"Orion" is the seventh track from Metallica's 1986 album Master of Puppets. It is an instrumental piece composed by Cliff Burton with help from James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich.
Some of the guitar and bass solos on this song were taken from the original demo of ""Welcome Home (Sanitarium)."
The title is in reference to the cosmic or space-like sounds heard during the transitional point of the song. "Orion" was the third instrumental Metallica recorded, the first being "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" from Kill 'Em All and the second being "The Call of Ktulu" from Ride the Lightning. Metallica demonstrated their progression as songwriters and musicians by using multiple guitar/bass harmony parts and many stylistic changes throughout both the song and Master of Puppets as a whole. Orion has been covered in live acts by many other bands such as Dream Theater, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Mastodon. Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell played parts of "Orion" in a memorial for Cliff Burton shortly after his death.
The song fades in with a heavily distorted bassline, joined by the drums and guitars about one minute in. The song then jumps into one of its signature riffs with an occasional, highly distorted bass fill. A guitar solo is layered over the original riff. At the 3:59 mark, the signature bass solo is played with a chorus pedal. The song's namesake "spacey" sounds are heard during this point. After several harmonizing guitar solos, carried along by Burton's bass, a complex and heavily distorted bass solo is played, which is a prime example of Burton's lead bass playing style. After the solo, a fast paced guitar riff is played, and the song settles back into one of its original riffs and finally fades out. (Although the liner notes state that the second solo is played by Hetfield and the fourth by Burton, it is clearly the third solo that is played by Burton; the fourth and final solo is played by Hammett).
The album version of the song was played at Cliff Burton's cremation, as it was largely his composition.
This song is widely considered the greatest composition of Cliff Burton's career. It was also one of Burton's favorite songs, second to "Master of Puppets."
Although Metallica has played parts of "Orion" live throughout their history, including opening their supporting set for The Rolling Stones's A Bigger Bang Tour show at SBC Park in San Francisco in November 2005, with the first half of the song, it wasn't until June 3, 2006 during the Escape from the Studio '06 tour at the Rock Am Ring Festival in Nuremburg, Germany that Metallica finally played "Orion" in its entirety. These European shows were also noteworthy for the album Master of Puppets being played all the way through