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Metallica Rages Against Itself

Forget about Metallica's crusade against Napster, America's headbangers-in-chief are having a severe case of "creative differences," as they say in the business.

In fact, an upcoming article appears to give the impression that members of the No. 1 American heavy metal act are crusading against each other. Among comments from the slag-fest: Metallica's lead vocalist can't sing and may have sexuality issues; the drummer isn't very good; and everyone was mean to the bass player.

If it sounds like something out of the Rob Reiner classic, Spinal Tap, then at least the sources who descibe the intra-band imbroglio are legit: Four members of the San Francisco-based group took the potshots at each other during separate interviews woven together in the latest issue of Playboy magazine, due out Monday.

The sessions were conducted two months before bass player Jason Newsted announced in January he was quitting the mega-selling group after 14 years, citing "private and personal reasons" and "physical damage" resulting from his playing.

Playboy said Newsted's departure followed two marathon band meetings, but could hardly be termed a surprise given the enmity that emerged during the interview sessions.

Among the revelations: singer James Hetfield's "vocal range is limited" but improving, according to Newsted.

Drummer Lars Ulrich, often at the center of many band fights, said Hetfield is homophobic.

"Let there be no question about that," it quoted Ulrich as saying. "I think homophobia is questioning your sexuality and not being comfortable with it."

For his part, Hetfield recalled that Danish-born Ulrich rarely bathed during the band's formative days in the early 1980s, and was not a good drummer.

"To this day he is not Drummer of the Year. We all know that," said Hetfield, who leads the band with Ulrich.

Hetfield also recalled throwing Ulrich into his kit several times, as part of a philosophy that favored violence and intimidation. Ulrich said he had gotten into a few fights with Newsted. Only guitarist Kirk Hammett, a devotee of yoga, said he has never hit anyone in the band.

Newsted, who joined the band when Cliff Burton died in a bus accident during a 1986 European tour, was subjected to prolonged physical and mental abuse by his bandmates, the magazine said. Newsted recalled they even turned down his bass on the breakthrough 1988 album ... And Justice For All.

Hetfield, the band's heart and soul, refused to allow Newsted to release a solo album for fear that it would detract from Metallica, according to the interviews.

While Playboy said Newsted had declined to comment further in light of his resignation, the magazine quoted a source as saying his clash with Hetfield was "a precipitating factor" in his decision to leave The source said Newsted might move to Montana for two years and not pick up a bass at all.

A spokesman for the band's U.S. label, Elektra Records, said he had not seen the article and could not comment on it.

Ride the lightning, guys.

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