Creeping Death

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"Creeping Death"
Single by Metallica
from the album Ride the Lightning
ReleasedNovember 23, 1984[1]
RecordedFebruary–March 1984
StudioSweet Silence (Copenhagen)
GenreThrash metal
  • James Hetfield
  • Kirk Hammett
Metallica singles chronology
"Fade to Black"
"Creeping Death"
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
Audio sample
Creeping Death

"Creeping Death" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released on November 23, 1984, as the lead and only commercial single from their album Ride the Lightning ("Fade to Black" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls", from the same album, were issued as promotional singles). Written from the perspective of the Angel of Death, "Creeping Death" describes the tenth plague of Egypt. It is often thought of as one of the band’s most popular songs and is currently the second-most-played song live by them.


Kirk Hammett wrote the guitar riff for the bridge section when he was 16 years old.[2] The middle section, with its ominous chants of "Die!" set to a Phrygian mode chord progression,[3] was originally written by Hammett while he was in Exodus.[4] The song was called "Die by His Hand" and had been part of the Exodus setlist for live shows, but was never used on any Exodus albums.[5]

Metallica was inspired for the song by the second half of the film The Ten Commandments, which is based on the Bible tale of the Plagues of Egypt. While watching the scene of the final plague killing every Egyptian first-born child, Cliff Burton remarked "Whoa – it's like creeping death", as the plague was represented by a fog rolling into the Pharaoh's palace. The band liked the sound of "creeping death" and decided to write a song about the plagues, with the phrase as its title.[6][5]

The single release's artwork was done by Alvin Petty. The logo and the song's title were added with a plastic layover to the existing artwork. Kirk Hammett had seen the picture hanging up at Petty's house and remarked that it would be perfect for the single and picture-disk that were about to be finished.[7]


The song is told from the perspective of the "Destroyer", the Angel of Death sent by God during the Tenth Plague of Egypt. Moses, through his older brother Aaron, insisted he was sent by God and repeatedly demanded that Pharaoh should set the Hebrew slaves free from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. For the previous 400 years, the Hebrew people had lived as slaves in the Land of Goshen within Egypt. To punish Pharaoh for his obstinacy, God set ten plagues upon Egypt. The references to the plagues in the song include:

"To kill the first-born Pharaoh's son" The final plague of Egypt, during which the firstborn son of every non-Israelite, including the Pharaoh's son, is killed by the "Destroyer". This was done in response to the Pharaoh's order to throw every Israelite baby boy into the Nile River.
"Blood, Running red and strong, down the Nile" The first plague of Egypt, during which the water in the Nile River turned to blood.
"Plague!" A reference to any of the Ten Plagues.
"Darkness three days long" The ninth plague of Egypt, during which the sun was blotted out for three days and darkness fell over all of Egypt.
"Hail to fire" The seventh plague of Egypt, during which burning hail rained from the skies over Egypt.
"Blood, lamb's blood painted door; I shall pass" A reference to the forewarning given to the Israelites by God before the final plague; the Israelites were commanded to paint their doors with lamb's blood so that the Angel of Death would know to pass over their homes while reaping the souls of the firstborn. The Jewish holiday Passover is celebrated to commemorate the "passing over" of the Angel of Death.


The single was released through Music for Nations in the UK and France. The B-sides were the cover songs "Am I Evil?" (originally by Diamond Head) and "Blitzkrieg" (originally by Blitzkrieg). These covers are called Garage Days Revisited on the back cover; the 1987 EP The $5.98 E.P. - Garage Days Re-Revisited is a reference to this title. The B-sides were later included on the compilation album Garage Inc..


It is ranked at #1 on Guitar World's 10 greatest Metallica songs of all time.[8] It was also voted by Rolling Stone readers in 2014 as the sixth greatest Metallica song in the poll "The 10 Best Metallica Songs".[9]

Track listing[edit]

International single
1."Creeping Death"James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton6:36
2."Am I Evil?"Sean Harris, Brian Tatler7:49
3."Blitzkrieg"Ian Jones, Jim Sirotto, Brian Ross3:35
Total length:18:03
Creeping Death/Jump in the Fire EP
1."Creeping Death"James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton6:36
2."Am I Evil?"Sean Harris, Brian Tatler7:49
3."Blitzkrieg"Ian Jones, Jim Sirotto, Brian Ross3:35
4."Jump in the Fire"Hetfield, Ulrich, Dave Mustaine4:41
5."Seek & Destroy" (Live)Hetfield, Ulrich7:04
6."Phantom Lord" (Live)Hetfield, Ulrich, Dave Mustaine4:52


Personnel adapted from Ride The Lightning notes[10]

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Creeping Death". Metallica. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  2. ^ "Metallica's Kirk Hammett At Guitar Center". Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  3. ^ Pillsbury, Glenn (September 5, 2013). Damage Incorporated: Metallica and the Production of Musical Identity. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-09122-3.
  4. ^ "Riffs That Shook The World #1: Metallica – Creeping Death". Metal Hammer Magazine. August 28, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "METALLICA - Encyclopedia Metallica - Song Info - Creeping Death". Archived from the original on March 14, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Metallica : from the pages of Guitar world magazine. Milwaukee, Wis.: Backbeat Books. 2010. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-87930-970-1. OCLC 489633802.
  7. ^ Armstrong, Chuck (November 14, 2012). "'Creeping Death' – Story Behind the Song". Ultimate Metallica. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  8. ^ "The 10 Greatest Metallica Songs of All Time". guitar World. September 2, 2015. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Metallica Songs". Rolling Stone. May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  10. ^ Metallica (1984). Ride the Lightning (CD liner notes). Megaforce Records.