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‘Creeping Death’ – Story Behind the Song

Metallica 'Creeping Death'
Chuck Armstrong

While slower than the stereotypical thrash tune, ‘Creeping Death’ keeps the efforts Metallica made with ‘Kill ‘Em All‘ alive and strong. The second single from 1984’s ‘Ride the Lightning,’ ‘Creeping Death’ has become synonymous with the band. When you get Metallica, you’re sure to get the crushing ‘Creeping Death.’

Leave it to Metallica to make a heavy metal tune based on the Holy Bible. Following a theme present in the Old Testament, James Hetfield‘s lyrics come from the book of Exodus. Exodus 12:29-30 reads:

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner … Pharaoh and all his officials an all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Hetfield puts his own spin on the verses by singing from the point-of-view of Death, preaching, “So let it be written, so let it be done / I’m sent here by the chosen one / So let it be written, so let it be done / To kill the first born pharaoh son / I’m creeping death.”

As if the chorus wasn’t dark enough, Hetfield takes things to a whole new level with the bridge. At live shows, Hetfield leads the crowd in a chant of”Die! Die! Die!” as the frontman busts into the lyrics, “Die by my hand / I creep across the land / Killing first-born man.” There’s no question that this is a highlight of any fan’s experience at a Metallica concert. Who doesn’t enjoy putting the devil horns in the air and chanting “Die! Die! Die!” with Metallica? The “Die!” bridge was originally created by Kirk Hammett back in his Exodus days for a song called ‘Die By the Sword.’ It was never released on any Exodus studio album.

The artwork for the single comes from Alvin Petty. The painting shows a very creep landscape with a subtle skull floating in the background. Reportedly, Hammett saw the painting in Petty’s house and immediately thought of ‘Creeping Death.’ To date, ‘Creeping Death’ has been played more than 1,300 times live, making it one of Metallica’s most-played songs. It was first played on Nov. 4, 1983 at the Country Club in Reseda, Calif as the fifth song in the set (preceded by ‘No Remorse’ and followed by ‘Phantom Lord’).

Watch Metallica Perform ‘Creeping Death’ – San Diego, Calif. – Jan. 13, 1992

Next: Read All About Metallica's 'Ride The Lightning'

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