The Unforgiven (song)

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"The Unforgiven"
Metallica - The Unforgiven cover.jpg
Single by Metallica
from the album Metallica
B-side "Killing Time", "So What?", "The Unforgiven (Demo)"
ReleasedOctober 28, 1991
RecordedOctober 1990 at One on One studios, Los Angeles, California
Genre Heavy metal
Label Elektra
Metallica singles chronology
"Enter Sandman"
"The Unforgiven"
"Nothing Else Matters"
Music video
"The Unforgiven" on YouTube

"The Unforgiven" is a power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released as the second single from their eponymous fifth album Metallica (also known as The Black Album). Though one of the slower tracks on the album, its chord progression is distinctly one of the heaviest. The song deals with the theme of the struggle of the individual against the efforts of those who would subjugate him. [1]

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Metallica American heavy metal band

Metallica is an American heavy metal band. The band was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California by drummer Lars Ulrich and vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, and has been based in San Francisco, California for most of its career. The group's fast tempos, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Metallica's current lineup comprises founding members Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.

<i>Metallica</i> (album) 1991 studio album by Metallica

Metallica is the fifth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica. Released on August 12, 1991 by Elektra Records, it received widespread critical acclaim and became the band's best-selling album. Metallica produced five singles that are considered to be among the band's best-known songs, which include "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Sad but True". A sixth song, "Don't Tread on Me", was also issued to rock radio shortly after the album's release, but the song did not receive a commercial single release. The album marked a change in the band's sound from the thrash metal style of the previous four albums to a slower and heavier one rooted in heavy metal. Metallica promoted the album with a series of tours. In 2003, the album was ranked number 255 on Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums of all time.


The song has since spawned two sequels, in the form of "The Unforgiven II", from the album Reload , and "The Unforgiven III", from the album Death Magnetic .

<i>Reload</i> (Metallica album) 1997 studio album by Metallica

Reload is the seventh studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on November 18, 1997 by Elektra Records. The album is a follow-up to Load, released the previous year, and Metallica's last studio album to feature bassist Jason Newsted. Reload debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 436,000 copies in its first week. It was certified 3× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping three million copies in the United States.

<i>Death Magnetic</i> 2008 studio album by Metallica

Death Magnetic is the ninth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on September 12, 2008 through Warner Bros. Records. The album was produced by Rick Rubin, marking the band's first album since ...And Justice for All (1988) not to be produced by longtime collaborator Bob Rock. It is also the first Metallica album to feature bassist Robert Trujillo, and the second to be completely co-written by all of the band's members.

"The Unforgiven"


Lars Ulrich explained that the band wanted to try something new with the idea of a ballad. Instead of the standard melodic verse and heavy chorus – as evidenced on their previous ballads "Fade to Black", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "One" – the band opted to reverse the dynamic, with heavy, distorted verses and a softer, melodic chorus, played with undistorted electric guitars. The opening section contains percussive instruments performed by Ulrich, and also a small amount of keyboards.[ citation needed ]

Lars Ulrich Danish musician

Lars Ulrich is a Danish musician, songwriter, actor, and record producer. He is best known as the drummer and co-founder of the American heavy metal band Metallica. The son of tennis player Torben Ulrich and grandson of tennis player Einer Ulrich, he also played tennis in his youth and moved to Los Angeles at age 16 to train professionally. However, rather than playing tennis, Ulrich began playing drums. After publishing an advertisement in The Recycler, Ulrich met vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and formed Metallica.

Ballad form of verse, often a narrative set to music

A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally "danced songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Ireland and Britain from the later medieval period until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America. Ballads are often 13 lines with an ABABBCBC form, consisting of couplets of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables. Another common form is ABAB or ABCB repeated, in alternating 8 and 6 syllable lines.

Fade to Black (song) 1984 single by Metallica

"Fade to Black" is a song and the first power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica, released as the first promotional single from its second studio album, Ride the Lightning. The song was ranked as having the 24th best guitar solo ever by Guitar World readers.

The horn intro was essentially taken from The Unforgiven (a Western movie) and then reversed so its source would be hidden, as Hetfield later explained on the documentary Classic Albums: Metallica - Metallica.

<i>The Unforgiven</i> (1960 film) 1960 American western film directed by John Huston

The Unforgiven is a 1960 American western film filmed in Durango, Mexico. It was directed by John Huston and stars Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Audie Murphy, Charles Bickford and Lillian Gish. The story is based upon the 1957 novel by Alan Le May.

