Even though he's been in the band going on five years, the talents of bassist Robert Trujillo will be featured on a Metallica album for the first time on their forthcoming LP Death Magnetic, which lands in stores September 12 and features "The Day That Never Comes" as its first single.
Before replacing erstwhile bassist Jason Newsted in 2003, Trujillo played with Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, Black Label Society, Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell and Ozzy Osbourne. Trujillo, as you might imagine, couldn't wait to contribute to Metallica's newest material, after spending years on the road with the band, playing bass lines someone else came up with. And he's proud of what Metallica were able to accomplish on Death Magnetic.
"I feel there's a lot of life to the tracks and a real solid groove — things feel tight," Trujillo told MTV News last week. "It's a lot of fun — the material is very dynamic, and we can't wait to present it to the world. It's been a great journey.
"Connecting with them onstage was the first phase of the journey, and then being able to create with them has been a great experience," the bassist added. "It was the best school of song-arranging in metal and rock you can ever imagine. It was a wonderful experience. ... There's nothing like it."
But what was it like for frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, who've been the driving force behind the band for more than two decades? Hetfield summed it up best: "In the studio — and no offense towards Jason — but Rob has already contributed more to this record than Jason did in 14 years."
A rather bold statement, but one that Ulrich echoed: "It's difficult to praise Rob without insinuating that there was something not great about his predecessor, and I've got nothing but respect and love for Jason. But Rob, he's been with us five years now, and it's completely effortless. ... It's never felt this complete."
But the admiration didn't end there. Guitarist Kirk Hammett, who was absent for much of the time Metallica were in the studio following the births of his sons, Angel and Vincenzo, said it feels as though Trujillo has been in the band since its inception.
"Sometimes I look over at him, and he's playing his bass onstage, and it feels like he's always been there — his chemistry, his personality, it just all fits in really, really well," Hammett said. "He's a godsend."
But according to Hetfield, much of the reason why, in his opinion, Newsted didn't contribute all that much to Metallica's previous efforts was that he wasn't always permitted to.
"A lot of it did have to do with our fear of losing some kind of control, no doubt about that," he said. "But Rob has slipped in somehow easier. He has this respect about him. ... We didn't have to haze the fan out of him, or toughen him up somehow."
For Ulrich, Trujillo played several roles in the studio. Not only did he contribute to the material creatively, he acted as the perfect conduit between the drummer and Hetfield and, in the absence of Hammett, stepped up fearlessly, bringing his own fresh ideas to the table — and many of those ideas made it onto Death Magnetic.
"It's effortless," Ulrich said of working with Trujillo. "He is very gifted, very fast, and he kind of just fits in. He's such a gifted musician, and Rob spent a lot of time being the third wheel in the Lars/James songwriting [process], and he just adapted to it super quickly and was great to bounce ideas off of and to come up with a great suggestion when me or James would get stuck. He was right in there with us. It's been incredibly positive to have him around — in the creative process, the way we all connect with each other and the way we connect with our fans."
Being the newest member of Metallica and, more importantly, a fan that became part of the fold, Trujillo's got a unique perspective on the new album, which he compared to a piece of fine art.
"When you listen to this body of work from start to finish, it's like a really cool painting," he said. "There's a lot of dynamics in it, the lyrics definitely have depth, and James really put a lot into them. It's just like looking at a beautiful work of art, and it's taken some time, but man, is it worth it."