It’s very hard to give the one-two punch of Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield a hard time. Lots of people do, but those would be unkind people, and although I’m not a Metallica fanboy by any means, I did grow up listening to The Black Album and, to a greater extent, Load and Reload, which I believe will be judged as much more worthy records than people like to say in the eyes of history.
Regardless, even the most churlish and hateful of trolls would be hard-pushed to state that Het-n-Mett aren’t important in the pantheon of guitarists, and it stands to reason that they’d have their own signature models. Mirk has talked at length about why he’s chosen this shape, which is a Jazz III with a bit missing. Jetfield’s is much more specific – a pointed version of the 351 that’s made from Ultex instead of the conventional Delrin.
It’s at this juncture that I need to remind everyone reading that signature picks are very much like signature guitars. This is extremely important, as being into a player gives no guarantee that you’ll dig their equipment. Jeff Beck likes necks you could use to support a building, and no-one’s queuing up to buy the solid-state signature Dimebag heads even though he was an incredible musician. When a player wants a certain thing, that’s their thing that was designed for them. With that in mind, let us proceed.
The Hammett isn’t just a Jazz III. Coming in at 1.38mm with Captain Kirk’s signature debossed on the front, it’s got way more grip than its plain Jane cousin, and although the missing bit at the top feels odd to me, Mr. Wah absolutely loves it. Dimensionally it’s exactly the same, albeit with that top bit missing. I honestly don’t think this missing section is all that important, as the raised signature acts like sandpaper and clings exceptionally well to the fingers. Tonally it’s a little brighter than its father, and when I compared them side by side on the Stick unplugged there was a noticeable difference in top end content. Against its contemporaries, the Nylon-based Ham has less power than the Swiss Picks Rusty Cooley Nuclear Cheddar Mini (2mm/Polycarbonate) and a less harsh attack than the Ernie Ball Prodigy (1.5mm/Delrin Sharp), while keeping the string-noise-free nature of the traditional Jazz III intact. If you like the III but want its naturally dull front end to be brighter, try the Ham.
Hetfield Black Fang
One of the best right hands in metal gets a completely different plectrum. Spirk Barnet’s plectrum comes in one thickness, but Sprained Jetpack gets three – .73mm, the .94mm we’re discussing here, and 1.14mm. Made from Ultex and pointed in the aforementioned fashion, Jimmy’s jammer felt much more natural to me, which given my die-hard affectation for the XL size is hardly surprising. It’s oddly big for a player in his discipline, but this is likely down to the fact that as a guy who’s spent the majority of life on rhythm and riffs he’d likely have chosen a larger pick. The grip is pretty good, with that big graphic on one side and his name in ‘Tallicas logo form on the other, and the point did make fumbling my way through Master Of Puppets easier than it was with the Ham. It sounds and feels virtually identical to the Dunlop Flow Series Standard 1mm, though the Flow is closer to the Jazz III XL, and both travel through the strings with no hesitation, save for that slightly floppy sound you get when using a larger plectrum.
Taken as a view into the worlds of both these musicians, the Ham and the Black Fang are both good picks, offering gently – but definitively – modified versions of the picks these guys have been using for what is likely to be very long periods of time. If there’s any downsides to be had, it’s that I found the Ham a bit hard on my wrists as I’m using to playing with a car door by comparison to this even-tinier-than-normal Jazz, but I did prefer the tone and grip to the conventional III. The Fang is like a 351 but better, as it’s more responsive, less flappy-sounding and comes in worthwhile gauges, with the added bonus that the Ultex will last longer than Delrin.
If I didn’t know who these two were and just bought these as picks, I’d be pretty chuffed. I do wish I’d bought the thicker Het ones, but that’s by the by. If you want ultra-reliable picks that have a clear edge over their forebears, give either of these a try-ah.
- 1.38mm Thick (Ham – good luck not calling it that in future)/.94mm Thick (Black Fang)
- Made in USA
- A heart-y 7.5/10 for both
- Price Per Unit: around £5-6 for 6 for each
- Great picks that make the wheel a bit faster-ah.