METALLICA’s Lovecraftian Songs

The late Cliff Burton, bassist of METALLICA, was a widely known enthusiast of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos tales. The influence of the writer on the artist and the band itself is most evident in two of their works:

The instrumental of Ride the Lightning, Call of Ktulu (working title When Hell Freezes Over), was inspired by both the eponymous tale and The Shadow over Innsmouth.

One of the songs from Master of Puppets, The Thing That Should Not Be, features entirely Lovecraft-inspired lyrics. Every single verse references one of his tales, and the text in general is structured much like the words uttered by men who have descended into insanity after acknowledging the existence of cosmic horrors.

The lyrics of the song are as follows:

Messenger of Fear in sight,

Dark deception kills the light! (1)

Hybrid children watch the sea,

Pray for father roaming free! (2)

Fearless Wretch, insanity (3) —

He watches, lurking beneath the sea! (4)

Great Old One (5),

forbidden site (6) —

He searches,

Hunter of the Shadows (7) is rising!


In madness You dwell (8).

Crawling Chaos (9) underground,

Cult has summoned a twisted sound!

Out from ruins once possessed,

fallen city — living death! (7)

Fearless Wretch,

insanity —

He watches,

lurking beneath the sea!

Timeless sleep

has been upset (10),

He wakes,

Hunter of the Shadows is rising!


In madness You dwell!

Not dead which eternal lie,

Stranger Aeons Death may die! (11)

Drain you with your sanity (3),

face The Thing That Should Not Be! (12)

Fearless Wretch,  insanity —

He watches,

lurking beneath the sea!

Great Old One,

forbidden site,

He searches —

Hunter of the Shadows is rising!


In madness You dwell.

  1. ‘Messenger of Fear’ could be a reference to Nyarlathotep, the messenger of the gods.
  2. Reference to The Shadow over Innsmouth. The story features hybrids of the Deep Ones — the spawn of Dagon — and humans.
  3. Insanity is one of the recurring themes in Lovecraft’s tales. Many of his characters are insane, or are driven insane throughout narration.
  4. Reference to either Dagon, the fish deity inhabiting the sea, or Cthulhu, trapped in the sunken city of R’Lyeh.
  5. In Lovecraft’s fiction, the Great Old Ones are ancient and unimaginably powerful cosmic deities. Cthulhu, Dagon, and other entities are Great Old Ones.
  6. Many Lovecraft tales describe ancient and (seemingly) abandoned cities. As examples, R’Lyeh in The Call of Cthulhu, the city of the Elder Things in At the Mountains of Madness and the Nameless City from the eponymous tale.
  7. Probably a loose reference to Lovecraft’s The Haunter in the Dark.
  8. Probably a reference to Cthulhu. People are sometimes driven insane by his sight. Could also be a wide reference to Lovecraft’s deities and semi-deities.
  9. ‘The Crawling Chaos’ is one of the epythets given to Nyarlathotep — and also the title of a short story (unrelated to said character).
  10. Some entities in Lovecraft’s fiction (Cthulhu, Rhan-Tegoth, the Elder Things) were woken from an unimaginably long slumber.
  11. Reference to the famous, ‘much discussed’ couplet in The Call of Cthulhu: “That is not dead which can eternal lie — and with stranger aeons even death may die.”
  12. Reference to a passage in At the Mountains of Madness, where the protagonist tries to describe the terrifying Shoggoth: “What we did see — for the mists were indeed all too malignly thinned — was something altogether different, and immeasurably more hideous and detestable. It was the utter, objective embodiment of the fantastic novelist’s ‘Thing that should not be’.”

Perhaps as a homage to their former team member, METALLICA produced another song with indirect Lovecraftian influences: All Nightmare Long. James Hetfield stated in an interview that “It was an attempt to get back to the H. P. Lovecraft mythos with Thing that Should Not Be, Call of Ktulu. This was about the Hounds of Tindalos, which was another crazy mindfuck about these wolves that hunt through their nightmares and the only way you can get away from them is stay within angles (120 or less). You can’t even escape through sleep.” Said creatures were only inspired by Lovecraft, as they were featured in the eponymous short story written by Frank Belknap Long.


About omega

faintly self-luminous cockroach-cephalopod

Posted on 04/03/2013, in Monstrous Songs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Didn’t know anything about that last song’s reference, thanks for the info. Comprehensive!

  2. Great read anything by HP Lovrcraft! My all favorite is Luker at the Threshold… Kids need to stop with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and read the classics. Love HP Lovecraft since I was young! Metallica is a class act \m/

  3. Great job, except the line “drain you with your sanity” should read “drain you of your sanity”.

  1. Pingback: Music: Metallica, HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT | #1s

  2. Pingback: I Dare You To Find a Geekier Metal Band Than 'Powerglove' - Unbound Worlds

  3. Pingback: Hardwired to Self-Destruct - Metallica Album Review ·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: