Creeping Death

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"Creeping Death"
Single by Metallica
from the album Ride the Lightning
B-side "Am I Evil?"
"Blitzkrieg"
Released November 23, 1984[1]
Format CD single, Cassette, Vinyl
Recorded September 1983 – July 1984 at Sweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen, Denmark
Genre Thrash metal
Length 6:36
Label Megaforce, Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, Kirk Hammett
Producer(s) Metallica, Flemming Rasmussen
Metallica singles chronology
"Jump in the Fire"
(1984)
"Creeping Death"
(1984)
"Master of Puppets"
(1986)
Music sample

"Creeping Death" is a song by American thrash metal band Metallica, released as the only single from their second album, Ride the Lightning. Written from the perspective of the angel of death, it describes the Plague of the Death of the Firstborn (Exodus 12:29).[citation needed] One of Metallica's most frequently performed songs, it has been played live 1,373 times, second only to "Master of Puppets", at 1,422),[2] it has occasionally been used on various tours as the opening song of the band's set.[3] It stands as a classic example of the band's thrash style, albeit slower than the material on their first album, Kill 'Em All. The song's middle section, based around ominous chants of "Die!" set to a phrygian mode chord progression, is a fan participation staple during Metallica shows.

The single was released through Music for Nations in the UK and France. The b-sides were the cover songs "Am I Evil?" (originally by Diamond Head) and "Blitzkrieg" (originally by Blitzkrieg). Together these covers were known as Garage Days Revisited, which set the stage for Metallica's next cover album, The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited EP.

The artwork was done by Alvin Petty. The logo and the song's title were added with a plastic layover to the existing artwork. Kirk Hammett had seen the picture hanging up at Petty's house and remarked that it would be perfect for the single and picture-disk that were about to be finished.

Inspiration[edit]

The band was inspired for the song by the second half of the film The Ten Commandments, which is based upon the Bible tale of the plagues which were bestowed upon the Egyptians. While watching a scene in which one of the plagues kills every Egyptian first-born child, Cliff Burton remarked "Whoa – it's like creeping death." The band liked the sound of "creeping death" and decided to write a song about the plagues, with the phrase as its title.[4]

Biblical references[edit]

The song is being told from the point of view of the "destroyer," as described Moses' Book of Exodus, chapter 12. Throughout the song, some of the ten plagues are mentioned, all from the story of the "Hagadah", The Passover exodus. Moses repeatedly demanded from Pharaoh to set the Hebrew slaves free from Egypt. Moses, through his older brother Aaron, insisted he was sent by God, and that Pharaoh free his people to the promised land of Caanan (for, for the last 400 years, the Hebrew people lived in the Goshen region of Egypt as slaves "Land of Goshen"). To prove his point and persuade Pharaoh as Pharaoh refused to do, Moses, guided by God, laid ten plagues on the Egyptians. The ten strikes:

  • To kill the first born Pharaoh's son: The tenth and most severe strike — The God of Israel killed every firstborn Egyptian that was a boy (In reference to the Pharaoh's order to throw every Hebrew firstborn into the Nile). One such child was the Pharaoh's firstborn
  • I will be with thee, bush of fire: Refers to God speaking to Moses through a burning bush.
  • Blood, Running red and strong, down the Nile: The first of the ten plagues, water of the Nile turned to blood
  • Plague: This line refers to any of the ten plagues
  • Darkness three days long: The ninth of the ten, the sun was blocked for three days
  • Hail to fire: The seventh of the ten, burning hail fell from the sky
  • Blood, lamb's blood painted door; I shall pass: Passover; the night God slew the firstborns of Egyptian families. The Hebrews were warned earlier by Moses to paint the doorpost with lamb blood so God would pass over their houses and not kill their sons (this is actually why the holiday is called Passover).

Live versions[edit]

There are a great deal of group-assisted vocals in "Creeping Death"; the song often requires more than one vocalist performing at a time. The song is also often played at a much higher tempo than the studio version. On live recordings made before his death, Burton can be heard "roaring" the backing vocals during the third chorus, as well as during the bridge. When Jason Newsted joined Metallica, he often sang the third chorus alone in live performances. When Newsted left the band and Robert Trujillo replaced him, the third chorus was usually sung by the crowd.

During the song's breakdown, audience members are encouraged to chant "Die!" to the rhythm of the song, and the band normally drops out until only the bass guitar and drums remain, this continues for a few bars, then James Hetfield sings the lyrics.

Previous iterations[edit]

The middle section of the "Creeping Death" was originally written by Hammett while he was in Exodus. The song was called "Die by His Hand" and had been part of the Exodus setlist for live shows, but was never used on any Exodus albums.[4]

Track listing[edit]

International single
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Creeping Death"   James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton 6:36
2. "Am I Evil?"   Sean Harris, Brian Tatler 7:49
3. "Blitzkrieg"   Ian Jones, Jim Sirotto, Brian Ross 3:35
Total length:
18:03
Creeping Death/Jump in the Fire EP
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Creeping Death"   James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton 6:36
2. "Am I Evil?"   Sean Harris, Brian Tatler 7:49
3. "Blitzkrieg"   Ian Jones, Jim Sirotto, Brian Ross 3:35
4. "Jump in the Fire"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Dave Mustaine 4:41
5. "Seek & Destroy" (Live) Hetfield, Ulrich 7:04
6. "Phantom Lord" (Live) Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine 4:52

Covers[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The song was featured in an episode of the MTV show Wildboyz.[citation needed]

"Creeping Death" is featured as a playable track in Guitar Hero: Metallica.

It ranked at #1 on the Guitar World top 100 greatest Metallica songs.

"Creeping Death" is the name of an ability performed by Mordekaiser in the game League of Legends.

It is also an assignment for the L96 in Battlefield 3.

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Creeping Death". METALLICA.com. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Songs". Metallica.Com. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  3. ^ Metlists, Inc
  4. ^ a b METALLICA – Encyclopedia Metallica – Song Info – Creeping Death