Monday, March 29, 2010

Why is this song different from all other songs?

As a boy, I dreaded strapping on a blazer, being driven up to the synagogue and hearing the congregation struggle to sing Debbie Friedman songs in key. I probably would've enjoyed services more had the cantor ever performed "Creeping Death" by Metallica. Check out the lyrics below:

Blood running down the Nile? Darkness three days long? Sent here by the chosen one to kill the first born Pharaoh's son? "Creeping Death?" Sign me up!

One of the best songs off a record that every metalhead should own (Ride the Lightning,) "Creeping Death" was allegedly inspired by the film The Ten Commandments. Today's death metal bands usually express disdain for anything remotely biblical, but Metallica realized that the story of the Ten Plagues was even more brutal than anything that Tobe Hooper, Clive Barker or Stephen King could dream of.

"Creeping Death" is a great example of how Metallica works best as a band. Contrast the James and Lars-dominated years with something like this. Hetfield unleashes an alarming main riff under a vocal melody that has almost no resemblance to it. The sound of Cliff Burton driving his Rickenbacker into the war zone at the :27 mark still thrills me. Lars sounds discontent in a good way--whoever sets up his crash cymbal every night must pray to Lemmy that Metallica don't play this song. But despite James' riff and narration, the star here is Mr. Kirk Hammett.

Having replaced a future metal icon on lead guitar just a year before, Hammett was leaving his mark on a band that still had Dave Mustaine's fingerprints all over its songwriting. The harmonies and solo near the end put to rest any wonder of who would be the best lead guitarist for Metallica. The unforgettable bridge (known to Metallifreaks as the "audience participation" part) was originally written by Hammett for his previous band, underground metal heroes Exodus. With all respect to Gary Holt, the Phrygian segment and "Die by my hand" chant deserve to be performed by Metallica and a room (or arena) full of maniacs. With or without a Haggadah.

Of course, I can't post anything Metallica-related without posting a live version:


Ellen said...

Hey Ben,
Thanks for the thoughtful breakdown on Creeping Death. I had a really excellent plague experience myself last year. I was waiting for a friend on 72nd st and Amsterdam and looking at the display window of a stationary store. I suddenly realized I was looking at a package of masks of the 10 plagues made of foam rubber. Needless to say I bought them. Now I can put on a LOCUST or CATTLE PLAGUE or BOILS mask anytime I want to recreate the horror the Egyptians must have felt on waking up to yet another freaking plague.
Rock on

Ben Apatoff said...

That's awesome! As soon as I throw a Metallica equivalent of the Cameron Crowe party where everyone dressed as a character from Bob Dylan lyrics, you'll be set.

Thanks for reading,