In 1988, Metallica released the album ...And Justice for All. The album, on the heels of their groundbreaking Master of Puppets, explored new sonic territories. The songs were longer and more political, as well as being more personal. One strong example of this is the album’s concluding song, “Dyers Eve.” This vitriolic piece was penned by lead singer/songwriter James Hetfield. “Dyers Eve” is a direct condemnation to his parents and the way he was raised under the oppressive thumb of cult-like religious beliefs.
The song, which is the most furious on the entire album, simply rages from start to end. The guitars of Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, combined with the explosive rhythm section of Lars Ulrich and Jason Newstead, create a sonic sledgehammer to the frontal lobe. The song moves at a breakneck pace and doesn’t let up at all. While the pace of it is the most obvious, the most subtle aspect of the song is its condemnation of the religious upbringing of the songwriter.
James Hetfield was raised in a Christian Science home. This isn’t to be confused with Scientology. I gather it’s most akin to being a Jehovah’s Witness, with the caveat being that I know really know much about the JWs. Christian Science was born out of the beliefs of a New Englander. While they celebrate Thanksgiving as a religious holiday, and don’t celebrate Christmas unless it falls on a Sunday, Christian Scientists are most well known for one aspect of their religion: that God can heal their sickness.
Because this religion, like many, has ridiculous aspects to it, the idea that it’s against the cult-like religious fanatacism to see a medical professional is beyond incomprehensible. Thinking that if you pray enough, and only pray enough, you will be healed is stupid at best, abjectly neglectful (and illegal) at worst. It is through this lens that James Hetfield looked in his childhood. Imagine not being able to receive gifts on your birthday or at Christmas because it’s against a belief you, as a child, may not even have. Imagine being sick and not being able to see a medical professional because it’s against a belief you, as a child, may not even have. Then, imagine your belief-sodden mother dying from cancer and not going to a doctor because, according to her beliefs, prayer would heal her. Prayer didn’t heal her. She died. I’m not saying that her cancer could have been stopped, but I’m almost positive it could have been treated. This happened to Hetfield at 16. The way he was raised directly guided James Hetfield to craft this song. Read the lyrics:
What is this hell you have put me through?
Day in, day out, live my life through you.
Pushed onto me what’s wrong or right
Hidden from this thing that they call life.
Every thought I’d think you’d disapprove
Always censoring my every move.
Children are seen but are not heard
Tear out everything inspired.
Torn from me without your shelter
I’m living blindly.
Time has frozen still what’s left to be.
Cannot face the fact I think for me.
No guarantee, it’s life as is
But damn you for not giving me my chance.
You’ve clipped my wings before I learned to fly.
I’ve outgrown that fucking lullaby.
Same thing I’ve always heard from you
Do as I say, not as I do.
Torn from me without your shelter
I’m living blindly
I’m in hell without you
Cannot cope without you two
Shocked at the world that I see
Innocent victim please rescue me
Hidden in your world you’ve made for me,
Ripping wounds in me that never heal.
Undying spite I feel for you
Living out this hell you always knew
You can feel the venom, especially in the last two lines. After XTC’s brilliant Dear God, I believe this is the greatest religion-based reactionary song ever written. I only heard “Dyers Eve” a few days ago, for the first time in probably over 20 years. I was completely blown away, as I forgot just how hateful and angry the it is. The pacing is frenetic and the lyrics are filled with palpable hatred. This is the hallmark of a solid song. Give it a listen, as it’s the last great song on the last great Metallica album before they sold out with the Black Album and continued to suck as a result.