In a new interview with Metal Hammer magazine, classic METALLICA producer Flemming Rasmussen — who worked with the group on 1984’s Ride the Lightning, 1986’s Master of Puppets, and 1988’s …And Justice for All — looked back on the Lightning sessions and drummer Lars Ulrich‘s performance.
“I thought he was absolutely useless,” Rasmussen recalled. “The very first thing I asked when he started playing was, ‘Does everything start on an upbeat?’ And he went, ‘What’s an upbeat?’
“We started telling him about beats. That they have to be an equal length of time between that hit, that hit, and that hit, and you have to be able to count to four before you come in again,” he continued. “Then he could play a really good fill that nobody else had thought of doing at that time.”
He also talked about how the band used an actual anvil on “For Whom the Bell Tolls”: “We put it on a backstairs when we recorded it. That was ridiculous — it weighed a ton. But Lars hit it and it sounded really good. That was before samplers, so we had to make our own sounds.”
Ride the Lightning showcased the band’s musical growth and lyrical sophistication. This was partly because bassist Cliff Burton introduced the basics of music theory to the rest of the band and had more input in the songwriting. Instead of relying heavily on fast tempos as on its debut Kill ‘Em All, METALLICA broadened its approach by employing acoustic guitars, extended instrumentals, and more complex harmonies.