Metallica The Unforgiven (song)

Metallica The Unforgiven (song)

The Unforgiven (song)

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"The Unforgiven"
Single by Metallica
from the album Metallica
B-side "Killing Time", "So What?", "The Unforgiven (Demo)"
Released October 28, 1991
Format CD single, Cassette, Vinyl
Recorded October 6, 1990 - June 16, 1991 at One on One studios, Los Angeles, California
Genre Heavy metal
Length 6:27
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield
Kirk Hammett
Lars Ulrich
Producer Bob Rock
James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Metallica singles chronology
"Enter Sandman"
"The Unforgiven"
"Nothing Else Matters"
Music sample

"The Unforgiven" is a power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released as the second single from their eponymous fifth album Metallica. Though one of the slower tracks on the album, its chord progression is distinctly one of the heavier. The song deals with the theme of the struggle of the individual against the efforts of those who would subjugate him.[1]

The song has since spawned two sequels (both in name proper as well as thematically, albeit not musically), in the form of "The Unforgiven II", from the album ReLoad, and "The Unforgiven III", from the album Death Magnetic.


Lars Ulrich explained that the band wanted to try something new with the idea of a ballad - instead of the standard melodic verse and heavy chorus (as evidenced on their previous ballads "Fade to Black", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "One"), the band opted to reverse the dynamic, with heavy, distorted verses and a softer, melodic chorus, played with classical guitars. The opening section contains percussive instruments performed by Ulrich, and also a small amount of keyboards.[2]

The horn intro was essentially taken from The Unforgiven (a Western movie) and then reversed so its source would be hidden, as Hetfield later explained on Classic Albums: Metallica - Metallica.

Live performances

"The Unforgiven" was played live as part of Metallica's Nowhere Else to Roam world tour which lasted from 1991 to 1993, in support of the Black Album. It was played again on the Madly in Anger with the World world tour in 2003 and 2004 and the Escape from the Studio '06 tour. It has most been played in the band's "World Magnetic" tour.

The live version of "Unforgiven" includes a second solo near the end of the song, something the original recording did not have.

Music video

An accompanying video was released for the song. The black and white video is themed around a boy who spends his life living in captivity inside a small, windowless room made entirely of stone. As the video progresses he ages into an adult and then an old man. He spends his entire life carving into the stone to create a window while occasionally grasping his one possession: a locket. It is inferred that another captive lives on the other side of the stone room. The video ends with the old man finally creating a window, through which he deposits his possession. He blocks off the tunnel through which he crawled to access the cell using the square of stone he created when he made the window, then lies down to die. A 11:33, "theatrical" version of the video exists, featuring several minutes of introductory scenes which precede the timeline of the main portion of the video. This version was featured on The Videos 1989-2004, the band's 2006 music video compilation.

Cover versions

The song was covered by Doug Pinnick, Vernon Reid, Frankie Banali, and Tony Franklin for Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica.[3]

In Kerrang!'s tribute to Metallica, The Unforgiven was covered by British industrial metal band The Defiled. A slightly altered version was printed onto CDs, leading to the "intended version" of the cover to be released by the band later on.[4]

"The Unforgiven" has also been covered in other styles of music, notably in bluegrass style by Iron Horse on the album Fade to Bluegrass: The Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica. A Gregorian chant cover by Gregorian also appeared on Masters of Chant Chapter V, Swiss pop singer Stefanie Heinzmann (winner of a German TV talent contest at the TV show TV Total) included a version on the delux edition of her debut album Masterplan,[5] and a classical instrumental version by Finnish cello ensemble Apocalyptica appeared on their release Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. Tribute duo Harptallica recorded a harp version on their album Harptallica: A Tribute. Rapper Joe Budden has made a rap version of the song.

