NEW YORK: Metallica, one of the most influential acts in heavy metal, has hinted that a new album is getting closer after a gap of nearly a decade.
In a holiday video sent to Metallica fans, frontman James Hetfield offered season's greetings from inside a studio before guiding the paws of his cat to hit play on a recording.
Fans had the chance to listen to 15 seconds of unmistakable Metallica with a thrashing rhythm guitar line and an indecipherable lyric in Hetfield's raspy voice.
The video, sent to fans on Tuesday, immediately renewed speculation that a new Metallica album will come soon — the first since 2008's "Death Magnetic."
When Metallica played in Canada in September, drummer Lars Ulrich told Le Journal de Quebec that the new album would come out in mid-2016.
But lead guitarist Kirk Hammett later told Buffalo, New York radio station WEDG that the album could "at the very worst" arrive in early 2017.
He said the album would be along the lines of "Death Magnetic," which was considered a return to Metallica's heavy roots after periods of experimentation.
Metallica in the 1980s helped create the thrash metal genre, known for its aggression and focus on musicality as opposed to the more flamboyant and pop-influenced glam metal acts.
The California-based band has only one show scheduled in 2016 -- a concert in San Francisco on the eve of the city's turn hosting the Super Bowl, American football's championship game.