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Top 10 Lars Ulrich Drumming Moments. Yeah, That's Right…

Take a look at the Metallica drummer's finest performances. Seriously.

Take a look at the Metallica drummer's finest performances. Seriously.

If there’s one thing that really pisses me off about the metal scene it’s how so many people jump all over Lars Ulrich. Sure, he may be short, flamboyant, fiercely emotional, speak with an accent (by the way, how’s your unaccented Danish coming along? Exactly.), posses manic amounts of uncorked energy, never stop talking and not care what anyone thinks as he fearlessly voices his opinion, but I’m sure each and every one of us has a list of traits and qualities that anyone who knows us can rhyme off as irritants. Herein lies the difference: despite Metallica opening up the behind-the-scenes side of their lives and business at various points over the last bunch of years via interviews, autobiographies and documentaries, very few of us know what any of those dudes are really like to hang out with once the cameras, talking points and canned answers to loaded questions are turned off and put away. As well, there’s always editing, context, sequencing and all that other mumbo-jumbo that skews presentation and opinion one way or another.

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When it boils down to it, Ulrich will likely have the public’s cards stacked against him for time immemorial because of his outspoken personality, his extra-curricular pursuits that the self-appointed scene police doesn't consider “metal” (e.g. his art collecting past versus, say, Kirk Hammett’s horror movie fascination and James Hetfield’s love of gas guzzlers and hunting) and his steering of Metallica towards and through some questionable musical endeavours. However, fact remains that despite what any of us jerks sitting in the peanut gallery say or think, dude has, at the very least, arranged/co-arranged every song the band has ever written, which means he’s had a hand in writing some of history’s greatest metal/thrash tunes. He’s played a more-than-significant role in the construction of albums that consistently appear in the highest echelons (if not, the top spots outright) of greatest albums lists and goddamn if he didn’t hit a total bull’s eye when he predicted the deleterious impact downloading would ultimately have on music and the music industry. And hell, if you doubt his musical ability, we’d direct you to his San Diego drum solo on Live Shit: Binge and Purge; it’s a banger! And if that’s not enough, he may have invented standing up and playing drums with his tongue waggling!

However, what really, really pisses me off is when motherfuckers parrot the whole, “Lars is a shitty drummer” routine. Lars is not a “shitty drummer.” Admittedly, he may not be on par with the masters of the instrument and fuck me if you ever see him successfully sitting in with a free-jazz/fusion/improv jazz band. He may not be as tactically precise as the click-track-bred sticksmen currently populating the fields of metalcore, djent and death metal. And there are definitely noticeable shortcomings on those first two albums, but fuck you if you think he’s a slouch hanging on by a thread when it comes to his craft; he’s pretty damn good at manning the Metallica throne.

Here’s an analogy: I can serve a tennis ball in the neighbourhood of 100 miles-an-hour. My slice backhand is pretty sweet when it comes to placement and spin and I can disguise it for use as an effective drop shot. My net game isn’t too bad; I’m fast, so I can get to the ‘T’ quickly and have a good volley, but am short enough so that full net coverage is an issue. My forehand is better than my backhand, but overall, my ground strokes lack consistency and I’ve always had a weak overhead smash. In my youthful prime, I was a provincially ranked tennis player and as a junior, often played in tournaments against players in older age brackets. Chances are, I can probably kick anyone’s ass who’s reading this at tennis, but compare me to Roger Federer, and yes, I “suck.” In fact, the 4-5-600 ranked players in the world, who get their asses handed to them by Federer and the other top ranked players regularly, could kick my ass, but that doesn’t mean I, or they, “suck” at the sport.

Lars may have had his metronomic challenges in the past and maybe he can’t gravity blast like assembly-line death metal drummer #665, but consider his crescendos and fluttering snare work, the way he can accent (often unconventionally) the ups and downs of a guitar riff, the way his fills often start and/or end a beat or two before the beginning or end of a measure, how soulful his playing is, how he locks into a riff without perpetuating standards the way someone like AC/DC’s Phil Rudd does and so on and so forth. He definitely does not “suck.” Let me be clear; I don’t play drums or know the ins and outs of the instrument like many of you do (or think you do), but to quote one C. Montgomery Burns, “I know what I hate and I don’t hate this.” Granted, Ulrich would probably have a hard time fitting in with another band/song writer as he does with Metallica/Hetfield, but the chances are pretty good that Metallica wouldn’t have been the same nor gotten to the top of the game if the bus had indeed fallen on him.

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Earlier this year, I braved the cold, snow and border crossing to attend the Buffalo stop of the Vaporizer/Vattnet Viskar tour. One thing led to another, and I got to talking to Vattnet Viskar’s guitarist, Chris Alfieri and we bonded over our shared admiration and belief in Lars’ drumming acumen. So, in order to contribute to the hopeful spontaneous combustion of the internet, we recently took a few moments to piece together a list of our Top 10 Favourite Lars Drumming Moments. In all actuality, we probably could have gone on forever – moreso, because unlike Chris, I’ve never really heard much outside of the hits of the Black Album, Load or Re-load, but I’ve gone on record tons of times about my enjoyment of St. Anger and Death Magnetic. And of course, who doesn’t like those first four albums? – and this isn’t a definitive or exhaustive list in any way shape or form, but for the purposes of fitting into Metal Injection’s top 10 format, here you go.

LARS ULRICH’S TOP 10 DRUMMING MOMENTS (As Selected By Kevin Stewart-Panko And Chris Alfieri)

1) The last four minutes of “One” are untouchable. As we’ve already alluded to, the double-kick part that locks in with the guitars for the song’s second half may not top the scales of technicality (though I still don’t think either of us could do it with the same consistency), but as far as playing a crucial role in the context of a song, the pattern is instantly recognisable and inescapably infectious. Hell, you probably started humming it or tapping the beat out with your feet half a sentence into this paragraph.

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