Words and Verse – Blackened, Metallica

Of fire and failed fillets

Metallica’s classic 1988 opener for ‘… And justice For All’ is an instant recognition point for metalheads. The song explores the trials and tribulations of learning and, ultimately, failing to cook. It further delves into the symbolic representation of social pressures and abstracted confinement manifested in disappointing dinner guests, finally expanding on the primordial psychosexual symbolism of meal preparation.

“Blackened is the end

Winter it will send

Throwing all you see

Into obscurity

Death of Mother Earth

Never a rebirth

Evolution’s end

Never will it mend”

Our central character here is a chef. They are cooking vegetables – the description is rather dramatic, but they seem to have charred them. Feeling someone put out by this unfortunate turn of events, they remark that there is no way to undo the damage – ‘never it will mend’. They later expand on this theme to reveal that they are cooking for guests – upping the pressure and expectations inherent in meal preparation.


To begin whipping dance of the dead”

An evocative description of the function of an oven, or the cooking process in general – here it is meat specific – applying heat, to the carcass of some sort of animal. 

“Blackened is the end (…)

Colour our world blackened”

They have burnt their meal. As anybody knows, burning a meal can be an incredibly disheartening experience. And thus the would-be chef sinks into a pit of despair, colouring him, and his hungry guests, blackened. 

“Blistering of earth

Terminate its worth

Deadly nicotine

Kills what might have been”

Our chef is a smoker. This may be an indicator as to what caused the previous culinary disasters: they popped out for a smoke break part way through, and lost track of time and while they were puffing away, their meal was reduced to charcoal.  

Instead of blaming themselves for their tardiness, however, they shift the blame onto the cigarette. This is revealing of the chef, it’s no wonder that they aren’t very good at cooking, they’re preoccupied by their habit and refuse to take responsibility and learn from their mistakes. 

“Callous frigid chill

Nothing left to kill

Never seen before

Breathing nevermore


The chef returns, determined to prepare a gourmet worthy of a five-star restaurant. This time they have opted for frozen food. This ‘nothing left to kill’, may allude to the bacteria-pausing properties of freezing food. Perhaps, in addition, to burning they’ve also had issues with food poisoning? This really doesn’t paint a great picture of our chef-to-be. 

“Opposition (opposition)

Contradiction (contradiction)

Premonition (premonition)


Agitation (agitation)

Violation (violation)

Mutilation (mutilation)

Planet dies

Darkest colour

Blistered earth

True death of life

Termination (termination)

Expiration (expiration)

Cancellation (cancellation)

Human race”

This whole section is clearly a play on Foucault’s concept of the disciplinary society. Here the expectant feeders take on the role of the surveillance state, watching the hardworking would-be cook. When he fails to provide a meal, they punish him. He outlines an argument about his lack of skill in the culinary arts, realises that he will ultimately lose, and offers a weak compromise as the conquered party. Eating in this instance becomes a battle, a zero-sum struggle of conquest in which one either wins or loses.

This refers to Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, when he writes “Place the bodies in in a little world of signals to each of which is attached a single obligatory response: it is a technique of training, or dressage, that ‘despotically excludes in everything the least representation and the smallest murmur’; the disciplined soldier ‘begins to obey whatever he is ordered to do; his obedience is prompt and blind; and appearance of indocility, the least delay would be a crime’ (Boussanelle, 2).”

“Expectation (expectation)

Liberation (liberation)

Population (population)

Lay to waste”

His shame becomes his prison in Foucault’s conception. His expectations were the architect, he had such grand hopes, manifested in the abstract concept of liberation. However, clearly his hurdle was population – a stand-in here for the collection of guests whom he is incapable of feeding. His hope is laid to waste even as his guests lay his pride to waste with opposition and jeering at his tragic attempts to cook. 

“See our mother

Put to death

See our mother die”

Their continuous failure at the effort is having severe psychological impacts and they characterise this as the mother figure “put to death” – continuing the previous habit of externalising and dissociation from responsibility from actions. 

The chef here is personifying the act of cooking as a mother figure, suggesting a Freudian psychosexualisation of the act of cooking. Indeed, just as Freud suggests that all men would like to shag their mum’s and all women would like to shag their father’s, in a primal expression of the creative urge, so too is the cook’s desire manifested here in the literal act of creating food. He or she fucks the food into existence. 

Cooking in and of itself can be seen as inherently connected to sexuality – as a means by which one demonstrates both their long-term value as a mate, and their short-term capability to bring pleasure, paralleling and insinuating the promise of orgasm. 

“Smoldering decay

Take your breath away

Millions of our years

In minutes disappears”

A microwave meal. They’re obviously not too happy with this, referring to the experience of microwaving something as smouldering decay. Then, we get a reference to the quick time of the microwave preparation – what, dramatised as millions of our years, might have taken a long time, now takes just a handful of minutes. 

“Darkening in vain

Decadence remains

All is said and done

Never is the sun


But they can’t even get that right. How you fail to make a microwave meal is honestly beyond me, but by the description of darkening in vain, we can conclude that nobody should ever let this person cook. 


Is the outcome of hypocrisy

Darkest potency

In the exit of humanity

Colour our world blackened


Finally, we have a reiteration of the central theme – of burning the hell out of the food, no matter how simple the meal, recalling the Landian pondering of failed popcorn as a ‘heat-fucked chaos’.


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