Metallica's Ulrich: 'I'm Not Ever Sure We're Metal'

"We're one of the biggest rock bands," the drummer adds.

Ultimate Guitar

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has recently expressed uncertainty about the band belonging to the metal genre, placing 'Tallica into the rock category.

Discussing the Glasto controversy, he told Metro, "People say it's controversial because we're the first metal band to headline Glastonbury, but I'm not even sure we're 'metal.' Glastonbury's one of the biggest rock festivals in the world and we're one of the biggest rock bands."

In related news, frontman James Hetfield took a jab at rock icons KISS and Scorpions for their repeating farewell tours. Discussing the matter with Kerrang! magazine, James stated that he's definitely not a fan of the whole concept.

"I don't think that's fair to anyone. KISS' farewell tour for the 10th time? Scorpions were done and then they tour? You can't say that and then not do it," he pointed out (via Loudwire). "I don't know what's in store for us. I don't want to go on the history of how other bands have done it. We're unique in our own path and unique in how our path ends."

Metallica recently caught major media attention with Glastonbury 2014 show, both with quality performance and the surrounding controversy. Check out the full round-up here.

133 comments sorted by best / new / date

    If Lars Ulrich circa 1981 could hear himself doubt if he was a "metal" musician some 30-odd years down the road, he'd be disappointed in himself!
    Normally I just laugh at everything Lars says these days but he's got a point here... The definition of "metal" has really changed over the past 30+ years. By today's standards, just about all of the music that Metallica recorded between about '95 and '07 would probably qualify as "hard rock". It's tough to put Load and record like Surgical Steel next to each other and claim that they're the same genre. Musical genres and sub-genres have gotten out-of-control over the past decade and most tend to be pointless. This division of musical styles to help record companies market their products has gotten so out of hand and taken on a life of it's own. I'd rather just use the "old" genre names like metal, rock, hip-hop, pop, jazz, etc. I don't need to worry about whether a band is playing "technical death metal" or "melodic grind-core dance music" or whatever. So I guess it's fair to call Metallica a metal band but with the diversity of Metallica's catalog and the modern definition of "metal" constantly changing I don't blame Lars for not being in love with the label anymore. Now make a decent record! Rock, metal, viking-pop... I don't care, just remind me why people love Metallica!
    I like the sub-genre titling personally. I even like when it gets out of hand because it's fun.
    People can hate me for my opinion but I'm a bit into "Melodic post-hardcore anthemic post-christian dub-arena pop-core rap-metal" Just a bit tho.
    well, when you ask not metal listeners what metal is, they most of the time think of death and black metal... so would that mean power metal or prog metal isn't metal either? even if it lies closer to the roots of the actual music, like Metallica? if I am honest, I'm not a big metallica fan, the albums I like most are Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning and the black album, besides that I know some songs and that's it, but saying Metallica doesn't belong in the metal genre... instead putting them under hard rock... could you compare Metallica with AC/DC? (just to name one of the most iconic hard rock bands ever, who have been in that genre since 1973)
    Yeah, AC/DC and Metallica - that's a tough call. It totally depends on what school of thought you come from. Both bands could be considered "hard rock" or "heavy metal" depending on how you look at it. In 1985 it would be hard to argue with someone who called both Metallica and AC/DC "heavy metal" bands. They were both among the loudest, most aggressive bands making music anywhere near mainstream music's spotlight. Death metal was in it's infancy and the extreme metal that is everywhere today hadn't even been imagined yet. In 2014, most of AC/DC's catalog and a good portion of Metallica's music has more in common with straight up "rock" bands like the Rolling Stones than bands like Cattle Decapitation or Gorguts. Either way... If it's good it's good. Heavy metal has come a long way since the early 70's and there's amazing music all over the spectrum and lots more to come I'm sure.
    I appreciate your perspective on this. Most people today would never even think to consider that AC/DC were ever heavy metal, let alone that they were one of the heaviest popular acts around. The way I see it, though, what was metal will always be metal. Today's metal is much heavier (even if a lot of it seems like it's just heavy for the sake of being heavy), but that doesn't automatically remove older bands from underneath that umbrella. Think about it in terms of color: we've always had blue, but if a much bluer shade of blue was available all of a sudden, that wouldn't make the old blue not blue anymore.
