In Defense Of…Lars Ulrich’s Drumming

The title to this entry is important.  This is about Lars Ulrich’s drumming, not his personality.  Which at times bears resemblance to a child.  Either way, he’s a decent drummer and that’s what this post is about.  I don’t think there’s another drummer on the planet that gets as much flak for their playing as Lars Ulrich.  The guy’s playing gets ripped on like vegans at thanksgiving.  Is he the best drummer in the world?  Certainly not.  In fact, he’s probably the weakest drummer out of the big 4.  Actually, when he first played for James Hetfield, Hetfield rejected him.  He’s also stated how horrible of a drummer Lars was at first.  But, Mr. Ulrich worked hard and practiced and practiced.  He became quite adequate in an impressively short period of time if you think about it.  And he grew.  By the time ‘Ride the Lighting’ came out he was a full fledged heavy metal drummer with progressive tendencies.  The next album ‘Master of Puppets’ I would argue was his peak of drumming.  Lot’s of drive and practice using good old fashioned wooden sticks.  This would follow through ‘The Black Album’.  But then something happened which I believe is the root of why he gets all the crap that he does.  It’s not the Napster fiasco.  It’s not the fact that he cut his hair along with the rest of the band.  It’s the fact that he struck, as did many other famous drummers in the 90’s, a sponsorship deal with A-Head drumsticks.  Folks, these sticks are terrible for drummers.  I’m a former user of them.  A certain drummers signature stick, I won’t mention who, really fucked up my right wrist for a while.  Look what they did to Peter Criss’ playing.  The band actually used drum triggers through the “Farewell (that’s a laugh) Tour”.  He put them down when he returned for the Alive IV Symphony album in 2003 and his playing never sounded better.  I think the main culprit here is the A-head drum stick.  Watch some of the video below.  Lars’ drumming is very good.

A-game playing.  A little before ‘Master of Puppets’.  You can see and hear how hard Lars was working.

Now, this isn’t the only reason Lars seems a little lacking in the drumming world. There was also a period of time I think when Lars wasn’t practicing.  He seemed to lose a lot of what made him who he is.  There’s even a youtube video of him on a recent tour with all his mistakes mashed up in one long video.  And yeah, lots of them are mistakes that should never be made during a live show.  Simple fill mistakes and basic rhythm flubs that he never used to make.

I blame the A-heads.

It’s seems that the weight of the A-heads are making him tired.  Well, that’s changed a little.  Metallica are in the midst of a huge tour and massive album release, ‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’.  While Lars’ playing still isn’t what it was in the 80’s,  it’s gotten significantly better than what it was a few years ago.  He seems to be practicing again.  His drumming on the newest album is good.  Not amazing by any means, but still very solid.  He’s gotten his double bass drum accuracy back which is important.  And the production of the drums on ‘Hardwired’ are spot on.  His snare snaps like a broken neck and the bass is phat as a muthafuck.  At the end of the day, he’s done very well in Metallica.  His playing, while not amazing, certainly doesn’t deserve the crap it gets from others.  He’s a solid drummer who fit’s in perfectly with where he is.  Lars Ulrich is after all the drummer of the biggest heavy band of all time.

Megadeth Grammy House Band Derp

At this years Grammy’s Megadeth accomplished a first.  They won a Grammy.  In all of the years of output and nominations Dave, Dave and Co. have never once won.  Unfortunately it was in one of the many sub-categories; Best Heavy Metal Performance.  Not best metal album.  And honestly, the competition wasn’t too competitive.  With the exception of Gojira.  Anyways, that’s not the point.  The point is that despite the venue being almost empty because most people were out on the red carpet, Megadeth won their first Grammy.  However it couldn’t be done in true Megadeth fashion without a little fiasco.  Despite the win the house band obviously couldn’t be bothered to learn a Megadeth song.  Instead they played Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ while the band walked to stage to accept their award.  Sparking outrage within the heavy metal community.  Of course while the community is steaming about the house band playing Metallica, Dave Mustaine is upset over something else.  It’s not the fact that they played it for the acceptance of the award.  It’s the fact that, in his opinion, the band butchered the song.  And I’d kind of have to agree with that.  Well, maybe not butchered but they certainly played it very lackluster.  What bothers me is that the band couldn’t be bothered to learn a simple Megadeth song.  I don’t think the house band made a mistake.  I think they just assumed that ‘Master of Puppets’ could represent all of heavy metal for the evening.  And yes, while the song is one of the most recognized heavy metal pieces outside of the genre, it still wasn’t right.  Megadeth deserves to have their own music played.  It verifies just how out of touch the Grammys really are.  It just made the whole situation awkward.  Fortunately at the end of the day they won.  And Dave Mustaine and crew were thankful.  After all, it’s not Megadeth without a little controversy.  In the words of Dave Mustaine, ‘Can’t blame them for not being able to play’.