Metallica’s Lars Ulrich Favorite Albums And Influences [Opinion]

Lars Ulrich of Metallica

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich sat down with Kory Grow of the Rolling Stone, as part of the Rolling Stone’s project to choose and rank the “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Times.” Of course, Lars Ulrich was the Rolling Stones first thought for a consultant on this task.

While Lars Ulrich was no doubt proud that Metallica’s Master of Puppets was selected as the second “greatest metal album of all times” according to the Rolling Stone, he chose to nominate 15 albums he didn’t write and record.

What was the number one slot for “great metal album of all times” as selected by the Rolling Stone? Everyone has to be wondering. That honor went to Black Sabbath for Paranoid released in 1970.

Black Sabbath

Lars Ulrich of Metallica, however, chose another Black Sabbath album for his favorite 15. Lars Ulrich selected Black Sabbath’s Sabotage, made in 1975, just five years after Paranoid. He especially likes “Hole in the Sky” and “Symptom of the Universe.”

“Side A, if you look at vinyl, is probably the strongest 20 minutes of Black Sabbath. And then ‘Symptom of the Universe’ – the simplicity in the riff, the down-picking, the chug – it’s obviously the blueprint for the core of what hard rock and metal ended up sounding like… up through the Eighties and Nineties.”

Ozzy Osbourne And Rudy Sarzo circa 1980s

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich decided to be diplomatic, however, so he did not rank his favorite 15 in order. Instead, they have listed Lars Ulrich’s favorite 15 alphabetically on the Rolling Stone site. This article lists them by era.

AC/DC

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich also likes the 1977 AC/DC classic Let There Be Rock because, as he says, “this is AC/DC’s heaviest record.” Lars Ulrich also says it is their most energetic record. Ulrich calls it “raw, blues-based hard rock at its absolute peak.” So what does Metallica’s expert on metal say he likes best about Let There be Rock?

“Here, it was the perfect balance of two guitars: just endless guitar solos and the riffs and Angus and Malcolm playing. A lot of the songs would start with one guy playing a riff, the other guy playing open chords. Then, after 16 bars or 32 bars or whatever, both guitars would lock in on the same riff.”

Blue Öyster Cult

Lars Ulrich also liked Blue Öyster Cult, On Your Feet or On Your Knees from 1975. Yes, Lars also likes some albums from the eighties and nineties, but since Ulrich is talking about the evolution of the sound, and especially the sounds that influenced Metallica, starting with the older albums makes sense. Metallica’s outspoken critic says this album is “smarter” than the typical “neanderthal approach” in those times.

“Blue Öyster Cult also had that New York connection: downtown intellectual, part of the New York, CBGBs scene. Patti Smith had a relationship with the keyboard played, Allen [Lanier]. They were sort of part of that New York intellectual scene that Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground came from.”

Deep Purple

Metallica’s lead headbanger Lars Ulrich also chose Deep Purple’s Made in Japan. Lars Ulrich feels Deep Purple sounded so much better in the live albums, and every performance was different than the others. Lars Ulrich, however, doesn’t think it was the “mushrooms,” like some “trippy” ad-lib bands of the day.

“There’s a cohesiveness to it and it still connects, but every live version’s different. Every concert was different. You never knew how many bars the soloists were gonna take and run with and all that stuff.”

Motörhead

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich must have loved the summer of 1979. Three of his top 15 come from that era. It started that spring in Copenhagen, Denmark when he first heard Motörhead

The album was called Overkill and Lemmy Kilmister definitely made an impression. Lars says he never heard anything like it.

“I had never heard anything that sounded like that. It blew my head off. And then that kind of energy continued – it was so raw. I’d never heard anybody sing like Lemmy, and it was this fusion of, like, punk and rock and metal, and it was crazy.”

Lemmy Kilmister

Judas Priest
Judas Priest also came out with an album called Unleashed in the East in 1979. Lars Ulrich of Metallica felt totally blown away yet again.

“When it came to Judas Priest, they had the guitarists coming together and playing the same riff. It just doubled up and gave it a heavier, bigger sound and made it thicker and more immersive. And if you take ‘The Green Manalishi,’ that has that heavy metal, open-E down-picking – these guys were at the forefront.”

UFO
Lars Ulrich also chose UFO’s Strangers in the Night. Lars seems to be defining 1979 as the peak of metal. Again Lars Ulrich picks the live album, calling Strangers in the Night “the definitive hard-rock live album.”

Diamond Head
Lars Ulrich says Diamond Head ‘s Lightning to the Nations is the blueprint for Metallica’s sound. After recording this album in 1980, a couple of members of Diamond Head spent the summer with Lars Ulrich, inspiring him to start Metallica.

