Fade to Black (Metallica song)

"Fade to Black" is a song and the first power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica, released as the first promotional single from its second studio album, Ride the Lightning. The song was ranked as having the 24th best guitar solo ever by Guitar World readers.[1]

"Fade to Black"
Metallica - Fade to Black cover.jpg
Promotional single by Metallica
from the album Ride the Lightning
ReleasedSeptember 30, 1984
RecordedFebruary 20 – March 14, 1984, at Sweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen, Denmark
Metallica singles chronology
"Jump in the Fire"
"Fade to Black"
"Creeping Death"

The song peaked at number 100 on Swiss Singles Chart in 2008.[2] The song is certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.[3] In March 2023, Rolling Stone ranked "Fade to Black" at number 35 on their "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time" list.[4]


In an interview on the set of the production MTV Icon: Metallica in 2003, drummer Lars Ulrich recalls how he and vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield were "obsessed with death" at the time the album and song were produced. Hetfield later admitted that a break-in to their gear truck resulting in the loss of his favorite Marshall amplifier also contributed to the mood of the song.[5]

The song's lyrics address suicidal feelings.[6] It begins with an acoustic guitar introduction and becomes progressively heavier as the song goes on, similar to their future songs, "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "One", and "The Day That Never Comes". James Hetfield commented on the song in a 1991 interview with Guitar World:

That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so we knew it would freak people out... Recording that song, I learned how frustrating acoustic guitar can be. You could hear every squeak, so I had to be careful. I wrote the song at a friend's house in New Jersey. I was pretty depressed at the time because our gear had just been stolen, and we had been thrown out of our manager's house for breaking shit and drinking his liquor cabinet dry. It's a suicide song, and we got a lot of flak for it, as if kids were killing themselves because of the song. But we also got hundreds of letters from kids telling us how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.[7]

A review by Gina Boldman described "Fade to Black" as "one of the few Metallica tracks to get radio airplay in the mid- to late '80s."[8]

Since its release, "Fade to Black" has been a fixture in Metallica's live performances. It was also the last song that Metallica performed live with former bassist Jason Newsted before he left the band, of which occurred at the VH1 Music Awards on November 30, 2000. It was one of his favorite Metallica songs, and was said to be of great sentimental value to him, although it had been written before he had joined the band. His previous band, Flotsam and Jetsam, performed a song called "Fade to Black" on their 1986 album Doomsday for the Deceiver before he left to join Metallica.

While on the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour on August 8, 1992, Hetfield accidentally stepped into the path of one of the chemical flames that had been rigged to shoot from the lip of the stage while playing "Fade to Black". Hetfield's guitar protected him from the full force of the blast; however, the fire engulfed most of his left side, burning his hand, both arms, eyebrows, face and hair. He suffered second and third-degree burns, but was back on stage 17 days later, although his guitar duties were delegated to former guitar tech and Metal Church guitarist John Marshall for four weeks while he made a full recovery.

"Fade to Black" was the last song to be played on the Los Angeles heavy metal radio station KNAC, which went off the air on February 15, 1995.[9][10] It would later sign off fellow longtime rock stations 94 WYSP in Philadelphia on September 2, 2011, and Power 97 in Winnipeg on January 29, 2015.

Track listingEdit

Promotional vinyl 12"
1."Fade to Black" (Vocal/LP Version)6:57



  1. ^ "These Are Fifteen of the Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time".
  2. ^ "Metallica - Fade To Black". hitparade.ch. Archived from the original on October 21, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  3. ^ "American certifications – Metallica – Fade to Black". Recording Industry Association of America.
  4. ^ "The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. March 13, 2023. Archived from the original on March 13, 2023. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  5. ^ Bomb, Cherry (October 6, 2020). "Sad But True: The Robbery in Boston that Inspired METALLICA's "Fade to Black"". Metal Injection.
  6. ^ Pareles, Jon (September 25, 1988). "Speed-Metal: Extreme, Yes; Evil, No". The New York Times. USA. p. 3. Retrieved November 14, 2010.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 23, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Fade to Black by Metallica - Track Info | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  9. ^ "The Last KNAC Article". Archived from the original on April 8, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  10. ^ "KNAC's Final Fade to Black". Archived from the original on February 16, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2012.

External linksEdit