In a year defined by uncertainty, unease, tension and turbulence, it’s little wonder that so many of us retreated into familiar home comforts. It turns out that Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich had very much the same idea.
Rolling Stone has been conducting the year in review with prominent figures from the music world, and metal’s favourite Dane has spoken to writer Kory Grow to share his cultural safe spaces amid the confusing maelstrom that is 2020.
Asked to nominate a classic album from which he’s drawn comfort this year, the drummer plumped for Alice In Chains’ haunting 1992 masterpiece Dirt, no-one’s idea of a feel-good record.
“It's so inspiring,” Ulrich noted. “I think it's crazy just how transparent and courageous the lyrics are, and it' a cohesive piece of work. It still sounds as raw, transparent, honest, and courageous to my ears as ever before. I think in the earlier days I was just listening to the music and the riffs and now, hearing the vocals, lyrics, and themes, what an incredible record. It just still sounds so timely. It sounds literally like this could have been made last week.”
Put on the spot to reveal which album he’s listened to most in 2020, Ulrich picked another landmark record from the early ’90s alt. rock scene, namely Rage Against The Machine’s incendiary 1993 debut.
“From my worldview, there's nothing that seems to put things more in perspective than Rage Against The Machine,” he stated. “The music, themes, lyrics, delivery — everything seems to be so spot-on and relevant to the daily craziness that shows up whenever you unlock your device. I think it's the perfect soundtrack to the 2020."
Asked to name which one track he'll associate with what has been a wild 12 months, the drummer reached a decade further back into rock history, to select Cold Sweat from Thin Lizzy’s swansong album, 1983’s Thunder And Lightning.
In the first few months of lockdown, if we were up late at night having a beverage or in a social mood around a cast of characters that we’re in isolation with here, Thin Lizzy was often the late-night soundtrack to that,” he responded. “Cold Sweat is definitely the one that’s gotten the most spins in this household this year.”
To their credit, Ulrich’s own band tried their best to bring positivity and cheer to what’s been a tricky year. The S&M2 album was a joy, their Metallica Monday series of live streamed classic shows was a nice idea, and their Helping Hands benefit concert and auction raised a tidy $1.3 million for charity, which is also to be applauded. In a final throw of the dice to raise spirits at the tail end of this annus horibilis, the Bay Area ’bangers even released a new Monopoly board game.