Track listing

US cassette  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven"   6:27
2. "Killing Time"   3:05
US promotional single  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven" (Radio Edit) 4:59
International CD single  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven"   6:29
2. "Killing Time"   3:08
3. "The Unforgiven" (Demo) 6:15
International 12" single  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven"   6:27
2. "Killing Time"   3:04
3. "So What"   3:07
4. "The Unforgiven" (Demo) 6:18

Chart performance

Chart (1991) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[6] 10
Austrian Singles Chart[7] 30
Dutch Singles Chart[8] 25
French Singles Chart[9] 28
German Singles Chart[10] 47
Greek Singles Chart 2
Irish Singles Chart[11] 22
New Zealand Singles Chart[12] 24
Polish Singles Chart 9
Swedish Singles Chart[13] 32
Swiss Singles Chart[14] 20
UK Singles Chart[15] 15
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[16] 35
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[16] 10

The Unforgiven II

"The Unforgiven II"
Single by Metallica
from the album ReLoad
B-side Helpless (live)/The Four Horsemen (live)/Of Wolf and Man (live)
The Thing That Should Not Be (live)/The Memory Remains (live)/King Nothing (live)
No Remorse (live)/Am I Evil? (live)/The Unforgiven II (Demo)
Released February 23, 1998
Format CD single, Cassette
Recorded 1996, at The Plant Studios, Sausalito, California
Genre Heavy metal, hard rock
Length 6:36
Label Elektra
Producer Bob Rock
James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Metallica singles chronology
"The Memory Remains"
"The Unforgiven II"

"The Unforgiven II" was written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett and appears on the album ReLoad as a sequel to "The Unforgiven" (which appears on the album Metallica). Both songs have similar musical themes. The chord progression during the verses is strikingly similar to the one used in the chorus on "The Unforgiven", and certain parts of the song bear a strong resemblance to Iron Maiden's 1982 song, "Children of the Damned". Over a decade later, the song was followed by a second sequel, "The Unforgiven III", from the album Death Magnetic.[17]

"The Unforgiven II" video is similar to the first video's story, though a tunnel is substituted for the blank room shown in the first video. It begins with a shirtless boy stuck in a wall, showing the wall breaking piece by piece as the boy ages. As the video progresses, it becomes more abstract, with waves crashing on the other side of the wall. The final scene shows the wall turning into a woman, with the now older boy's hand still embedded in her back. The boy opens his hand, allowing the woman to take the key out of his hand and allowing him to take his hand out of the wall.[18]

The song has been performed live only once, on December 8, 1997 in Las Vegas.[19]

Track listing

International Single Part 1  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven II"   6:36
2. "Helpless" (Live) 4:15
3. "The Four Horsemen" (Live) 6:19
4. "Of Wolf & Man" (Live) 4:31
US Single  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven II"   6:36
2. "The Thing That Should Not Be" (Live) 4:40
International Single Part 2  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven II"   6:36
2. "The Thing That Should Not Be" (Live) 7:33
3. "The Memory Remains" (Live) 4:19
4. "King Nothing" (Live) 7:14
International Single Part 3  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven II"   6:36
2. "No Remorse" (Live) 4:54
3. "Am I Evil?" (Live) 5:09
4. "The Unforgiven II" (Demo) 7:14
Japanese EP  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven II"   6:38
2. "The Thing That Should Not Be" (Live) 7:31
3. "The Memory Remains" (Live) 4:28
4. "No Remorse" (Live) 4:52
5. "Am I Evil?" (Live) 5:11
6. "The Unforgiven II" (Demo) 7:13
European Single  
No. Title Length  
1. "The Unforgiven II"   6:36
2. "The Memory Remains" (Live) 4:19

Chart performance

Chart (1998) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[6] 9
Austrian Singles Chart[7] 18
Dutch Singles Chart[8] 25
The Official Finnish Charts[20] 1
French Singles Chart[9] 89
German Singles Chart[10] 23
Irish Singles Chart[11] 14
New Zealand Singles Chart[12] 22
Norwegian Singles Chart[21] 8
Swedish Singles Chart[13] 8
UK Singles Chart[15] 15
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[16] 59
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[16] 2

