Ulrich insists Metallica wanted to “hurt the listener” in one-off experimental release – but can’t believe it was bad album

Experiment: Lars Ulrich

Metallica mainman Lars Ulrich says the band’s infamous St Anger album was deliberately conceived to sound bad – and it was a musical experiment he’s glad they carried out.

The 2003 release marked the end of the band’s most tumultuous period after bassist Jason Newsted left and frontman James Hetfield checked himself into rehab and offered no guarantee he’d return.

The events surrounding the two-year production process are documented in the movie Some Kind of Monster. St Anger has gone platinum twice – but as time goes by its general reception seems to get worse rather than better.

Now Ulrich suggests some of that was deliberate. He tells Classic Rock: “I think it’s fair to say some people think it’s our worst album. But I can’t.

“The way I view the world, I can’t rank them from best to worst. That kind of simplicity doesn’t exist for me.”

Discussing the “abysmal” drum sound on the record Ulrich says: “That was on purpose. It wasn’t like we put it out and then somebody went, ‘Woops!’

“I view St Anger as an isolated experiment. Once in a while, as we’ve been known to do, we have to fuck with the boundaries. We’d already done Ride the Lightning, which I believe is a fine record – it didn’t need redone.”

The drummer acknowledges many fans feel the album would have benefitted from some trimming, and even the better tracks are too long.

But he says: “When we heard the recording from beginning to end, I felt – and it was mostly me – the experience was so pummelling that it became almost about hurting the listener.

“It was about challenging the listener, so we left the songs unedited. But I can understand people felt it was too long.”

Ulrich believes the reason Metallica are still together is because he and Hetfield both feel their family is more important than the band. “The fact we’ve both had kids at the same age is probably responsible,” he says. “We both prioritise our families over Metallica. If one of us was not on that keel, we probably couldn’t sustain the relationship.”

Related stories: