Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose is a Marmite figure in the realm of rock music. People tend to fall into two camps regarding the frontman; they either love or hate him. Rose has made numerous enemies throughout his career, including Metallica.
The two bands toured with each other in 1992, a string of dates that took them to stadiums across North America. However, according to GNR’s former drummer, Matt Sorum, it was far from plain sailing. In a 2019 interview with The Desert Sun, he revealed there was a competitive spirit between the two bands: “Axl’s intention was to rule the world and wasn’t afraid to say it,” he said. “Then Lars Ulrich came along and he wanted to rule the world. We were like, ‘You’re going to have to open for us because we rule the world.’ They were very competitive with us.”
Their relationship soured in 2008 when Rose decided to poke fun at Metallica during a Q&A. In response to a question about cartoons, the Guns N’ Roses singer harshly joked: “My favourite cartoon characters are Metallica and Slash”.
Soon afterwards, Rose’s comments were recited to James Hetfield during an interview, and the Metallica frontman responded by saying: “(Guns N Roses) are a different type of band – and I use the word ‘band’ loosely. It’s a guy and some other guys.”
Later that year, it was also alleged by Fernando Lebeis, the son of Axl Rose’s personal assistant, that Lars Ulrich was responsible for Guns N’ Roses being unable to share their new video. “Lars Ulrich,” he wrote on the band’s forum. “We are pending his release form to be signed.”
The Metallica drummer features in live and backstage footage for the video for ‘Better’, which they couldn’t release until he’d signed off. However, this was later denied by Guns N’ Roses, who claimed: “Unfortunately, someone … may have taken things a bit out of context and made them into a bit more than they are in reality.”
The issues between the two bands seem to have stemmed from their initial tour with each other in 1993, and it just took 15 years for their beef to enter the public consciousness. In an interview with Kerrang, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett implied Rose was the root of their problem with the tour. He revealed: “That tour was very stressful because there were so many problems. At that point in time you never really knew if Axl felt like he was going to play the show or not, or if he was going to be on time or not, or if there was going to be an issue with the actual show or not. And that kind of drove everyone crazy.“
Despite Rose seemingly being the reason for the feud starting in the 1990s, he was also responsible for reigniting the flame after the fire had been put out. Although it wasn’t an enjoyable experience at the time, touring with Guns N’ Roses was a steep learning curve for Metallica, as it taught them how not to act on the road through Axl’s mistakes.