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Anthrax’s Scott Ian Looks Back on Cliff Burton’s Death: ‘Words Can’t Really Describe How Dark It Was’

Scott Ian Cliff Burton

With the 28th anniversary of Cliff Burton‘s tragic death arriving today, the Metallica bassist’s legacy looms large for fans and friends — including Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian.

Ian relived his painful memories of Burton’s death during a recent appearance on Chris Jericho‘s podcast, opening up about what it was like for him, as one of Metallica’s tourmates during the run of European dates during which the accident that claimed Burton’s life occurred, to process that loss while helping Burton’s bandmates heal.

“I remember getting off the bus and walking into the lobby and I saw our tour manager and he was talking to some guy … and he said, ‘This is so-and-so, the promoter of the show tonight’ and then he told me. He was like, ‘There was an accident last night. Metallica’s bus crashed and Cliff Burton was killed in the accident. Lars was hurt and everyone else is kind of on their way here now. But Cliff died,'” Ian recalled. “It’s my friend and it just seemed so unreal … It was too much to process. I was 22 years old, living the dream and you think you’re Superman. You really feel invincible out there and then somebody tells you this. It just seems so unbelievable.”

Metallica guitarist and singer James Hetfield took the news particularly hard, according to Ian. “It was hard and he was a mess and…he would just start flipping the f— out,” he continued, describing how Anthrax members Frank Bello and Charlie Benante ended up taking Hetfield “out of the room so he wouldn’t smash things and outside onto the street just to get him some air and walk him around. It was a bad scene and words really can’t describe how dark it was.”

But as much of a struggle as it was to carry on in the wake of such a tremendous loss, Ian insists there was never any other option for Metallica. “Even in the midst of all that, never once did those guys think of stopping. That was never a question, like, was this the end of Metallica? The last thing Cliff would have wanted would have been for the music to stop,” he argued. “His life was music, so the last thing that dude would have wanted would be for those guys to say, ‘That’s it, we’re calling it a day.’”

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