Enter Sandman (1991)


Written by Kirk Hammet, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich
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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.

MetallicaThe 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 the river of lava that figures so prominently in the duel between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge Of The Sith.

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 comprehend the full, horrific story that sends a razor-sharp 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

The triple wall of guitars is one of the peaks of Heavy Metal anthem-Rock. The guitars are as mad as the lyrics.

Enter Sandman Single jacketDue 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.

  • One of the more interesting footnotes to “Enter Sandman’s” history is its use as New York Yankee Mariano Rivera’s “entrance song.” Rivera is without argument the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history, a closer, the guy who puts the lights out at the end of the day, a nightmare for opposing teams.
  • The video of Metallica playing “Enter Sandman” in Moscow in front of 1,000,000 people is a spectacle of spectacles, summing up the disintegration of the Soviet Union.