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Metallica’s Lars Ulrich: My 15 Favorite Metal and Hard Rock Albums

Drummer goes deep on classics ranging from AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’ to System of a Down’s ‘Toxicity’

Metallica Drummer Lars Ulrich's 15 Favorite Metal Albums

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich picks his 15 favorite metal and hard-rock albums.

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When Rolling Stone began ranking the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time, one of the first musicians we consulted was Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich. Not only did he co-write and drum on five of the LPs that made the list – including the Number Two pick, Master of Puppets – he’s been one of metal’s most prominent and outspoken mouthpieces for nearly four decades now. He’s demonstrated his impeccable taste in interviews and on Metallica’s numerous “garage days” releases, on which they’ve covered songs by Diamond Head, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Mercyful Fate and many other artists who also ultimately made the cut on our list. In short, Ulrich and his bandmates’ taste defined the tastes of generations to come.

The list of metal records he prepared for Rolling Stone represent a wide array of heavy styles, from the intricate arrangements of Iron Maiden to the go-for-the-gut punk spirit of Guns N’ Roses. “For each artist that’s part of my ultimate metal or hard-rock albums, I went for what you would call the definitive moment in their catalogue,” he explains. “And for a lot of these bands, they went through a kind of evolution, a kind of a growth and a lot of them have a lot of great records. So what I picked is a combination of what that album represents from the artist and what impact it had on me.”

Ulrich had such a good time breaking down his favorite records, that he decided to dedicate an upcoming episode of his Apple Music Beats 1 radio show It’s Electric to his list. Tune in this Sunday at 6 p.m. EST to hear the drummer to discuss his picks and play cuts from them, and to hear him interview Rolling Stone’s Kory Grow about how the 100 Greatest Metal Albums list came together. Until then, here are Lars Ulrich’s Top 15 metal and hard rock albums – and his commentary on each – presented in alphabetical order at his request.

From Black Sabbath to Metallica, Rolling Stone picks the Greatest Metal Albums of All Time. Watch here.

UFO, 'Strangers in the Night' (1979)

UFO, ‘Strangers in the Night’ (1979)

This is almost the definitive hard-rock live album. With a lot of the bands in the Seventies, the introduction to them for me was through the live album. Then you would go back and seek out the studio records. Labels would encourage bands like Judas Priest, Blue Öyster Cult and UFO to release live albums very early on in their careers after four or five records and they became these definitive double albums from the mid-to-late Seventies. A lot of these bands were encouraged to release live albums very early on in their careers. It was a way to keep the momentum going. 

Strangers in the Night is that live album for UFO, and it opens with “Natural Thing,” and just goes through a few hits like “Only You Can Rock Me” and “Doctor Doctor.” “Love To Love” is also one of those songs that falls in under the hard-rock-ballad blueprint, and you’ve got “Rock Bottom,” which has, like, a seven-minute guitar solo from Michael Schenker. For a lot of the metal guitar players, Kirk Hammett included, Michael Schenker is one of those unsung heroes that never quite penetrated to the outside world the way that Randy Rhoads or Jimmy Page or whoever did. But for musicians and peers, Michael Schenker is one of the all-time favorites for a lot of people. And there’s just a vibe on this album, you feel like you’re at the gig. Obviously, that’s the best kind of live album.

Warrior Soul, 'The Space-Age Playboys' (1994)

Warrior Soul, ‘The Space Age Playboys’ (1994)

Warrior Soul started off on Geffen Records and had the same management as us. We played a bunch of shows with them. They were dropped by Geffen, and this record came out independently in ’94.

If you put on “Rocket Engines,” it fucking starts frenetic – it’s heavy, it’s punky, it’s energetic. Kory Clarke, the lead singer, spits out word after word, attitude after attitude, memorable lyric line after lyric line, and it never lets up for a fucking hour or however long the record is. It just does not stop.

On the early records, he got a little political. He’s talking about Native Americans, he’s talking about Charlie Manson, and he’s talking about the oppressed. But on this record, it almost got punky. It was this weird fusion between punky and a little early New York glam rock, almost like [New York] Dolls, Stooges type of thing. If you’ve not heard this record, I would encourage you to find this record and check it out as soon as possible.

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