Lars Ulrich described James Hetfield’s return to rehab as a “bump in the road” of Metallica’s long career, and expressed gratitude for their fans’ support.

The band announced the cancellation of a scheduled tour of Australia and New Zealand because frontman Hetfield had suffered a relapse with his longstanding addiction issues.

“He’s doing what he needs to; he’s in the process of healing himself,” Ulrich told USA Today in a recent interview. “I feel bad for everybody down in Australia and New Zealand, but we’re excited to get back to full force and come back stronger and healthier than ever. Along the way, there’s obviously an occasional bump in the road. But it’s been an incredible ride, and we’re looking forward to getting back down there, hopefully next year.”

He refused to be drawn on any details of events leading up to Hetfield’s move to a treatment facility. “I don’t have anything more to add – we put out a statement a week ago,” he said, adding: “I think the biggest surprise is just how positive the feedback has been from our fans and friends and peers alike. It's very heartwarming, and it's just blown our minds how much love and appreciation and support we've gotten in the last week since we had to postpone this. It's an incredible thing.”

Metallica marked the 20th anniversary of their S&M symphonic live album with two new concerts last month. Asked if the band had been subject to negative reactions the first time round, Ulrich replied: “Over 35-plus years, you grow immune to the different things people throw at you. But generally, the fans have been appreciative of our sense of curiosity and openness to different ways of doing Metallica's music. So the response has been mostly positive.”

He added: “Certainly, when it comes to hard rock, there's always somebody that will throw their two cents in. Everybody has an opinion nowadays, maybe more so than 20 years ago. But Metallica has always moved forward and not paid too much attention to what people expected of us.”


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