The classic Metallica song their producer thought was too “silly”

Metallica has never been a band afraid to shy away from dark topics. Throughout their songs, James Hetfield has been known to talk about some of the grizzliest material the metal world has ever heard, usually turning away from writing about demons in favour of man-made problems. Although the band could take pitch-black looks into the human psyche in their songs, it wasn’t until The Black Album that they found time to branch out.

Throughout their time working together in the 1980s, it was becoming clear that the group had started to hit a wall. Even though they had turned their unique approach to rock music into a science on albums like Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, they started to lose the plot, with songs that often ran well above the six minutes.

Although they may have been making long songs, the subject matter was still engaging from front to back, from the murderous horror film taking place in ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ to the sad tale of a fallen soldier that will never truly be the same again on their ballad ‘One’. As the band started working on their next project, though, they thought their next move should be about writing more straightforward songs than they had been before.

Working with noted Bon Jovi producer Bob Rock, Metallica’s next album would see them reaching for new sonic heights, creating songs that were both heavy and accessible all at the same time on tracks like ‘Enter Sandman’. Even though Rock was more than happy to help the band turn into one of the biggest acts in the world, he did have some concerns when looking at the lyrics to one of their new songs.

Since many of Hetfield’s modern lyrics dealt with his personal experiences, like on ‘The Unforgiven’ and ‘The God That Failed’, ‘Of Wolf and Man’ was a turn into the fantasy world. Compared to the down-to-earth subject matter of the past few songs, Hetfield talks about a man who slowly turns into a werewolf as the full moon comes out.

Although the music may have been fine for the time, Rock initially thought that the lyrics had to be rewritten entirely, telling MusicRadar, “I’ll be honest: at first, I thought it was silly to write about a wolf. I was like, ‘Oh, great, a song about a wolf. What are you fucking getting at? May as well write about pyramids or something.’ When metal goes in these kinds of areas, I lose the plot.”

Despite the fantastical lyrics from Hetfield, Rock would be proven wrong once he heard the instrumentation behind it. For all of the flowery imagery in the lyrics, the music keeps everything stable, moving alongside Hetfield’s words to create a disorienting feeling in the choruses, almost simulating the feeling of turning into a werewolf.

For all of Rock’s hangups with the song, he ultimately came to what Hetfield was getting at, explaining, “There was an earthiness to it. We talked about making the song go through a transformation, kind of reflecting the lyrics. It took a while. I’m not sure if we got there fully, but we got there most of the way”. While not every metal lyric is supposed to stand the test of time, only Metallica could take this fantasy scenario and turn it into one of the most terrifying moments on their record.

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