“I ended up spending the summer of 1981 with the singer and the guitar player, Sean [Harris] and Brian [Tatler], living in their living room, sleeping on the couch and hanging out with them. I went back to California and wanted to start a band.”

Iron Maiden
Lars Ulrich loves Iron Maiden, especially their 1982, album, The Number of the Beast. The album was a new height of great for the band, and this album totally dominated in 1982. It was everywhere and it was a huge influence on Metallica.

“I’ve always been very open about how Iron Maiden inspired Metallica. We always cite them as a main influence. They were just cooler than other bands. They had cooler record covers, cooler packaging, cooler tour books, cooler T-shirts, cooler stage production. They always seemed like they went above and beyond.”

Guitarist Janick Gers of Iron Maiden

Merciful Fate

Lars Ulrich remembers well when Merciful Fate released Melissa in 1983. Metallica was heavily involved with Merciful fate at that time. Metallica and Merciful Fate were using the same rehearsal studio in those days.

“It was a huge, huge, huge influence on a lot of the next generation of bands, like ourselves, and they were also great friends and became partners in crime. We rehearsed in their rehearsal studio, we did shows together, and we actually did a medley of all their songs for one of [Metallica’s] ‘garage’ albums.”

Guns and Roses

Lars Ulrich says Appetite for Destruction by Guns and Roses, recorded in1987, is one of the best all around albums ever. It even transcends the genre according to Lars, who insists it isn’t just a great hard-rock album, it’s a great album no matter what kind of music one usually likes.

Metallica gets a lot of perks apparently. Someone at the record company gave Lars Ulrich an advance cassette of Appetite for Destruction over a month before the rest of the world got to hear it. It simply blew him away.

“In ‘Nighttrain,’ it had the whole swagger and attitude, and then into ‘Out Ta Get Me,’ with the spite: ‘They won’t catch me.’ The spite and this anger and this attitude and this f**king thing. Then there is ‘Mr. Brownstone’ and ‘Paradise City.’ It was like four or five of those songs – I was literally sitting on the airplane just mouth f**king open.”

Alice in Chains

Metallica knew or had at least been around Alice in Chains for a couple of years before Dirt was released in 1992. Lars Ulrich said he didn’t even understand all the drug references at first. That was never what Metallica was about. Metallica drank obviously and in public for the most part.

Lars Ulrich said the album, was eye-opening for him since he’d never thought about the “hidden in closets and hotel rooms” nature of “heavy drugs” before hearing Dirt.

“It’s just an incredibly deep, dark record. Obviously, ‘Rooster’ is this incredible, beautiful song.”

Warrior Soul

Lars Ulrich of Metallica wants everyone to buy Warrior Soul’s 1995 album, The Space Age Playboys. “Check it out as soon as possible,” advises Lars. Ulrich is apparently fascinated by the vocalist and the lyrics. For once he’s not mentioning the guitar work, only the memorable lyrics and how they are delivered.

“Kory Clarke, the lead singer, spits out word after word, attitude after attitude, memorable lyric line after lyric line, and it never lets up.”

Rage Against the Machine

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich says every single one of Rage Against the Machine’s records is absolutely essential. But The Battle of Los Angels released in 1999 is the one he selected as the best of all. Ulrich describes it as “authentic.”

“It feels so instinctive, impulsive and from the gut. Until that time, a lot of hard-rock records were very labored over, including our own. A lot of work was put into them, and this just sounds like four people, playing music in a room, ready to f**king take on the world.”

System of a Down

Toxicity by System of a Down is the most recent album Lars Ulrich chose. Toxicity was recorded in 2001. So what does that say about the way Metallica feels about this century and its music?

“I started getting into the record and heard ‘They’re trying to build a prison… for you and me to live in,’ it was just… ah! It was political, it was crazy, it was kooky, it was energetic, it was incredibly, from a songwriting point of view, well-crafted. It was very inspirational on what we did, and I loved the whole thing.”

Lars Ulrich says the album has a lot of attitudes. Lars apparently likes attitude, as if one couldn’t guess that from listening to Metallica. Perhaps that’s what’s missing for metal lovers in this rather vanilla time period.

Lars Ulrich of Metallica chose 15 favorite metal and hard rock albums he likes best while helping the Rolling Stone choose their top 100. All Lars Ulrich’s picks come from before 2002.


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The Rolling Sone’s first top 20 only had only two songs written after 1990, Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power released in 1992 was listed at number 10 While Tool’s Aenima from 1996 was number 18. It says a lot about how music has changed going into the new millennium.

Lars Ulrich, Metallica, and The Rolling Stone are hoping music gets better at some point.

[Featured Image by Mauricio Santana Getty/Images]