In Defense of Lars Ulrich. Seriously, Hear Us Out

Dariusz Lachowicz (dari4u (at) wp (dot) pl), CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons
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God Bless Lars Ulrich. I say this without a hint of irony, fully aware that I will get drawn and quartered in the comments section of our social media accounts. It doesn’t matter. I will happily die on this hill. God Bless Lars Ulrich.

Think Lars is a prick? He’s the guy who started Metallica. What have you done lately? Think Lars is pretentious? He’s the guy who started Metallica. What have you done lately? Think Lars is an egomaniac? He’s the guy who started Metallica. What have you done lately? Think Lars isn’t a good drummer? He’s the guy who started Metallica. What have you done lately?

Some people complain that we write too many articles about Metallica. I get it, but here’s the thing: They are fucking Metallica. They are the biggest heavy metal band of all time. They are responsible for some of the greatest music ever recorded and some of the worst dogshit I’ve ever heard and they talk about it all ad-nauseam and different members give different perspectives and they are entertaining to no end and they are endearing to no end and they are infuriating to no end AND THEY ARE FUCKING METALLICA. What have you done lately?

Regarding Lars as both a drummer and a visionary, Jason Newsted recently said on the Let There Be Talk podcast (as transcribed by Blabbermouth): “Look at the scoreboard, motherfucker. Do not talk shit about that guy. He’s way ahead of you in most things, I promise you that — I promise you.

“If we wouldn’t have had him and his ability to anticipate, to predict, to know geography, to understand what country and what city and what did what at what time and all this stuff, no way Metallica would be what they were. No way! So you need to get a hold of yourselves because there’s way more to it than just being able to hit a snare drum.”

If anyone has a right to belittle Lars Ulrich it’s Jason fucking Newsted! Lars invented Metallica. He might not write the riffs, but Lars arranges the bulk of Metallica’s recorded output. Lars is the guy who puts everything together and keeps it together. The guy is a genius. Have you ever met a genius? News flash: They are not cool people!

Metallica were right about Napster; Lars just didn’t know how to shut up for long enough to process his thoughts without alienating everyone. I just got paid out for last quarter’s Spotify royalties, in which I made fourteen cents for thousands upon thousands of plays. This doesn’t mean I want to sue the fans of my stupid fucking band like Metallica did, but I sure hope that some of you guys who stream our bullshit would be ever so kind enough to pick up a record or a goddamn t-shirt someday.

Lars’ achilles heel is his mouth. He’s a hyperactive little kid who acts out of impulse, and I love him for it. My favorite example of the guy putting his foot squarely down his throat before promptly realizing it came in a 2017 interview with 11Alive. Asked why he doesn’t have tattoos, a clearly moody Ulrich responded (as transcribed by Blabbermouth): “I never really thought about why I haven’t. It’s just the idea of somebody sticking needles in me, leaving permanent ink spots on me just seems… It’s sort of like… I don’t know… Why don’t you eat coal? Or why don’t you jump off the top of the Empire State Building? It just doesn’t seem like within the range of what I would call normal behavior. But no disrespect, of course, to all people that have tattoos, but it’s just not for me.” 

The interviewer attempted to move onto another question, but a look came over Lars’ face as he realized what he just said. Reaching for the mic, he interrupts the journalist to say: “I’ll take the ‘normal behavior’ part out of that. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be offensive. But tattoos are not for me.”

Now, chances are good that most of you who are reading this don’t know what I look like. Let me assure you: I have a tattoo. When I say “I have a tattoo,” it means that I am so covered in tattoos that at this point it’s just one big thing that covers ninety percent of my body or so. I worked in the tattoo industry full-time for well over a decade and it’s a huge part of my life. Am I offended by what Lars has to say about tattoos and tattooing? Fuck no! He’s Lars Ulrich; the horribly flawed human genius behind fucking Metallica! What have I done lately?

Lars is not cool, and he’s not supposed to be. He’s supposed to be the maniac who started Metallica and arranged a body of work that defined a generation. With Lars, the bad stuff is endearing and the good stuff is profound. Got a problem with him? Roll your eyes and move on. What have you done lately?

If the word doesn’t come to an end, people will be talking about Metallica’s set at the 2004 Download Festival for generations to come. Suffering from exhaustion on the heels of a relentless tour schedule and the collapse of his marriage, Lars was taken to the hospital and unable to perform. Rather than cancel, the band called on Slayer’s Dave Lombardo and Slipknot’s Joey Jordison to sit in for the set. 

In a testament to self-awareness, Lars addressed the events of that evening in a 2005 interview, saying: “It was the first-ever Metallica gig I’d ever missed. You wanna try lying in a hospital in Germany while Dave Lombardo — the greatest drummer on the planet — is playing with your band? That’s not easy.”

Yes, Dave Lombardo is a better drummer than Lars Ulrich. They both know it. It doesn’t matter. Dave Lombardo could never create Metallica. As he said in a recent interview with Metal Hammer: “I saw Mario Duplantier recently talking about Lars, saying some kind words. I feel Lars is an essential part of that band – anybody else and it just won’t sound the same. I admonish the people who talk shit about him, I don’t like that. 

“You have to embrace who Lars is, and his contribution to Metallica’s sound. They’re such an inspirational band, and everybody wants to be as big as they are, and you can only do that by taking risks. 

“They shocked people when they cut their hair or whatever, but it was part of their evolution and they clearly knew what they were doing. I love that they’re still out there, kicking ass.”

God Bless Lars Ulrich. God Bless Metallica. What have you done lately?