Live performances

"The Unforgiven" was played live as part of Metallica's "Wherever We May Roam" and "Nowhere Else to Roam" world tours, which lasted from 1991 to 1993, in support of The Black Album. It was played again on the Madly in Anger with the World world tour in 2003 and 2004 and has been continued to be played during all of the bands' tours since.

The live version of "The Unforgiven" includes a second solo near the end of the song that the original recording did not have, although this part has rarely been played since the early 2000s.

Music video

An accompanying video was released for the song. The black-and-white video is themed around a boy born in captivity who spends his life in a windowless stone room. As the video progress, he ages into an adult and then an old man. He spends his entire life carving into the stone to create a window while occasionally grasping his one possession: a locket. It is implied that another captive lives on the other side of the stone room. The video ends with the old man finally creating a window, through which he deposits his possession. He blocks off the tunnel through which he crawled to access the cell using the square of stone he created when he made the window, then lies down to die. An 11:33, "theatrical" version of the video exists, featuring several minutes of introductory scenes that precede the timeline of the main portion of the video. This version was featured on The Videos 1989–2004 , the band's 2006 music video compilation.

Track listing

US cassette
1."The Unforgiven"6:27
2."Killing Time"3:05
US promotional single
1."The Unforgiven" (Radio Edit)4:59
International CD single
1."The Unforgiven"6:29
2."Killing Time"3:08
3."The Unforgiven" (Demo)6:15
International 12" single
1."The Unforgiven"6:27
2."Killing Time"3:04
3."So What"3:07
4."The Unforgiven" (Demo)6:18

Chart performance

Chart (1992)Peak
Australian Singles Chart [2] 10
Austrian Singles Chart [3] 30
Dutch Singles Chart [4] 25
Finnish Singles Chart [5] 1
French Singles Chart [6] 28
German Singles Chart [7] 47
Irish Singles Chart [8] 22
Italy (FIMI) [9] 18
New Zealand Singles Chart [10] 24
Polish Singles Chart 9
Swedish Singles Chart [11] 32
Swiss Singles Chart [12] 20
UK Singles Chart [13] 15
US Billboard Hot 100 [14] 35
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks [14] 10


"The Unforgiven II"

"The Unforgiven II"
Metallica - The Unforgiven II cover.jpg
Single by Metallica
from the album Reload
  • Helpless (live)/The Four Horsemen (live)/Of Wolf and Man (live)
  • The Thing That Should Not Be (live)/The Memory Remains (live)/King Nothing (live)
  • No Remorse (live)/Am I Evil? (live)/The Unforgiven II (Demo)
ReleasedFebruary 23, 1998
Recorded1996, at The Plant Studios, Sausalito, California
Label Elektra
  • Bob Rock
  • James Hetfield
  • Lars Ulrich
Metallica singles chronology
"The Memory Remains"
"The Unforgiven II"
Music video
"The Unforgiven II" on YouTube

"The Unforgiven II" was written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett and appears on the album Reload as a sequel to "The Unforgiven" (which appears on the album Metallica ). Both songs have similar musical themes. The chord progression during the verses is strikingly similar to the one used in the chorus on "The Unforgiven".

"The Unforgiven II" video is similar to the first video's story, though a tunnel is substituted for the blank room shown in the first video. It begins with a shirtless boy stuck in a wall, showing the wall breaking piece by piece as the boy ages. As the video progresses, it becomes more abstract, with waves crashing on the other side of the wall and rupturing it, making the wall smaller each time. The final scene shows the remaining piece of the wall turning into a woman, with the now older boy's hand still embedded in her back. The boy opens his hand, allowing the woman to take the key out of his hand and allowing him to take his hand out of the wall. [15]

"The Unforgiven II" was first performed live on December 8, 1997, at that year's Billboard Music Awards. The song was not played in a live setting again for the next 17 years, until Metallica re-introduced it into the setlist for their 2015 European festival tours. [16] Following its performance in Gelsenkirchen, Germany's Rock Im Revier festival, Metallica then included it in the setlists of their next three shows. [17]

