This would change on the band's next two releases, 1984's Ride the Lightning and 1986's Master of Puppets, as Hammett developed his own style on what many consider to be among metal's all-time great albums. Metallica was fast becoming one of metal's premier bands, yet Burton's tragic death mid-tour in September of 1986 almost ended the group. With former Flotsam & Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted taking Burton's place, Metallica soldiered on, issuing two mega-hit albums, 1988's And Justice for All and 1991's self-titled release, and establishing themselves as one of rock's biggest acts. Further sold-out tours and hit releases continued throughout the '90s - 1996's Load, 1997's Reload, 1998's Garage Inc, and 1999's S&M - as the group reinvented their former image from long-haired heavy metallists to snappily-dressed, short-haired GQ men (Hammett in particular even wore eyeliner and nail polish around this time, something that would have warranted automatic termination from the band a decade earlier!).
Throughout the '90s, Kirk's guitar playing also shifted focus from his early metal roots to a more earthy (almost bluesy) Jimi Hendrix-esque style, as Hammett's own "signature series" line of six-strings were manufactured through the ESP guitar company. ~ Denise Sullivan, All Music Guide