Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” Lyrics Meaning

As you may already be aware, the Sandman is actually a mythical character who is associated with putting children to sleep. And traditionally he is more or less depicted as being a good dude. But in this song he’s rather presented as possessing a more of sinister quality.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Metallica's Enter Sandman at

Or perhaps more to the point, this track isn’t really about the Sandman per se, as he’s only forthrightly mentioned once at the end beginning and then alluded to near the end. Rather it’s based on children’s nightmares or the idea that sleep can be a harrowing experience for youngsters.

And yes, this is partially due to the Sandman, who perhaps all things considered can be likened to a demon (within the context of this song) eventually manifesting. But the lyrics also read, to some extent, as if he is a personification of other issues present in the lives of children. That is to say the way this track comes off in general is as being based on the idea that the world itself is threatening to children. So basically, the nightmares they have are a representation of that reality.

And on an even deeper level, it’s obvious that Metallica perceives sleep, when experienced by children, as being potentially dangerous in and of itself. Indeed as will be talked about in the facts’ section of this article, “Enter Sandman” was originally a song about SIDS, a fatal occurrence where babies inexplicably die in their sleep.

In Conclusion

So at the end of the day, we can say that the band recognizes a problem. Children are under some type of threat when they slumber at night. And said danger is somehow related to their dreams. Moreover in relaying this idea, Metallica may also be insinuating that demonic entities, i.e. the Sandman, actually exist who visit children at night when they’re most vulnerable. Or stated differently, when they are in such so enters the Sandman.

Lyrics of “Enter Sandman”

Music Video

The music video to this track was quite a sensation. It had Wayne Isham, another artist who came to work with Metallica regularly, as its director. And it was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards in 1992. In the process, it took home the trophy for Best Hard Rock Video.

Who wrote “Enter Sandman”?

This track was written by Metallica members. Below are the band members officially credited with writing “Sandman”:

  • Kirk Hammett
  • James Hetfield
  • Lars Ulrich

Moreover Hetfield and Ulrich produced the track along with Bob Rock, a producer the band went on to work with frequently.

Release Date of “Enter Sandman”

“Enter Sandman” was released on 12 August 1991 as part of Metallica’s album that was also entitled “Metallica”. And Elektra Records, at the behest of Lars Ulrich, also decided to make this the lead single from that project.

“Enter Sandman” holds the distinction of being the first song written (musically) for the album though the last on the project to actually have completed lyrics. This was due to the fact that originally the words, as penned by Hetfield, were based on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, the lyrics were rewritten at the request of Bob Rock and Lars Ulrich, who broke protocol in making such an appeal.

Moreover it is Ulrich who is recognized as the band member that actually originated this tune. He did so via a guitar riff he developed after listening to the album “Louder Than Love” (1989) by Soundgarden.

Great Rock Tune

There are quite a few music-oriented organizations, such as Total Guitar, VH1 and Kerrang, which has recognized “Enter Sandman” as one of the greatest rocks tune ever. But its most-prominent accolades are arguably being named amongst the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” respectively by Rolling Stone (magazine) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Enter Sandman” charted in over 15 nations. This included topping the charts in Finland. Additionally, it respectively peaked at numbers 5 and 16 on the UK Singles Chart and US’ Billboard Hot 100.

Moreover “Enter Sandman” has received Platinum certification in Italy.

So given all of the above, this song has been a staple of Metallica’s catalog (i.e. played at their live events) since it came out. Indeed the band even dropped a rendition backed by the San Francisco Symphony on their 1999 live album “S&M” and played “Enter Sandman” at the 1991 Freddy Mercury Tribute Concert, amongst other venues.

Notable Usage of “Enter Sandman”

Other interesting ways in which this track has been utilized is as a wake-up song for American astronauts in orbit during a NASA mission in 2008. It was also used as an interrogation song by the US government during its invasion of Iraq in 2003. And concerning the latter matter, Ulrich especially took offense to “Enter Sandman” being used in such a manner.

It is also pretty popular at some sports venues. For example, it is often used when certain relief pitchers (i.e. the Yankees’ Mariana Rivera) in Major League Baseball take the field. It is also know for actually serving as the entrance song of an ECW wrestler who went by the tag ‘The Sandman’.

Guitar Solo

The guitar solo that Kirk Hammett plays on this track was partially inspired by a sample rapper Ice-T used in his 1988 song “Personal”. And that particular sample was derived from another track, dating back to 1975, entitled “Magic Man” by an American band called Heart.


Moreover Metallica has been accused of ripping off another band called Excel and specifically a relatively-obscure track they dropped entitled “Tapping Into the Emotional Void” (1989) on “Enter Sandman”. In fact at one point, over 10 years after “Enter Sandman” was released, Excel was seemingly on the verge of suing Metallica for copyright infringement. However, the matter has apparently been settled. Today it has been more or less officially recognized that the latter indeed interpolates the former.

4 Responses

  1. K. Halleran says:

    Enter Sandman is one of the best tracks ever recorded by one of the best bands to every grace us with their musical presence. Keep the hair long and the tunes sweaty. Rock on!

  2. Neville says:

    Totally agree. Great song. great band. One of those songs I still love a play everyday 30 years after it’s release.

  3. liam a fan since born says:

    best band ever with out a doubt never letting this go

  4. L. H. Pegoraro says:

    I always thought that it was a bit of concerning to an airborne or a parachute military man, particularly the piece of “Exit light, Enter night” and when they jump, and the other parts are because of the night terrors related to some traumas in relevance. And the mention of the Sandman was a cry to the Sandman to avoid those dreams so feared.

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