The 1984 Metallica Song That Metallica Doesn’t Like to Play

Ride the Lightning remains a momentous Metallica classic. Right from the opening “Fight Fire with Fire,” through the ceremonious “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and the grip of “Fade to Black,” the album also left more of late bassist Cliff Burton‘s mark on the band’s lyrics, following their 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All, and his final album with the band, Master of Puppets, in 1986.

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On the album, there was also one particular track that the band collectively detested and vowed never to play live.

Before the combustible “Creeping Death,” there’s “Escape,” one of several tracks the band wrote in Copenhagen, Denmark while recording with producer Flemming Rasmussen.

“The Hammer”

Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett, the song was originally titled “The Hammer” because of its outro lyrics — See them try to bring the hammer down / No damn chains can hold me to the ground — and is a song of resilience.

Feel no pain, but my life ain’t easy
I know I’m my best friend
No one cares, but I’m so much stronger
I’ll fight until the end
To escape from the true false world
Undamaged destiny
Can’t get caught in the endless circle
Ring of stupidity

The album was the first time the band wrote in the studio, and they needed one more track, and “Escape” was written.

“I remember we had all the songs and Lars [Ulrich] said, ‘They want us to record one more. They need one more for the album,'” said Hetfield. “I was like, ‘You didn’t tell me that,’ so we had to write and it was really last-minute. So ‘Escape’ was one of those songs that was written in the studio.”

[RELATED: The Brazen Origins of Metallica]

28 Years Later

Metallica never performed the song live until the Orion Music + More music festival at Bader Field, Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 23, 2012, when they performed Ride the Lightning in its entirety—”Escape” included. “The song that we never wanted to play live, ever, is now on the setlist,” prefaced Hetfield before going into “Escape.”

When the band finally played “Escape,” they remembered why they agreed to never perform it live in the first place.

“It’s in the key of ‘A,’ like ‘The Call Of Ktulu’ and ‘Metal Militia,’ but the key of ‘A’ doesn’t really work well for us for some reason or another,” said Hammett. “Playing that song was more of a novelty than anything else, but we loved playing all the other songs.”

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Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns

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