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The Meaning of Enter Sandman, Metallica’s Ode to The Creepy

Simply written lyrics about the treachery of the subconscious world of sleep and dreams set against a heavy metal head-pounder, Enter Sandman projects a sense of foreboding, political and social breakdown, and a bit more than a hint of child abuse. It is one brilliantly creepy song.

The eerily light guitar opening, ominous enough, is swept away by the pounding tom-toms of Lars Ulrich’s drum kit as we are sent into a landslide of hallucinatory dimensions. When the repetitive underpinning rhythm guitar riff arrives, the listener has already careened far down something like a river of molten lava.

We are warned early on:

I tuck you in 
Warm within
 
Keep you free from sin
 
‘Til the sandman he comes
 

Early on we know this is not the benevolent Sandman of normal childhood bedtimes. Soon we know the full story that sends a chill down the spine.

Hush little baby don’t say a word 
And never mind that noise you heard
 
It’s just the beast under your bed
 
In your closet, in your head
 

Lyrics to Enter Sandman by Metallica

The triple wall of guitars is one of the peaks of heavy metal anthem rock. The guitars are as mad as the lyrics.

Due to the fact that it took the uncompromising band so long to emerge into super-stardom, Enter Sandman is really one of the most emblematic songs of the ‘80s sound. It just didn’t come out ‘til ’91. It makes the case for sticking to your creative guns.

The insinuation that the Sandman – the guy in pop culture who is nice enough to allow your eyes to close gently – is actually an agent of Satan is upsetting: upsetting enough to listen to the song over and over. Yet, yet… behind the recording is a slight archness, an insider’s nod and wink that Metallica is saying, “Isn’t this a grand goof?”

Depends on your state of mind. We needed a 25-minute version that could be listened to on a favored pharmaceutical in order to render final judgment.


Featured image of Metallica provided by DallasFletcher, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons