Until It Sleeps

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"Until It Sleeps"
Single by Metallica
from the album Load
B-side 2 X 4 (live)/ F.O.B.D (Demo)./ Kill/ Ride Medley (live)/ Until it Sleeps (Herman Melville Mix)/ Overkill (live)
Released May 20, 1996
Format CD single, Cassette, Vinyl
Recorded 1995
Genre Hard rock
Length 4:30
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Producer(s) Bob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Metallica singles chronology
"Sad but True"
"Until It Sleeps"
"Hero of the Day"
Music video
"Until It Sleeps" on YouTube

"Until It Sleeps" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica from their 1996 album Load.


The song was performed with orchestral accompaniment on the album S&M. It was the band's first number one song on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, as well as their first and only song to hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, debuting at and peaking at number 10.[1]

An early demo version of this song was entitled "F.O.B.D" (recorded on December 8, 1995), because it reminded the band members of the Soundgarden song "Fell on Black Days," in that the "It grips you...It stains you..." refrain is in the same 6/4 time signature that "Fell on Black Days" is in. The band can be heard saying "Fell on Black Days" on the fanclub-only Fancan 1 CD just prior to jamming on a portion of "Until It Sleeps." The 10" vinyl version of the single is red in color.


The lyrics of the song, written by Hetfield, address his mother's battle with cancer, to which Hetfield's "it" refers. They can be seen as either describing the emotional pain he feels for the loss, or the physical pain his mother was feeling while she was ill. Both of his parents were Christian Scientists, and did not believe in medicine. The lyrics are also interpreted as dealing with anger issues. Hetfield's father, Virgil, died in late 1996, during Metallica's Load tour.

Music video[edit]

The song also has a music video directed by Samuel Bayer (Nirvana, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins). It was shot in various locations around Los Angeles on May 6 and 7 in 1996. It was premiered by MTV on May 23.[citation needed] The video depicts surreal concepts dealing with fall of a human, taken from various paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. Apart from the general forms inspired from Bosch's paintings, the prominent figures in the video are the human-eating monster from The Garden of Earthly Delights, the fall of Adam and Eve from Haywain and Christ in the Crucifige Eum (Crucify Him) scene of Ecce Homo.


The video of the song won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video in 1996.

The song won a 1996 Metal Edge Readers' Choice Award for Song of the Year.[2]


"Until It Sleeps" became the first "officially" pirated MP3 when it was released by Compress ’Da Audio (a piracy group and spinoff of the Warez scene) via a Internet Relay Chat network on August 10, 1996.[3]

Track listing[edit]

US single
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:36
2. "Overkill"   4:08
International Single Part 1
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:33
2. "2 X 4" (Live) 6:06
3. "F.O.B.D." (aka Until It Sleeps - early 'writing in progress' version) 4:56
International Single Part 2
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:36
2. "Kill/Ride Medley" (Live) 10:19
3. "Until It Sleeps" (Herman Melville Mix) 4:20
Japanese EP
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:35
2. "Until It Sleeps" (Herman Melville Mix) 4:22
3. "Kill/Ride Medley" (Live) 10:19
4. "2 X 4" (Live) 6:08
5. "Overkill" (Live) 4:11
6. "F.O.B.D." (aka Until It Sleeps - early 'writing in progress' version) 4:56

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date
Worldwide (except North America) May 20, 1996
United States May 21, 1996


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 421.
  2. ^ Metal Edge, June 1997
  3. ^ Witt, Stephen (April 21, 2015). "The Man Who Broke the Music Business". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 24, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  5. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  6. ^ "Ultratop.be – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  7. ^ "Ultratop.be – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  8. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 64, No. 2, August 26 1996". RPM. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 63, No. 21, July 08 1996". RPM. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Metallica: Until It Sleeps" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland.
  11. ^ "Lescharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in French). Les classement single.
  12. ^ "Chartverfulgong > Metallica > Until It Sleeps – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  13. ^ Italian peaks
  14. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Metallica search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  15. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Top 40 Singles.
  16. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". VG-lista.
  17. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  18. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Singles Top 60.
  19. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Swiss Singles Chart.
  20. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1996". Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  21. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 64, No. 18, December 16 1996". RPM. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  22. ^ Kent, David (2006). Australian Chart Book 1993-2005. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-45889-2. 
  23. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. 
  24. ^ "Norwegian single certifications – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. 
  25. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. 
  26. ^ "American single certifications – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  27. ^ "Best-Selling Records of 1996". Billboard (BPI Communications Inc.) 109 (3): 61. January 18, 1997. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 8, 2015. 
Preceded by
"Humans Being" by Van Halen
Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks number-one single
June 8, 1996 – July 19, 1996
August 3, 1996
Succeeded by
"Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" by Stone Temple Pilots