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Metallica’s „Fade to Black”

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Metallica’s „Fade to Black”

It has its critics, but "Fade to Black" is undoubtedly one of the most important songs in Metallica's history. Their first true ballad, it showed they were far too astute to box themselves in, creatively speaking, and churn out only pedal-to-the-metal thrashers. There's hardly a whiff of that here and, instead, this somber comment on suicide showcases James Hetfield's increasingly mature lyrics and Kirk Hammett's impressively tasteful guitar melodies. And perhaps more than any other song Metallica released in the 1980s, it pointed to the move to the mainstream that the band made beginning with its album ‘Metallica’ (aka ‘The Black Album’) in 1991.

Fade to Black

In 1984, Metallica was still far from being recognized (by most of the world, anyway) as a band that would change heavy metal and hard rock, but the band's ‘Ride the Lightning’ track "Fade to Black" became a concert favorite and one of the few Metallica tracks to get radio airplay in the mid- to late '80s. Its simple melody and subtle progression was unlike the band's typically multi-layered sound, and its imprisoned, smothered, and oppressed feel mirrored the rest of the ‘Ride the Lightning’ album.

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‘Ride the Lightning’ album

 

James Hetfield commented on the song in a 1991 interview with Guitar World: “That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so it was challenging and we knew it would freak people out. … I wrote the song at a friend’s house in New Jersey. I was pretty depressed at the time because our gear had just been stolen, and we had been thrown out of our manager’s house for breaking shit and drinking his liquor cabinet dry. It’s a suicide song, and we got a lot of flack for it, [as if] kids were killing themselves because of the song. But we also got hundreds and hundreds of letters from kids telling us how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.”

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James Hetfield

 

The track's calm, matter-of-fact introduction and powerful, suicidal lyrics are chillingly realistic, and the song feels like a suicide. Its detached disposition soon swirls into not-quite-suppressed self-hate and rage, and at midpoint in the track, the tempo kicks in and a precisioned guitar riff gallops over boiling-over anger ("yesterday seems as though it never existed/death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye"); the song eventually (and appropriately) fades out.

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Cliff Burton (bassist)

 

Lars Ulrich has revealed that when their first album ‘Kill 'Em All’ was finished, band was obsessed with the concept of death. All the live stapes from ‘Ride the Lightening’ deals with death of some form of death. In "Fade to Black", because of it's forceful interpretation of committing suicide, Metallica was accused of promoting death.

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Lars Ulrich

 

“Fade To Black” follows a structure which Metallica would continue on further ballads which is the song is split into two parts: the first half is more like a melodic ballad while the second half is much more aggressive and generally dominated by guitar leads. Kirk Hammett: “We doubled the first solo, but it was harder to double the second solo in the middle because it was slow and there was a lot of space in it. Later I realized that I harmonized it in a weird way—in minor thirds, major thirds and fifths. For the extended solo at the end, I wasn’t sure what to play. We had been in Denmark for five or six months, and I was getting really homesick. We were also having problems with our management. Since it was a somber song, and we were all bummed out anyway, I thought of very depressing things while I did the solo, and it really helped.”

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Kirk Hammett

 

Before "Fade to Black," most heavy metal/hard rock songs did not delve quite so far into the human psyche; songs dealt with death, but usually in a cartoonish, gothic, or mystical way. "Fade to Black" helped heavy metal gain some songwriting credibility, and Metallica continued this graphic, realistic imagery in songwriting on their subsequent songs and albums in the 1980s.

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Fade to Black

 

Fade To Black lyrics


Life it seems will fade away.
Drifting further everyday.
Getting lost within myself.
Nothing matters, no one else.
I have lost the will to live.
Simply nothing more to give.
There is nothing more for me.
Need the end to set me free.

Things not what they used to be.
Missing one inside of me.
Deathly lost, this can't be real.
Cannot stand this hell I feel.
Emptiness is filling me
to the point of agony.
Growing darkness, taking dawn.
I was me, but now he's gone.

No one but me can save myself, but it's too late.
Now I can't think, think why I should even try
Yesterday seems as though it never existed.
Death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye.

Goodbye...

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Metallica, 1984

 

 

 

Metallica - Fade To Black (Live at The VH1)

Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 October 2018 00:42)

 

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