Being a part of one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, as Metallica’s won Lars Ulrich is, doesn’t mean you aren’t subject to flashes of regret. The icons of rock have rightfully asserted themselves as one of the genre’s pioneering bands and searing songwriters to boot. But, like any band, the group are capable of hitting highs as well as scraping lows. For Lars Ulrich, there’s one song that hangs lowest of all.
It’s all well and good to languish in the joys of your greatest successes; Metallica fans could probably count tens and tens of songs that could take the accolade of the band’s best song. Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Robert Trujillo and Ulrich, the individual member of the group, could equally throw their own suggestions into the ring to complete the set. But picking out the song they like least is far harder. But, like John Lennon before him, Ulrich has always put forward a critical eye when it comes to his and Metallica’s work.
For a bit of balance, we will note that Ulrich, speaking to Kerrang in 2020, picked out the band’s song ‘Sad But True’ as his favourite of their tracks. But he also suggested the one he liked least too. Across a stack of songs and ten studio albums, there are plenty of tunes to choose from, but Ulrich settled on ‘Eye of the Beholder’ from their seminal 1988 album …And Justice For All.
“Wherever I hear that song, it sounds kind of like — I guess we don’t want to be super-disrespectful to it — but it sounds really forced. It sounds like you put a square peg in a round hole,” Ulrich told Kerrang. It’s difficult always to produce solid gold, so there’s bound to be a few missteps and this song, for Ulrich, seems like a truly clumsy stumble.
“It sounds like it’s got two different tempos,” he continues. “There’s kind of a 4/4 feel in the intro and on the verses, and then I think the choruses are more like in a waltz tempo. It literally sounds like two different worlds rubbing up against each other. It sounds very awkward to me. I’m not a huge fan of that song.”
Of course, Ulrich is well aware that hindsight is 20/20, and his and the band’s growth musically has allowed him to be “overly analytical” of their previous work. While now he hates the song, back then, he saw it as a stellar piece of work. “It’s basically almost impossible for me to listen to a Metallica song without going, ‘Okay, how are the sonics, how’s the mix, how does the guitar sound? The vocals are too loud, the bass is too boomy.’ It becomes this exercise in analytics.”
“When you hear your favourite band — like if I listened to Rage Against the Machine or something, I just fucking let myself go. But when Metallica comes on, it’s like, ‘Huh?’” The irony is, it is this critical thinking which has ensured that Metallica have not only lasted longer than most groups but flourished with every passing release.