave them Exodus’ demos. I think ‘Die By His Hand’ might have caught their ears. So when they were writing ‘Creeping Death’, they went, ‘Great. ‘Die By His Hand’. Put it right there.’
It was definitely not me going, ‘I have a riff here in this Exodus song, and it needs to be here in this Metallica song.’ By the way, I wrote that ‘Die By His Hand’ riff when I was, like, 16 years old.”
Looking back on it though, Holt has said that both bands were going off in separate directions anyway, saying “Exodus had become known for playing like real furious shit, Kirk was leaning towards the Maiden route.” Still, it might sting a little bit seeing millions of kids banging along to someone else’s version of your song.
Did Metallica lift iconic parts from ‘Creeping Death’ from Exodus’ ‘Die by His Hand’? Decide for yourself below.