Metallica’s Ride The Lightning is a bonafide classic. For many metalheads, the group’s sophomore album is the definition of perfection. However, there remains one song on the record that frontman James Hetfield detests.
At the time of its creation, a moment arrived at which the band believed that they had finished recording the album, completing a project to the best of all their creative abilities. However, their label had other ideas and, out of the blue, demanded one more song. In a hurry, they thrashed out a new number in the studio, an effort which became ‘Escape’. While Metallica didn’t want it to appear on Ride The Lightning, they had little choice in the matter.
Despite the album’s running time eclipsing the 40-minute mark even without the inclusion of ‘Escape’, the finished effort would only have boasted seven tracks in total. Therefore, it’s understandable as to why the label wanted Ride The Lightning to have another song. Hetfield later explained the “last-minute” way they recorded ‘Escape’, telling Ultimate Guitar: “It was the first time we wrote a song in the studio. I remember we had all the songs and Lars said, ‘They want us to record one more, they need one more for the album’.”
Adding: “I was like, ‘You didn’t tell me that…’ So we had to write and it was really last-minute. So ‘Escape’ was one of those songs that was written in the studio.”
It took over 10,000 days from its release for Metallica to play the song live, when they surprisingly included it in their set at the Orion Festival in 2012. Hetfield introduced it by telling the audience, “The song that we never wanted to play live, ever, is now on the setlist”.
The experience was one that Metallica have decided to leave in the past, and ‘Escape’ won’t be making any future appearances at their shows. Guitarist Kirk Hammett later explained why, telling Rolling Stone: “When we played ‘Escape’ at the Orion Fest, we collectively agreed why we never play that song: It’s not really a great song to play live.
“It’s in the key of ‘A,’ like ‘The Call Of Ktulu’ and ‘Metal Militia,’ but the key of ‘A’ doesn’t really work well for us for some reason or another. Playing that song was more of a novelty than anything else but we loved playing all the other songs.”
Seemingly, Hetfield is not alone in holding a grudge against ‘Escape’ with the rest of the band also willing to erase the song from their back catalogue. However, the singer hasn’t let his contempt for material stop him from appreciating Ride The Lightning. In 2018, he told Newsweek that it was his favourite Metallica album because it “was the first time we got to be part of it”.
Watch Metallica’s only performance of ‘Escape’ below.