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For Kirk Hammett, the guitar solo he performs on "Salt the Wound," a track on Exodus' upcoming album Blood In, Blood Out (Nuclear Blast Records, Oct. 14), is a full-circle moment. Hammett had co-founded the thrash band when he was just 16, and shortly after he turned 20 in 1983, he joined Metallica. While things obviously turned out well for Hammett, he left a bit of unfinished business behind: While he had played on two early Exodus demos, he never made a proper recording with his original group.

"It was something I'd been wanting to do for a while," Hammett tells Billboard.

He explains that he and Exodus guitarist Gary Holt began reconnecting a few years ago at the 2012 memorial concert for Exodus singer Paul Baloff (who died of a stroke in 2012), and the bond continued to grow when Slayer and Metallica did gigs together at events like the 2009 Sonisphere festival in Europe, since Holt was filling in for Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman on the road.

"I got an email from [Holt] about six months ago going, 'Hey, I hope you can lay down a sick solo on the new Exodus album,'" recalls Hammett. "I thought about it for about two seconds and I emailed him back, and I'm like, 'Yeah, man. I'm there.'"

Hammett laid down the track at Exodus' studio and says that afterwards drummer Tom Hunting "threw some chicken on the barbecue, and we spent the rest of the day sitting around drinking beer and eating barbecue just like we did back when we were teenagers." He laughs. "It was great. It did feel like a bunch of teenagers hanging out again, and it was very, very special. I love those guys to bits."

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He observes that when he and Holt used to write music together they would typically place two guitar solos next to each other, and that's how the piercing "Salt the Wound" is laid out. "Ever since the beginning, when Gary started playing in the band, he and I have always tried to outdo each other," says Hammett with a giggle. "At first I thought, 'This is really not that cool. I don't want to have to be worried about getting blown away,' but then I thought, 'Well, wait a second: This is actually bringing out the best in me. We're bringing out the best in each other.' That's how it was back then, and that's how it was when I got back into the studio."

He continues with a devious chuckle, "I heard Gary's solo that he'd already put on [the album] and instantly started thinking, 'What can I do to blow his solo away?'" But Hammett emphasizes that the competition between he and Holt was "always friendly, always healthy and always for the good of the band."

"At the end of the day, the two solos are super complementary to each other. You can tell who's playing what, and it's a great dynamic," he says of the result on "Salt the Wound." "I'm so happy about it, so tickled. It's like coming back to a fraternity that you lost contact with."

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Exodus in 2014Courtesy of Adrenaline PR

When Hammett was offered the spot in Metallica -- he replaced fired guitarist Dave Mustaine, who went on to form Megadeth to great success -- he says the decision to leave Exodus wasn't too difficult to make because the latter band was in flux at the time and he had gelled really well musically and personally Metallica singer/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich and then-bassist Cliff Burton (who later died in a touring bus accident in 1986). But he admits that at times he felt pangs of remorse.

"That was a ship that I was steering," he says of Exodus. "I pretty much jumped ship. I pretty much bailed on them, and I'll admit that. Maybe I'm trying to make up for it these days," he muses with a laugh. 

If Holt and company ever had any really hard feelings, they never showed. Hammett says that when he delivered the news that he was leaving, "They were happy for me, but it was a little bittersweet. I remember they threw me a going-away party, and at the end of the party Paul Baloff said, 'Hey, come over here,' and I came over there, and he dumped a beer on me. Gary saw Paul dump a beer on me, so he walked over and dumped his beer on me too, and I just took it. I was just going. 'Yeah, I know, OK. Whatever.'"

You may not have heard of Niia just yet, but you've probably already heard her voice on at least one occasion. As a guest vocalist on Wyclef Jean's 2007 single "Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)," she scored her first top 10 hit at the age of 19 alongside Akon and Lil Wayne. And as the voice of jingles for commercials by the likes of Carrabba's and Subway, she's reached millions of people anonymously.  

"The irony is that more people have heard me singing about tomato sauce than my own music," Niia, now 27, says. "So I hope that will shift now and people will discover what I've been making."

And what Niia's been making is likely to earn her unique acclaim as she preps the release of her debut EP Generation Blue for Oct. 27. A collaboration with producer Robin Hannibal, the EP has a warm, live soul-pop feel similar to what Hannibal lent to his two critically adored projects from 2013 — Rhye's Woman and Quadron's Avalanche — but anchored in Niia's classically trained jazz vocals and confessional songwriting. She's already issued spooky, stylish videos for the modern-noir "Generation Blue" and "Made For You". Today, Billboard has the exclusive premiere of Generation Blue's uptempo opening cut, the disco-funk "David's House."

Having cut her teeth first on tour with Wyclef and later as an experimental jazz singer who frequented New York's "Sleep No More," Niia was surprised with where her and Hannibal's influences overlapped, and where she was challenged. "I would have never imagine I'd do a disco track, but it feels like me because I have a friend named David," she says simply. "If you know Robin’s work you can hear his influences and where exactly what they are, like, 'Oh that kind of sounds like a Rhye melody,' but I made sure he wasn't too present and there was a little more me. I don't think there's any shame in having someone write you a song if it's a better song, and I'm a jazz singer so I'll sing anything. But I definitely have my hands in all of them."

Darrell Hammond is rejoining Saturday Night Live as the show's new announcer, after longtime voice Don Pardo passed away in August at 96.

Hammond will introduce the show, its cast and Weekend Update when the 40th season of SNL kicks off on Sept. 27, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The longtime castmember's return was originally reported by USA Today and The New York Times.

Hammond, who left SNL in 2009 after 14 seasons, making him the show's longest tenured star, filled in for Pardo before, impersonating his famous voice, USA Today and The Times report. 

'Saturday Night Live' Announcer Don Pardo Dies at 96

"I sat in for Don when he had laryngitis several times over the years," Hammond tells USA Today. "He was a lovely person. When he passed, they wanted me; it felt right for me to be the one to replace him. It's been a very improbable life; I didn't expect something like this, but it feels real good." The Times notes that once Hammond even pretended to be Pardo in a 1999 opening monologue with James Van Der Beek.

Going forward, Hammond won't try to impersonate Pardo but will try to honor his legacy, creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels explains. "I just knew it wouldn't be anybody who sounded like Don or replicated him," Michaels tells USA Today of selecting the show's new announcer. "It can't be what it was, but it could sort of be in the same tradition. And it will be nice to have Darrell around. He understands the show and will probably be helpful in ways we haven't yet figured out."

'SNL' Announces 2 Hosts & Musical Guests for Season 40

Michaels adds to The Times that he hoped to never have to replace Pardo's voice. “There were a lot of sweet ideas about carrying on with Don somehow,” Michaels says. “Because everyone has a Pardo impression. But he had the greatest run and he’s a completely beloved figure. So I thought: Don’t turn this into something else. That period ended.”

NBC made the announcement official on Thursday morning. Hammond's return is just one of several changes taking place at SNL. The show has replaced Weekend Update anchor Cecily Strong with The Daily Show's Michael Che, opted not to renew contracts for featured players Noel Wells and John Milhiser and cut Brooks Wheelan. Castmember Nasim Pedrad also left the show to join Fox's Mulaney. New featured player Pete Davidson was hired earlier this week.

Chris Pratt is set to host and Ariana Grande is lined up as the musical guest for SNL's season premiere.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.

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