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The Life Journey Featured in Metallica’s “The Unforgiven”

Happy #SongLyricsSunday! How are you doing on this beautiful Sunday? Today’s #SAS prompt is finding a song or lyrics with the words “birth”, “death”, and “life” in it. I picked something that doesn’t really specifically mention these words, it mentions the cycle of a man. The song? American heavy metal band Metallica’s 1991 song “The Unforgiven”. Let’s check out the song below!

What I’ve Felt, What I’ve Known

Metallica released “The Unforgiven” in 1991 with a different song format that had previously been used for “One” and “Fade to Black”. The band wrote the song as a power ballad with heavy, distorted verses and softer, melodic choruses. It was something that wasn’t heard often in heavy music at the time.

Bandmates James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich wrote the song. They featured horns from the Western movie The Unforgiven, but they were played in reverse. The song also features heavy metal guitar, acoustic, drums, and even keyboards. Jame Hertfield’s singing style was inspired by the Chris Isaak track “Wicked Game.”

In previous tracks, Hertfield would either scream sing, or double his vocals. However, the singer didn’t want to double his vocals for “The Unforgiven” as his bandmates wanted to develop character through his vocals. Also, they urged him to listen to himself through the speakers, oppose to the headphones. Because Hertfield heard his voice in a different way, the members could hear a new dimension in his voice. It was big and warm!

They Dedicate Their Lives

James Hetfield was inspired by his rocky childhood when he wrote Metallica’s “The Unforgiven”. According to the blog Explore Rock N Roll, the singer, and songwriter poured out all his personal feeling about his childhood into the lyrics. He experienced his dad leaving when he was 13 years old was no reason. The singer-songwriter was furious at his dad’s departure from the family as now James was the main breadwinner. His mom was a painter who didn’t earn a lot but also died from cancer when James was 16. He also experienced isolation at school as he was an outcast and didn’t have close friends.

Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” revolved around the youth of James Hetfield. The first part talks about James’ early childhood experiences with the strict rules enforced by his parents and the religion (Christian Science) that his family was part of. Then, the next part talks about his teenage years with his dad leaving, and then his mom was dying from cancer. He expresses the pain of losing his mom in the lyrics (who refused medical treatments and drugs due to their beliefs). The third and final part reflects on James’ beginnings as a young adult as he now knows his parent’s beliefs didn’t save his family nor help him. It displays James’ battles with himself constantly and contemplates suicide.

The reason why I love “The Unforgiven” is the lyrical content that is presented. The very personal references that detail Hetfield’s early life is something that listeners can relate to. I also like how Hetfield weaves his experiences into a story about a boy that grows into a man in a restricted but confusing society. The final reason why I love this song is the power ballad mood that is nestled in a heavy metal song. There are two different parts, but they mesh together so well.

Listen to the Metallica song down below. Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Lyrics For Metallica’s “The Unforgiven”

New blood joins this Earth, and quickly he’s subdued
Through constant pained disgrace, the young boy learns their rules
With time the child draws in, this whipping boy done wrong
Deprived of all his thoughts, the young man struggles on and on, he’s known
Ooh, a vow unto his own that never from this day
His will they’ll take away, yeah

What I’ve felt, what I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never be, never see
Won’t see what might have been
What I’ve felt, what I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never free, never me
So I dub thee “Unforgiven”

They dedicate their lives to running all of his
He tries to please them all, this bitter man he is
Throughout his life the same, he’s battled constantly
This fight he cannot win, a tired man they see no longer cares
The old man then prepares to die regretfully
That old man here is me, yeah

The Rules for #SongLyricsSunday

(This challenge is currently hosted by the generous Jim Adams.)

Anyone can participate in #SongLyricsSunday, even if you aren’t a music blogger! If you want to participate, here are the rules:

  • Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not.
  • Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due.
  • Make sure you also credit the singer/band and if you desire you can provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
  • Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
  • Pingback to this post will eventually work, as long as you are being patient, but you can also place your link in the comments if you don’t like to wait.
  • Read at least one other person’s blog, so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
  • Feel free to suggest future prompts.
  • Have fun and enjoy the music.

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[1] Song meaning, analysis and facts: The Unforgiven by metallica. Song Meaning, Analysis and Facts: The Unforgiven by Metallica. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2021, from

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Janis

    This one, I am quite familiar with. My dad and my husband are both Metallica fans.
    Nice choice <3

  2. willowdot21

    Always liked Metallica and this album, it goes to show that having history helps you write. Such a sad story. 💜 Great choice. 💜

  3. newepicauthor

    This is actually soothing for a heavy metal song and I found it more calming then most of the metal music. I usually dismiss metal, but this song is pretty good. I wish that you would have included the lyrics, so I could better understand what they are singing about, but you did indicate that it is about death.

    1. aisasami

      Jim, I am happy you like it. I edited the post to include the lyrics. I was thinking not to put lyrics because I am trying to make the site so Google
      Thinks I am not stealing info. Glad you liked it

  4. J-Dub

    I love Metallica. I was very close to posting Fade to Black. Perfect for the prompt.

  5. Joline

    Oh this brings me back! I used to listen to them all the time but didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the lyrics. Didn’t realize it was very personal.

  6. Neely Moldovan

    I was a big Metallica fan in high school! So fun to revisit!

  7. Stephanie

    Oh man, I haven’t listened to Metallica in a long time! Having the lyrics to go along with the song definitely helps to understand the song better.

  8. Sally

    I used to listen to Metallica a lot back in the day, when I was young. I had no idea the reason (or story) behind the lyrics of the song.

  9. marjiemare

    I love the lyrics of that song. It always fascinates to learn the story behind every song.

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