    That's true but what do you think about when you hear "rap"? While most people who don't listen to rap think of the stereotypical "Fuck da police" type stuff people who do think of their favorite artist who may be much more politically inclined or whatever. Different subgenres in different genres and the people who don't listen to them often think of the stereotypes.
    That's true but what do you think about when you hear "rap"? While most people who don't listen to rap think of the stereotypical "Fuck da police" type stuff people who do think of their favorite artist who may be much more politically inclined or whatever. Different subgenres in different genres and the people who don't listen to them often think of the stereotypes.
    Exactly! I mean come on, this is the same guy that wanted their debut album to be title "Metal Up Your Ass." Now he's become a pretentious hipster douche.
    Who gives a **** about any of this? Everybody just shut the **** up and play music. "Peace, love, **** off".
    And?... People grow and change. Lars has clearly mellowed out. I don't see how that's a bad thing. I think we'd all be more disturbed if he was in his 50s and still screaming about "Metal Up Your Ass".
    Halford is still not afraid to shy from the "metal" title. You don't have to scream "metal up your ass!" in order to be metal. I'm not against the idea of growing and evolving but Lars can't deny that Metallica is a metal band. If Lars wants to evolve, he should practice his drumming (flame shield up).
    Meaning the man grew up and realized that there is more to music than just thrash.
    METALica... FFS... I'm probably one of their biggest fans and I know they are more than a metal band but... they are a metal band first and than hard rock (Black Album) and than rock (Load/Reload). Not the other way around!!!
    They're metal. Everyone else in a genre influenced by them and someone else. Example: Bro-Pop Metalist's "Five Finger Death Punch" take a page from prime-era Metallica, mix it with Nickelback and then take a dump in a blender and mix the catalogs.
    Floyd Phoenix
    This whole bloody genre thing has gotten way out of hand... This ****ing pigeonholing thing with all these genres just leads to way too many disputes and ridiculous arguments... Hell, I downloaded the Black Album off iTunes the other day and it came up as pop, and I don't even care anymore because genres are just dumb these days and people really need to get out of the stupid mentality of using them to insult bands and just talking about music in general...
    It's been said before and needs to be said again, its a tagging system for easily finding a certain or related sound.
    And like most systems, it needs replacement when it's out-of-date. IMO, this system's been out-of-date for a long time now, and replacement is overdue.
    How so? You can break down things pretty easily. Example,"x" band is Rock, then they're prog, which now can lead to many of things; Prog Jazzrock(King Crimson)Prog Bluesrock(Pink Floyd)Prog Poprock(Yes). But it can also go further and further. I'm always seeing new microgenres. I have yet to find a label/tag/genre that was only associated with a single band. I mean for ****s sake, Djent is a label just for a guitar tone.
    Floyd Phoenix Not as easy was people say it is... It would be better to just describe them by styles I think...
    That's what I'm referring to, i.e Doom, Stoner Doom, Drone Doom, Death Metal, Deathgrind, Blackened Death, ect ect.
    If I listen to, for instance, a band like the Gojira and then ask other metalheads for rec's of similar bands...well, it makes it easier due to the fact that we refer to Gojira as "Groove Metal". They can simply refer me to more Groove Metal bands. What if I ask for rec's of bands similar to Voivod? Well, then they just give me recs of Thrash bands, keeping in mind that I might want something on the progressive/technical side of Thrash. Why bother to describe the styles, btw? Every person will have a different description. If I say, "Black Metal", every Metalhead knows what I mean. I have to give a long description of Black Metal...well, some people will get what I mean and most won't.
    I know that was a hypothetical, but if you want music like Voivod, check out Disharmonization by Carbonized. It's like a grindy Nothingface.
    or Vektor who is very Voivod like, or Gorguts who were like Death Metal's Voivod, and by extension there are a million Gorguts wanna-bes like Ulcerate and Nero Di Marte.
    Eh, Vektor aren't all that like Voivod. At the most they bare some resemblance to Rrrrroar or Killing Technology, but only because those happen to be Voivod's thrashiest albums, with a heaping dose of punk influence. Voivod's riffing is way idiosyncratic, what with the weird chords and harmony. I'd say Vektor are more like Hellwitch or Mekong Delta. They don't have the same weirdness that Voivod does.
    And to be fair, labelling Metallica under "metal" isn't exactly pigeonholing!
    No it ****ing hasn't, all you have to do is listen to music and it's ****ing easy. All these people exaggerating metal genres who see Blackened Thrash and think it's a full on established main genre. There's like, 10 metal genres that mix and match, other than that the name is in the pudding usually (symphonic, Industrial, ambient etc). Also, who uses a "genre tag" to insult someone? The only reason anyone would be insulted is if they think a band is metal and then is told they aren't, which is more just them getting butt hurt. Not metal =/= not good, seeing as there's tons of awesome non-metal...
    Somehow you're right, but the problem boils down to calling one band something. 'Tallica is the perfect example. Their whole album history is full of experiments. Load+Reload sound way different and have different elements then StAnger or Kill 'em all. Same for Rammstein, they started very industrial and headed in a very melodic direction even some ballads. Is metallica metal ? I think it's a clear yes. Is nothing else matters a pop song ? Most likely. And music goes through transformation. Sabbath was the definition of metal back then, but considering how heavy some bands sound nowadays I cant blame kids for calling them rock, and would somehow even consider tagging them rock myself..
    So...we can give different genres to different songs. On the whole though, we can say things like, "Metallica's Black Album was just Heavy Metal (think old school Heavy Metal), whereas their album 'And Justice for All' is Thrash." Yeah, sure...there's a few songs that don't fit that over-arching tag. But that's ok. We just label those few songs as what they are. A metal band playing a ballad or a pop song or two (whereas the rest of the album is Metal) doesn't make the band "not metal".
    Call me old-fashioned, but I still think that no one has ever done songs as heavy as Sabbath. Then again, everyone has an understadably different point of view on what the word "heavy" means applied to a musical background. Which brings me to the point, as subjective as music is, labels shouldn't mean anything, there are many bands (Metallica being one) that have done so many different things throughout their careers that it's impossible to fit them in just one single label, it just can't be done!
    You can't label the essence of music, genre says nothing about quality, just a bit about style.
    Bit off topic, but I would actually appreciate some new Load/ReLoad album. I like this kind of rock music with fat, catchy riffs. I mean, sue me.
    Same here, it seems like a perfect fit for them now they are older, a song like Lords of Summer kinda lacks the energy it needs to recapture the old days and sounds a bit too much of Metallica plagiarizing Metallica while Ronnie Rising is some of the best stuff they have recorded in ages (imo), both in performance and composition, it's an excellent medley. I'd love to hear more in that vein, or some new ground, that might actually get my excitement for this band back.
    Both Load and ReLoad also had some of the most introspective lyrics Hetfield ever wrote. Definitely far from being my favorite Metallica albums, but there's a lot of great stuff there that people haven't looked up because it's much easier to see that most don't enjoy it and stick with that opinion.
    And those albums have some of their most complex arrangements. Perhaps not "technically" difficult, but containing many guitar parts that meld well together
    I think if the music that came out naturally for them was in line with that then I would be completely down with it. I'd much rather them make a solid rock record than force out another And Justice For All just for the sake of keeping people quiet.
    I still can't believe this is the band called METALlica that wanted their first album to be a a hand with a knife coming out a toilet called metal up your ass.
    Metallicas genre is Metallica, they do what they want, not what their fans want and this is why I respect Metallica.
    Yeah, God forbid they try to please their fans every once in a while.
    I for one hope every band I listen to goes off the rails and starts making music that I don't care about. Oh and if my favorite bands would also basically stop touring and only do huge festivals and shows in Antarctica, that would be great as well.
    Somebody with "Slayer" in their user name is more open minded about what a big name metal band does than you, let that sink in for a moment.
    Touring and writing are different. Bands you like didn't go up to you and ask what kind of album you wanted to hear, they made the music they wanted to make and you followed what you liked. More often than not when a band tries to make music they don't want but their fans want it sounds incredibly ingenuine.
    Personally i think a lot of fans are going to be more pleased if the band in question is being creative and doing what they want instead of acting as soulless puppets doing what the fans tells them to do. That's what Metallica seems to be doing, they say that they don't want to be a nostalgic act and yet they play the same old songs over and over again while they write songs that are copying stuff they did in the past.
    Metal for the first 8 years or so, pop-metal/rock for the next 25.
    Metallica catches a ration of shit all of the time because people expect them to release a "Master of Puppets" album everytime... it doesn't work like that. Music and people evolve. As long as they keep putting out albums that I can enjoy then who cares if they're rock or metal. P.S. St. Anger was shite but it did have a few good riffs.
