Metallica Honors Late-Composer Ennio Morricone As 'Family'

Metallica has taken the stage to the familiar rumble of Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold" from his score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for nearly four decades.

The Oscar-winning composer, who scored hundreds of films and television shows died Monday in Rome at age 91.

When the news broke, Metallica was quick to pay tribute, noting Morricone's tremendous impact their career and on the music of the 20th century.

"R.I.P. Ennio Morricone," began a statement by the band released via Twitter. "Your career was legendary, your compositions were timeless. Thank you for setting the mood for so many of our shows since 1983."

Frontman James Hetfield followed up via the band's Instagram, recalling the first time Metallica took the stage to "The Ecstasy of Gold."

"...[It] was magic!" Hetfield wrote. "It has become [a part] of our blood flow, deep breathing, fist bumping, prayers and band huddled pre-show ritual ever since. I have sang that melody thousands of times to warm up my throat before hitting the stage. Thank you Ennio for pumping us up, being a big part of our inspiration, and a bonding between band, crew, and fan. I will forever think of you as part of the Metallica family."

Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett once told Rolling Stone that Megaforce Records founder Jon Zazula was the one who suggested the band use "The Ecstasy of Gold" as its intro.

"It's just a part of who we are," Ulrich said of the piece, "and we'll always be grateful to Jonny for that suggestion."

Hammett echoed Hetfield's point about the song's place in Metallica's pre-show ritual, describing a "Pavlovian conditioning that comes along with it. Whenever I hear that I feel like I have to go into stretch mode and check the tuning on my guitar and make sure that make hands and my arms and wrists are loose enough."

Metallica recorded its own version of "The Ecstasy of Gold" for the 2007 Morricone tribute album, We All Love Ennio Morricone.

The tribute album also included Celine Dion, Bruce Springsteen, Andrea Bocelli, Roger Waters and many others.

Photo: Getty Images