The Unforgiven III

"The Unforgiven III"
Song by Metallica from the album Death Magnetic
Released September 12, 2008
Genre Thrash metal, heavy metal, symphonic metal
Length 7:47
Label Elektra
Writer James Hetfield
Kirk Hammett
Lars Ulrich
Robert Trujillo
Producer Rick Rubin
Death Magnetic track listing
  1. "That Was Just Your Life"
  2. "The End of the Line"
  3. "Broken, Beat & Scarred"
  4. "The Day That Never Comes"
  5. "All Nightmare Long"
  6. "Cyanide"
  7. "The Unforgiven III"
  8. "The Judas Kiss"
  9. "Suicide & Redemption"
  10. "My Apocalypse"

"The Unforgiven III" appears on the album Death Magnetic, released in 2008. It is the second sequel of the song "The Unforgiven", which appears on the album Metallica. The song is precedent for the song "The Unforgiven II" (which appears on the album ReLoad), which is the first sequel. "The Unforgiven III" is structured similarly to "The Unforgiven", containing a heavy verse and a soft chorus, "The Unforgiven II" had the opposite, making it different from the others. "The Unforgiven III" is also missing the opening horn note, opening instead with an acoustic piano with a horn section in the background. The chords progression during the piano intro is the same as the choruses of the previous songs.

In an interview for MTV, James Hetfield said that the song is "continuation of the same storyline about sin and consequence, forgiveness and unforgiveness." Robert Trujillo said "it's got a great flow and it's very dynamic. It's somehow connected to the [remaining] body music of the album."[22]

Stephen Thomas from AllMusic in his review of the album, described the song as having "symphonic tension" and "threading curdled blues licks through the thrash".[23] Yahoo's reviewer Gibson describes the song as having "tremendous emotion and soul just and easily lives up to the Unforgiven name".[24] It was not released as a single, as its predecessors were. A live version was performed for the first time on April 14, 2010 in Oslo, Norway. Its last live performance was in Melbourne, Australia on November 21, 2010.[25] In 2010, it was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance but lost to "War Machine" by AC/DC.[26]


  1. ^ True, Chris. "Metallica: The Unforgiven". AllMusic. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  2. ^ Bosso, Joe. "Metallica's Black Album track-by-track". Music Radar. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  3. ^ "Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica". AllMusic. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  4. ^ "Download The Defiled's Metallica Cover!". Kerrang!. June 26, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  5. ^ "STEFANIE HEINZMANN Performs METALLICA's 'The Unforgiven' On German TV; Video Available - Feb. 8, 2009". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Australia Top 50 Singles". Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  7. ^ a b Austrian Singles Chart
  8. ^ a b Dutch Singles Chart
  9. ^ a b French Singles Chart
  10. ^ a b German Singles Chart
  11. ^ a b Ward, Jaclyn. "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  12. ^ a b New Zealand Singles Chart
  13. ^ a b Swedish Singles Chart
  14. ^ Swiss Singles Chart
  15. ^ a b "The Unforgiven by Metallica Songfacts". Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  16. ^ a b c d "Metallica – Artist chart history". Billboard charts. Retrieved March 30, 2008.
  17. ^ Lathem, Christina. "Analysis of Metallica's "The Unforgiven II"". Yahoo. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  18. ^ "Metallica - The Unforgiven II (Official Music Video)". NME. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  19. ^ "The Unforgiven II". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  20. ^ The Official Finnish Charts
  21. ^ Norwegian Singles Chart
  22. ^ "Headbangers Ball > Headbangers Ball 20th Anniversary - 20 Years of Metallica". MTV. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  23. ^ Thomas, Stephen (September 12, 2008). "Metallica: Death Magnetic". AllMusic. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  24. ^ Gibson. "Review: Death Magnetic by Metallica". Yahoo. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  25. ^ "The Unforgiven III". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  26. ^ "AC/DC Wins GRAMMY For 'Best Hard Rock Performance' - Jan. 31, 2010". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
Author:Bling King
Published:Aug 14th 2013
Modified:Aug 14th 2013
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