Kirk Hammett looked back on the frantic hours he spent trying to save Metallica’s headline set a the U..K.’s Download festival in 2004, after Lars Ulrich fell ill.

The drummer had to be taken to hospital after overwork and emotional pressures got the better of him; and although he was later released, his band mates found themselves backstage at the event, being advised to cancel their planned appearance.

“When stuff like this happens, I don’t know why but the responsibility seems to land on me!” Hammett told the Guardian in a recent interview. “I couldn’t do anything for the next three hours except talk to drummers. I remember seeing [Pantera’s] Dimebag wave at me from a distance backstage; I looked at him and mouthed: ‘We are completely fucked.’ He came over laughing and just said: ‘You guys have got this.’ And that was the last time I saw Dime [before his death]. I still regret not taking the time to have a full conversation with him.”

Dave Lombardo, then drummer with Slayer, was backstage when the band’s manager told him Ulrich wasn’t going to make the show. “They told me he was OK but needed to go to the hospital, so I said: ‘I’d love to help out,’” Lombardo said. “I was given a little CD player to listen to the songs to reacquaint myself. Luckily, they also had Joey Jordison from Slipknot, who I heard had played in a Metallica covers band when he was younger.”

Jordison – who died in 2021 – wound up rehearsing with Hammett, James Hetfield and recently-hired Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo for most of the afternoon before playing the majority of an hour-long set in the evening.

Watch Metallica Play ‘Battery’ with Dave Lombardo

Watch Metallica Play ‘Enter Sandman’ with Joey Jordison

“Joey could play all sorts of things,” Hammett said. “I remember saying to him: ‘Bro, you’re gonna have to play a bunch of these tunes tonight…’ He was beside himself, he was so happy. At the end of the set, I turned to Joey onstage, and I asked him if he could play ‘Enter Sandman.’ And I saw through his [Slipknot] mask that he had tears in both of his eyes. He was crying because it meant so much for him to be playing ‘Sandman’ with us at Download. I’ll never forget that.”

Metallica had staged a secret appearance at Download the previous year. “I don’t like full ‘chaos,’ but I’m a sucker for ‘pandemonium’ – I get a weird amusement out of it!” Hammett reported. “We tried to keep it as secret as possible, and we did a really, really good job up until about 45 minutes before. We covered all logos on our kit and everything, and you know what the one thing that gave us away was? People recognized our crew and our techs! We hit the stage and it was an explosion of energy. We still talk about that show now.”

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