The God That Failed (song)

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"The God That Failed"
Song by Metallica
from the album Metallica
ReleasedAugust 12, 1991
RecordedOctober 1990 – June 1991 at "One On One" studios, Los Angeles, California
Genre Heavy metal
Label Elektra
Songwriter(s) James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Producer(s) Bob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Metallica track listing
  1. "Enter Sandman"
  2. "Sad but True"
  3. "Holier Than Thou"
  4. "The Unforgiven"
  5. "Wherever I May Roam"
  6. "Don't Tread on Me"
  7. "Through the Never"
  8. "Nothing Else Matters"
  9. "Of Wolf and Man"
  10. "The God That Failed"
  11. "My Friend of Misery"
  12. "The Struggle Within"

"The God That Failed" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica, from their 1991 self-titled album. The song was never released as a single, but was the first of the album's songs to be heard by the public. It is one of Metallica's first original releases to be tuned half a step down.


Composition and recording

Composer and lyricist James Hetfield described the song as "very nice... Slow, heavy and ugly." [1] Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett recalls the inception of his solo in the song: "I had this whole thing worked out, but it didn't fit because the lead was too bluesy for the song, which is characterized by real heavy riffing and chording." [2] According to Hammett, he and producer Bob Rock worked out his guitar solo on the song. Together they composed a melody to which Hammett wanted to add harmony. The producer suggested that this would make the song sound too "pretty", and instead recommended playing the melody an octave higher. The final guitar solo was put together from over a dozen performances by the guitarist during the recording of the album. Hammett calls the resulting work one of his favorite solos on the album. [2]


The central theme of the song is faith and human reliance on it, and of unrewarded belief in a God that fails to heal. The lyrics and song material were inspired by Hetfield's anguish on the circumstances surrounding his mother's death. [3] She died of cancer after refusing medical attention, solely relying on her belief in God to heal her. [4] Hetfield felt that had she not followed her Christian Science beliefs, she could have survived. [5]

Baylor University Assistant Professor of Religion, Paul Martens points out that the song has been admired by some anti-religious groups, such as the websites "Alabama Atheist" and "The Secular Web". [6] Martens notes, however, that Hetfield does not celebrate God's failure in the song, but instead blames God, through his mother's faith and death, for contributing to the meaninglessness of life. [7]


Finntroll covered this song and its included on the limited edition of Nifelvind. [8] In 2012, Black Spiders covered this song for the Kerrang! album Black Album Covered. [9]

Live performance

The song was first played on the first date of the "Shit Hits the Sheds" tour (May 30, 1994). It was played in E flat tuning from 1994 to 2006 - since 2010, the song has been played in D standard tuning. It received frequent live performance during the 2012 European Black Album Tour when it was played as a part of the Black Album . [10] [11]


  1. Hetfield, James (1997). Kitts, Jeff; Tolinski, Brad; Steinblatt, Harold, eds. Guitar World Presents Metallica. Wayne, NJ: Music Content Developers. pp. 18–19. ISBN   0-7935-8079-X.
  2. 1 2 Hammett, Kirk (1997). Kitts, Jeff; Tolinski, Brad; Steinblatt, Harold, eds. Guitar World Presents Metallica. Wayne, NJ: Music Content Developers. p. 18. ISBN   0-7935-8079-X.
  3. Smith, Sid. "Metallica Metallica (The Black Album) Review". BBC Music. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  4. "Song info - The God That Failed", Encyclopedia Metallica.
  5. Chris, Ingham (2003). Metallica: Nothing Else Matters: The Stories behind the Biggest Songs. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 108. ISBN   1-56025-536-6.
  6. Martens, Paul (2005). "Metallica and the God That Failed: An Unfinished Tragedy in Three Acts". In Gilmour, Michael J. Call Me the Seeker: Listening to Religion in Popular Music. New York: Continuum. p. 98. ISBN   0-8264-1713-2.
  7. Martens (2005), p. 103.
  8. O'Phil, Metal. "Finntroll : A unique band". Radio Metal. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  9. Simon. "Download the artwork to this week's exclusive CD!". Kerrang!. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  10. Quellette, Mary. "Metallica Power Through Black Album at Download Festival". Loudwire . Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  11. Merlin. "Download 2012 Review: Metallica, Killswitch Engage, Skindred, Biffy Clyro". Metal Hammer . Retrieved June 12, 2013.

Further reading