    It really has some of the heaviest riffs they've made since Master, and I really enjoyed St. Anger, but I will admit that the drums sound awful and the songs get a bit repetitive, but I can rock out to Some Kind of Monster and Sweet Amber all day long
    People want another Master of Puppets because MOP was good. I can't enjoy anything after And Justice for All so of course I'd prefer that they make more music like that, but I've given up on Metallica being as good as they were so I've found other bands and other genres. Currently I'm just waiting for the next Dillinger Escape Plan album, whenever that is.
    i would say they are a mix, their first albums are obviously metal, but then again load/reload and death magnetic had a lot of rock
    After listening to Ronnie Rising again, i find it striking how much Reload has in common with Dio, it isn't just a couple of Sabbath styled riffs in Fixxxer, but most of the rifss and vocal melodies in songs like Attitude and so fort. Defineately a lot of rock/hardrock/blues. I would call Death Magentic metal, not neccesarily good metal, but metal non the less.
    Seriously, why is Metallica in the news like every day? Are they that lacking in news? Whenever Lars says some pointless shit, they make an article. Up next "Lars Ulrich: 'I hate Mondays' " and "Lars Ulrich on world cup: 'Go Colombia' "
    Lars can say anything he wants about Metallica, he's a co-founder. I mean of course in this generation we have so many sub-genre bands and new genres being created (ex. pop-punk) so the whole "labeling" bands one genre can be confusing. But if you ask me Metallica is a band that doesn't care what others think, and they aren't afraid to fail. How many bands have you seen stick together for so many years with that many different albums? I think it's great that they play music for themselves, and if fans stick around that's cool with them and if they don't, it's still cool.
    It's funny that you mention "in this generation...", because back in the '60s, there was acid rock, blues rock, Psychedelic rock , country rock, Southern Rock, college rock, garage rock, Heartland rock...need I go on? My point is, this whole subgenre thing is HARDLY a new thing. It's just that people in new generations lumped old bands into larger subgenres and then divide the music of their own generation into myriad subgenres. And I don't see an issue with that.
    But did people call the music with all those sub-genre names? I'm pretty sure people came up with all those sub-genre names later and back then most bands were just called "rock". Yes, there were many sub-genres, but I'm not sure if there were many sub-genre names.
    You're right, but I meant the generations Metallica has been in and how they've changed.
    How about you stop taking yourself so seriously and just play music Lars? That would be nice.
    Sleaze Disease
    So, any time someone from Metallica opens their mouth, it's automatically news? We don't need to know every goddamn word they say. Does UG have someone set up outside their houses so they can catch them whenever they say something?
    Next headline - "Lars Ulrich: 'where did I leave that new roll of toilet paper?'"
    No one is forcing you to read this article. Just skip it.
    Sleaze Disease
    *Yawn* Same tired argument we've all heard a million times around here when someone has a negative opinion on anything. Get some new material.
    Kill Em All through Justice=Metal Black Album through everything else this far=Hard Rock Saint Anger and Death Magnetic were kind of metal but not in a good way.
    As soon as I hear somebody saying that they're really into [Insert sub-subgenre of genre here] their opinions are immediately invalid to me. If you spend that much time categorizing BPM this, pedal uses that, or whether it's melodic enough and uses the right scales for that other thing you've pretty much proven yourself to be a pedantic **** who's more into categorization than actual music and you should by all means calculatingly go **** yourself.
    i'd agree that lars is more "rock". you have to be a bit more versatile of a drummer to be "metal". he'd be great in an ac/dc cover band. no doubt about that
    Playing AC/DC isn't that easy. I mean, yes, the songs have really simple stuff in them - they don't really have any technically demanding stuff in them. But being able to play the basic beat like an AC/DC drummer isn't as easy as people think. It needs to sound really tight. AC/DC guys had a hard time finding a replacement drummer for Phil Rudd because there were just a few people that could play like him. The stuff they play is really simple but it sounds really tight. That's the hard part - to actually make it sound great. And I would say Lars wouldn't be a good AC/DC drummer. What he plays is too complicated for AC/DC. I mean, he plays a lot of fills and plays the crash cymbal every second bar. In an AC/DC song you should play as little fills as possible and stick with the basic groove. And play it with a great attitude. The musicians in AC/DC are way better than many people realize. They play really simple stuff but they play it really well.