Track listing

International Single Part 1
1."The Unforgiven II"6:36
2."Helpless" (Live)4:15
3."The Four Horsemen" (Live)6:19
4."Of Wolf and Man" (Live)4:31
US Single
1."The Unforgiven II"6:36
2."The Thing That Should Not Be" (Live)4:40
International Single Part 2
1."The Unforgiven II"6:36
2."The Thing That Should Not Be" (Live)7:33
3."The Memory Remains" (Live)4:19
4."King Nothing" (Live)7:14
International Single Part 3
1."The Unforgiven II"6:36
2."No Remorse" (Live)4:54
3."Am I Evil?" (Live)5:09
4."The Unforgiven II" (Demo)7:14
Japanese EP
1."The Unforgiven II"6:38
2."The Thing That Should Not Be" (Live)7:31
3."The Memory Remains" (Live)4:28
4."No Remorse" (Live)4:52
5."Am I Evil?" (Live)5:11
6."The Unforgiven II" (Demo)7:13
European Single
1."The Unforgiven II"6:36
2."The Memory Remains" (Live)4:19

Chart performance

Chart (1998)Peak
Australian Singles Chart [2] 9
Austrian Singles Chart [3] 18
Dutch Singles Chart [4] 25
The Official Finnish Charts [18] 1
French Singles Chart [6] 89
German Singles Chart [7] 23
Irish Singles Chart [8] 14
Italy (FIMI) [9] 12
New Zealand Singles Chart [10] 22
Norwegian Singles Chart [19] 8
Swedish Singles Chart [11] 8
UK Singles Chart [13] 15
US Billboard Hot 100 [14] 59
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks [14] 2


"The Unforgiven III"

"The Unforgiven III"
Song by Metallica
from the album Death Magnetic
ReleasedSeptember 12, 2008
Genre Heavy metal
Label Warner Bros.
Songwriter(s) James Hetfield
Kirk Hammett
Lars Ulrich
Robert Trujillo
Producer(s) Rick Rubin
Death Magnetic track listing
  1. "That Was Just Your Life"
  2. "The End of the Line"
  3. "Broken, Beat & Scarred"
  4. "The Day That Never Comes"
  5. "All Nightmare Long"
  6. "Cyanide"
  7. "The Unforgiven III"
  8. "The Judas Kiss"
  9. "Suicide & Redemption"
  10. "My Apocalypse"

"The Unforgiven III" appears on the album Death Magnetic , released in 2008. It is the second sequel of the song "The Unforgiven", which appears on the album Metallica . It was preceded by the song "The Unforgiven II" (which appears on the album Reload ). "The Unforgiven III" is structured similarly to "The Unforgiven", containing a heavy verse and a soft chorus, "The Unforgiven II" had the opposite by having a soft verse and a heavy chorus. The chorus of "The Unforgiven III" is missing the "What I've felt, what I've known" phrase that was included in its predecessors' choruses. "The Unforgiven III" is also missing the "Never Free. Never Me." phrase that was included in the predecessors' songs. Unlike its predecessors, "The Unforgiven III" is not the 4th track off of Death Magnetic, due to the band wanting "The Day That Never Comes" to be the 4th track after they returned to writing ballads. However, due to the song being the counterpart of "The Day That Never Comes", it is the 4th track from closing the record. Finally, "The Unforgiven III" is also missing the opening horn note, opening instead with an acoustic piano with a horn section in the background. The chords progression during the piano intro is the same as the choruses of the previous songs.

In an interview for MTV, James Hetfield said that the song is "continuation of the same storyline about sin and consequence, forgiveness and unforgiveness." Hetfield has also said that, of all parts of "The Unforgiven," this is his favorite. [20] Robert Trujillo said "it's got a great flow and it's very dynamic. It's somehow connected to the [remaining] body music of the album." [21]

Stephen Thomas from AllMusic in his review of the album, described the song as having "symphonic tension". [22] It was not released as a single, as its predecessors were. A live version was performed for the first time on April 14, 2010 in Oslo, Norway and only played a few times afterwards with the last performance being on November 21, 2010. It was played for the first time in almost eight years in Lincoln, Nebraska on September 06, 2018. [23] In 2010, it was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance but lost to "War Machine" by AC/DC. [24]

Chart performance

Chart (2008)Peak
Australia (ARIA) [25] 41
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders) [26] 50
Denmark (Tracklisten) [27] 24
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista) [28] 16
Norway (VG-lista) [29] 8
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan) [30] 34
UK Singles (Official Charts Company) [31] 120


Additional musicians

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