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Metallica’s European Travel Plans Hindered by Iceland’s Dust Cloud


You can’t blame the guys in Metallica for not wanting to travel by bus. Since 1986, when the band’s bus flipped while on tour in Sweden, killing bassist Cliff Burton, Metallica have opted for air travel between tour dates. But thanks to that Icelandic volcano and the dust clouds it’s regurgitating into the ether, the thrash legends are grounded, just like the rest of the world. Rather than nix their current European tour, Metallica are returning to the bus. But it hasn’t been easy.

“I just could not relax, thinking, ‘Wow, those buses have changed a lot since we traveled,'” guitarist Kirk Hammett told reporters in Vilnius, Lithuania, where the band will be performing this evening. The band has to travel 28 hours by bus to make the gig … a trip that typically takes two hours by plane. “[These buses] are so much more comfortable. You see, we did not use this means of transportation for more than two decades since the tragedy.”

When the band boarded the bus this week, it brought back memories of Burton’s tragic passing, and Hammett says taking the overnight bus trip was jarring. “When we boarded the bus again this week and had to travel overnight, I realized that those bad memories are still here,” he says. “I still haven’t overcome the fear of buses. But the show must go on.”

Last week, Metallica had to take a cruise ship to make a gig in Latvia, much to the astonishment of the their fans. “It was kind of exciting, like a big party,” explained Liga Viskinte, a 23-year-old Latvian who was on the same boat as the band. She claims frontman James Hetfield and bassist Robert Trujillo drank beers in the ship’s packed karaoke bar. They even watched a passenger tackle ‘Whiskey in the Jar,’ from 1998’s ‘Garage Inc.’

“The singing was awful, but no one seemed to mind,” Viskinte said.

Next up, Metallica will be heading for Moscow by train, so long as planes remain grounded. The train trip will take 13 hours. “It would take a really great force to stop us,” Hammett says. “But we’ll figure it out somehow.”

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