Passover, whether you observe it or not, is the Jewish holiday celebrating the Israelite’s freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt, just as described in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Pass-Over is a literal term, as the Israelites were instructed to mark their doorways with blood from a slaughtered spring lamb- upon seeing the doorways with blood on them, the spirit of the Lord would pass over the household, sparing the lives of the first-born sons inside. It was the tenth and final plague crafted by God to get Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. It worked. Pharaoh lost his son and released the Israelites.
Well, how brutal would it be if the story were told from prospective of Death itself? The Destroyer, if you will. That’s where our friends in Metallica come in. And exactly the motivation behind the song, ‘Creeping Death.’
The only commercial single to be released off of 1984’s, ‘Ride the Lightning’ (Fade to Black and For Whom the Bell Tolls were promotional singles), Creeping Death is one of the biggest songs in Metallica’s catalogue. Only until I listened closer, did I get the macabre connection between the character of the song and the depictions of Exodus. See if these references sound familiar:
• “To kill the firstborn Pharaoh’s son”– the tenth plague
• “I will be with thee, Bush of Fire”– God speaking to Moses through the burning bush
• “Darkness three days long”– the ninth plague
• “Hail to fire”– the seventh plague
• “Blood, running red and strong, down the Nile”– the first plague
• “Lamb’s blood-painted door, I shall pass”– Passover
• “Die by my hand, I creep across the land, killing firstborn men”– Angel of Death
Songfacts .com states that the inspiration for the song came from the movie, ‘The Ten Commandments’ with Mr. Charlton Heston. When Cliff saw the theatrical, cloud-like version of death slinking around Egypt, he thought it looked like ‘Creeping Death.’ Sources also credit Hammett for writing parts of this masterpiece while in the band, Exodus.
For any of you lucky enough to have seen Metallica play this song live, you know that feeling of the hair standing up on the back of your neck when you hear the chorus in your head. Thousands yelling, ‘Die! Die! Die!’ in unison with James. Very powerful. Perhaps the only event more profound would be acts by which the song represents.
Happy Passover, Easter, or any combination of the two you may be celebrating this week.