The year of 2020 has been an abnormal one for all of us and, for musicians, being consigned to the house for an extended period of time was especially unusual. With 2021 on the horizon, Rolling Stone has been conducting year-in-review styled interviews where Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich recently summed up his year, naming the album he listened to the most, among other things.
While Metallica remained relatively active with the release of the S&M2 live album and concert film — the band filmed a concert to be played at drive-in locations as well as a Zoom performance where fans were able to digitally attend and be seen in the room — it was still a period of tremendous downtime for Ulrich. With that time came family bonding through movies and bike riding, as well as revisiting some old favorites when it came to music.
When pressed about the album he listened to the most in 2020, Ulrich singled out a band who had intended to play a reunion tour earlier in the year.
“The first Rage Against the Machine album,” replied the drummer, who explained, “From my worldview, there’s nothing that seems to put things more in perspective than Rage Against the Machine. 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.”
Naturally, amid the chaos of 2020, music can be a source of hope, healing and calm. For Ulrich, an old favorite that helped comfort him this year was Alice in Chains’ 1992 record, Dirt.
“It’s so inspiring,” said Ulrich of the Seattle group’s breakthrough second album. “I think it’s crazy just how transparent and courageous the lyrics are, and it’s a cohesive piece of work. It still sounds as raw, transparent, honest and courageous to my ears as ever before.”
Dirt as an album with many layers, some of which revealed themselves more now than ever before. “I think in the earlier days I was just listening to the music and the riffs,” he added, “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.”
The album may hold even more value for Ulrich now that his band contributed an acoustic performance of “Would?” to the digital Founds Award event in which the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture honored the influential career of Alice in Chains.
Elsewhere in music, the Metallica skinsman stated that Thin Lizzy’s “Cold Sweat” is the song that defined his year. It was one that was constantly playing in a social setting “”around a cast of characters we’re in isolation with” or late night while having a drink.
If there was one positive to take away from the year that perhaps nobody noticed, Ulrich joked that he got to grow his hair out a bit again, which is excellent news for anyone still miffed about the haircuts Metallica got in the mid ’90s.
For both the band and the fans, 2021 has potential to be an exciting year. While we await the safe return of in-person concerts, there’s a chance we get some new music from Metallica, who, as of late November, were weeks into “some pretty serious writing.”
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