Burton joined the band in 1982, replacing Ron McGovney, and performed on its debut studio album, Kill 'Em All. He performed on two more Metallica albums, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, both of which met with major commercial and critical success. Burton was known for his "lead bass" approach, in which the bass played a melodic and soloist role, in addition to holding down the harmonic and rhythmic foundation of the band.
On September 27, 1986, Burton died when the band's tour bus over-turned and crushed him in rural southern Sweden. Burton was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Metallica on April 4, 2009.