    How many articles are gonna be written about what this guy says? I find him more annoying than the Oasis brothers these days.
    They are metal. They were Thrash from 1981-90. Then they produced some great albums, that were more of a Classic Heavy Metal style from 1991-2007. Now they've returned to the Thrash Sound Since. Long story short, Metallica are metal, just two different types on and off since day one and are by today's standards. i mean if Black Sabbath are still considered Heavy Metal, Metallica definitely are.
    "Metallica's Ulrich: 'I'm Not Ever Sure We're Metal'" The world nods in agreement.
    They're not, they play metal, rock, blues, they made a country song for ****s sake, labeling yourself and genres in general are really stupid.
    I would agree they haven't been metal since 1988.
    So Death Magnetic was a country record?
    DM was a half hearted attempt at recapturing the spirit of metallica in its prime... It failed and the cd is now a coaster for my coffee mug. Just my opinion ofc.
    Why does this get down votes? Are we supposed to praise everything that Metallica releases? I agree with the comment, it was really half-assed. They tried too hard to recapture their old sound that it sounded uninspired and just dragged along. Not to mention the horrible sound quality of the album.
    So, the people who down vote can't disagree with your/his opinion? the original question was if DM was metal, not if it's good or bad, that's beyond opinion, it IS metal.
    Not according to Lars.
    Oh! Suddenly Lars is right? Are we supposed to praise everything that Lars say? How is DM not metal? Maybe load and Re-load, but DM? Really?
    Not saying he's right. Just saying according to his logic, DM isn't metal. Don't get your panties in a bunch buddy.
    Well... When you put someone else's logic in your arguments, people often think you agree with it... Whatever, you think DM isn't metal? Okey, have a happy and metalful life without Death Magnetic.
    Not saying it's NOT metal. Just saying it sounds uninspired in my opinion. And I'm having an awesome life listening to Exodus and Testament wipe the floor with Metallica!
    Alright then, just a little misunderstanding here. Don't know, I prefer not to judge the reasons behind someone's work, but how I feel about the work itself.
    It's a shame you spent that much on a coaster.. You could have paid less. They're not that expensive
    The DM CD was given to me by a disgusted ex tally fan so didn't cost me a thing....which is about what it's worth tbh.
    Fuck off. Metallica IS Heavy Fucking Metal! \m/ James Hetfield IS Heavy Fucking Metal! \m/ Sure, there were 2 hard rock albums and a few non-metal trax, but the vast majority of Metallica's catalogue is metal. Metallica is the greatest there is, there was, and there will ever be; a true anomaly; simply beyond compare. Bow down! \m/
    I think they're technical minimalist sludge grunge punk avant garde speed prog post-death thrash metal.
    I think what Ulrich wants to say that it does not matter the name nor the genre of the music until its good music. Many of us heard funk, rock, soul, metal ( in any shape of form), but we love them and play them.
    the last pure metal album they put out was Justice....everything after that has been hard rock at best...death magnetic slightly returned to the metal form.
    And thus the confusing line between what defines "hard rock" and "heavy metal" becomes even more blurred to us all...
    I don't understand the people complaining about the genre because they have 'METAL' in their band name; Iggy Pop doesn't play pop music, and no one bats an eye.
    Labeling/Pigeonholing music is bad nowadays. In an elitist's perspective, Metallica stopped being thrash since Fade To Black because of one reason... Acoustic guitar. Lars even denied in an interview prior to Master Of Puppets tour in '86 that they are Thrash because they refuse to be categorized to a specific label even though they are one of the pioneers of the genre. So much for a branch of art that we've always tried to 'liberate' in the first place!!!
    Metallica used to be Metal but now they're Rock. They were Metal from 1981 - 1991. After that period, they've been Rock.
    Nah he's just being a hipster. If Metallica aren't a metal band then why do 90% of their set lists contain songs from their first 5 albums? If they aren't a metal band then why the hell do they still call themselves METALlica. Truth be told they know they wouldn't sell half as many tickets if they played more songs off of Load/Reload or had they changed the name of the band to something else. Look I get that overall throughout their career they certainly weren't just a metal band and there's nothing wrong with that but it seems a bit hyproctrical and pretenious to deny it when the band mostly caters to metal fans these days. Genres don't pin you down to anything, they're just a means of trying to differentiate different kinds of music and people seem to get too butthurt about them I think.
    Let the man dicide which category the band is. metal or rock.. is metallica the most heavy band of all time? yes. rock or metal, who care?
    Well, UG this information was on the Internet for like a week now. Just saying...