Hetfield also wrote the first solo in master of puppets (which i actually prefer to Kirk's).
I don't think Kirk Hammet is overrated at all, at least not in the 80's. His lead playing was memorable, fitted the song, and maybe he wasn't super technical but he could definitely play and wrote very good, emotionally charged solos,and developed considerably up to AJFA. As far as song writing goes i think Hetfield was just as good as Mustaine, but in a different way. Metallica, as i see it, were more epic and emotional, Megadeth more technical and "sneering" in their attitude(not a bad thing).Both are great, Hetfield is no slouch for the sorts of leads he used to do, either. I think he's a lot more versatile than what he gets credited for.
I was watching the 1991 live shit disc. Lars was surprisingly good!! Double kick a trifle unsteady, but i doubt i could do better....
As far as that whole "cliff wouldn't have let metallica be shit", well, he was into REM before he died, and was into progressing....I do not think they are changing so much for the money. They are rich already. They are obviously intelligent, and talented, guys. They have always been unafraid to progress. when they did fade to black people went "SELLOUT!!!" because it wasn't pure thrash style, but they didn't care (metallica always aspired to more epic visions than thrash, in my opinion), they did what they felt was right. By all accounts, they still do. Granted, i'm not going to say that Load and Reload were great "metallica" albums. but viewed as plain bluesy rock, they were great! they did have some of that tritone/palm mute thing in parts as well.
I think it's important to view their albums in a fresh way, not based on what they have done previously, because they change so much with each. I was not a major St Anger fan, but I respect that. I think it was in fact NOT trendy at the time. The production was terrible, the vocals were out of tune, the album was actually too heavy to be trendy (yes, it was quite heavy in my opinion). But it's important to stay current too. Granted, good music never ages, but you can't be stuck in 1986 either. I think metallica realise that .
If I sound like a fanboy, I'm only stating my opinion. I welcome your arguments to the contrary. Cheers.