The Only Time Lars Ulrich Nearly Attacked James Hetfield

Considering the dynamics of a band, clashes and confrontations are not uncommon, and even the most celebrated groups are no exception to this rule. Behind the scenes of their enduring career, Metallica also went through it when the two founding members, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield, had a fierce argument where the drummer was close to attacking the vocalist.

The tense moment between the two musicians came along during the creation of Metallica’s ‘St. Anger’ album. Hetfield had taken a break from recording to go to rehab and proposed some new group rules before fully rejoining.

These discussions were captured in the documentary ‘Some Kind of Monster.’ The climax happened when Ulrich approached the frontman’s face and loudly exclaimed the word ‘F*ck,’ which could have almost ended with closer physical contact.

Metallica’s psychotherapist Phil Towle returned to those moments for a special edition of Metal Hammer’s ‘Metallica 40’ magazine issue. He explained the following about the argument:

“These guys are waiting for James. Waiting, waiting, waiting… not only waiting but wondering whether James was ever going to come back. They were scared it was over. And when James comes marching back and says, ‘I can’t work between certain hours and certain hours,’ Lars was really pissed off.”

Detailing the confrontation, Towle continued:

“Like, ‘What the f*ck? We’ve been waiting for you, and you’ve controlled us for ten months. And he probably felt that James had controlled them for more than ten months, right? So this was the collision of years of frustration.”

However, this altercation wasn’t the first instance of tension within Metallica. During a 2021 guest appearance on the Howard Stern Show, the band members shared a story from their early days when James Hetfield punched Lars Ulrich during one of their early gigs.

A dispute between Ulrich and Hetfield about which song to kick off the encore with led to frustration: Ulrich favored a track with a drum intro, while Hetfield had a different choice. As they stepped out for the encore, Lars initiated the drum intro track, getting on James’ nerves.

You can see the video of their argument here.