It's been the better part of a decade since Metallica's Lars Ulrich lead the charge against digital downloading. Since then, the battle has both been won and lost. Yes, the record companies have sunk their claws into the format via iTunes and others, but they've been completely unable to wipe out the "illegal" downloading of mp3's. They never will be able to either.
This interview in Rolling Stone makes it seem he has softened up in recent years. Metallica now has their music available online. But it's worth thinking of the folks who are now having to incur massive debt because they were taken to court by the RIAA for downloading seven songs. Lars Ulrich's presence in the anti-downloading campaign from the very beginning provided legitimacy, a fig leaf if you will, to the big labels' attempt to crack down on listeners.
Ulrich also touches on what the next Metallica album will sound like. Many purists will point out that the group's sound hasn't been the same since the Black Album. They are right. Around the early nineties the standard-bearers of metal cut off all their hair and tried to cash in on grunge and alternative by softening their sound. The visceral intensity was completely absent from Load--which was, well... a load--and every album since.
Isn't it interesting that their sound became pabulum around the same time Ulrich threw the group's hat into the same ring as the record labels?