There is no question: Metallica is one of the most important heavy metal bands of all time.
They conquered the underground in the 80s with their brand of thrash, and helped bring heavy metal to the world in the 90s. However, no matter what they’ve done for the genre, fans love to go after drummer Lars Ulrich.
For as long as the band has been successful, fans have been lining up to find problems with Lars, whether it’s his playing or what he’s saying. Despite being at the back of the stage, Lars often acts as the band’s leader, but he becomes a target in the process.
In his 40-year career, fans attack Lars from every angle. He is undoubtedly one of metal’s most important figures, but that doesn’t stop anyone’s eagerness to go after him. Here are ten reasons why people hate Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.
HIS DRUMMING ABILITIES
For all the hours Lars spends acting as the band’s defacto CEO, fans would prefer if he spent that time practicing behind the kit.
Lars has been a sloppy drummer from the jump, with original bassist Ron McGovney questioning whether Lars was even good enough to play heavy metal when they first got together. Scott Ian once even mentioned James telling him he planned to fire Lars after a tour was over to find someone who could play in time.
In the age of the Internet, Lars’ flaws have been brought to light a lot more in fan-posted videos, from constantly speeding up whenever he gets onstage to not being able to play some of the most rudimentary drum beats live. These fumbles still get a laugh out of Kirk and James whenever it happens.
It’s cliche advice for musicians to practice as much as they can, but with how sloppy Lars can get, maybe it doesn’t hold.
Via Enter Night
THE ST. ANGER SNARE
Every complaint about St. Anger feels like a broken record at this point, but there is no defending that snare sound. Even though the band was not in the greatest emotional place when making this record, the end product is inexcusable, with phoned-in performances from James and flaccid riffs.
If there’s one thing you’re going to remember about this record, it’s what Lars did to that poor, poor snare drum. Instead of actually playing the snare like any normal drummer would, Lars had the bright idea of unhooking his snare for the majority of this record, making for one of the most downright painful drum tones ever committed to tape by a major band.
Even with an industry giant like Bob Rock in the producer’s chair for the record, the snare is indefensible, sounding more like a trash can than a drum.
It’s certainly “experimental”, but 9 times out of 10 a drum should sound like a drum.
LARS’ WAR ON NAPSTER
Technology’s effects on music are varied and strange. When it came to the file-sharing site Napster, Lars was on the offensive.
Long before Spotify and other major streaming services, Napster offered easy access for fans to listen to all the music they want for free. As far as Lars was concerned, this screwed over bands making a living which led to him suing Napster.
Since everyone and their mother was using Napster around this time, Lars quickly became an enemy to music fans.
Lars was aware of his reputation, joking in Some Kind of Monster about being the most hated man in rock and roll.
Turns out, Lars had a point. With the industry shifting to streaming and downloads, being in a band was far less profitable than in the 80s. He might not have been able to enact change, but Lars was the first to call attention to a changing landscape.
FEUDING WITH MOTLEY CRUE
There was always a divide between the Sunset Strip flavor of hair metal and what was going on up north in the Bay Area thrash scene.
Before Metallica moved up to San Francisco, they had originally run into a lot of problems with audiences that weren’t receptive to their heavier sound. This soured Lars on the whole scene, where he would clown on it decades later.
In one documentary, Lars mentioned he would often yell ‘’fuck Motley Crue’ ’ to their faces.
During Motley Crue’s performance at the American Music Awards promoting their album Generation Swine, Lars didn’t mince words about the band using a backing track when they were playing live. Nikki Sixx fired back, calling Lars ‘fat and balding’ and yelling at him for ‘taking his soapbox on a position that’s none of your business.’
To this day, Tommy Lee still blasts Lars on social media. If only everyone would grow up.
FIRING DAVE MUSTAINE
As Metallica grew more popular, the growing attention from Jonny Z at MegaForce Records made them hungry to get rolling, traveling in a Uhaul trailer across the US to sign their deal.
When they finally arrived though, Lars served up a surprise for Dave Mustaine: a bus ticket back home. Although Mustaine had been known to get out of control, he never got a warning from the band to clean up his act and was quickly out on his ass.
Metallica firing Mustaine was hypocritical of them at the time as well, considering their nickname was Alcoholica because of how much they collectively drank.
Years removed from the incident, Dave was still pissed, appearing in a scene from Some Kind of Monster where he and Lars hash out what the ex-guitarist went through before putting Megadeth together.
Dave may have been going too hard, but the disrespect Lars gave him is inexcusable.
Whether it was making a music video or getting haircuts, fans have long debated whether Metallica are sellouts.
If there was any prime candidate for the band selling out, it was dropping The Black Album. Although there are many straight-up thrash songs on the record, Lars was adamant about writing rock than the sequel to ‘Master of Puppets.’
Even though the final product is excellent, fans could tell they were going in a different direction, with Lars simplifying his metal fills for basic structure.
Lars was the one pushing the mainstream change, singling out ‘Enter Sandman’ as the breakout song and arguing that the band would have truly sold out if they had decided to just go in and cut another version of And Justice For All.
STEALING THE NAME METALLICA
Metallica has never been shy about borrowing other people’s work.
In the book Enter Night, Mick Wall got to the bottom of where the band name’s origin came from, stemming from when Lars’ thrash metal friends were looking to put together a fanzine and were deciding between the name Metallica or Metal Mania.
Lars played the long game, suggesting Metal Mania would be a cool name for a metal magazine, tucking the other name in his back pocket for when he put his band together a few months later. As the band took off, Lars never seemed to feel the need to tell his buddies that he stole the name back in the day, instead passing it off as his own once the band got their record deal.
Seems like Lars took the phrase ‘geniuses steal’ pretty seriously in those early days.
Via Enter Night
BEING A DICKHEAD IN SOME KIND OF MONSTER
There has probably never been a more honest documentary in the history of rock than Some Kind of Monster.
We see Metallica in group therapy, which results in James’s decision to go to rehab, leaving the band’s future in question. Lars comes off as incredibly pompous in the documentary, looking to fight over the direction of the band and have things his way rather than respect what James is trying to accomplish.
Although you do get a glimpse of the more delicate side of his personality when he breaks down about potentially losing his best friends, it doesn’t help the situation when you see him getting frustrated with newly sober James and screaming expletives into his face.
When the band is trying out new bass players, James calls Lars out on his BS saying ‘when we leave it up to how you’re feeling, it’s usually just about how you’re feeling.’
Watching their interactions, it becomes clear why they needed therapy.
CHANGING METALLICA’S IMAGE
Grunge’s surge in popularity meant it wasn’t cool to look like Metallica anymore. Even though the band rode out the success of The Black Album through most of the early ‘90s there was a definite need to shake things up when they wrote their next album. Their idea? Haircuts.
While the haircuts might not have been Lars’ idea, he was definitely instrumental in the image change. Looking to make sure Metallica could fit in with the kids these days, Lars would start name-dropping bands like U2 and Oasis for cool kid cred.
By the time the Load era was over, James was fatigued by the whole thing, expressing frustration about how Lars and Kirk would play up the more en vogue sides of their new sound rather than just be themselves.
There’s nothing wrong with adapting to the times as long as it works, but Metallica doesn’t need to change to fit in.