“The Thing That Should Not Be” by Metallica 

Cthulhu is the name of a fictional creature that anyone who’s into sci-fi or comic books has probably heard before. The origin of the character dates back to early 20th century author H. P. Lovecraft, himself being a science-fiction/horror writer.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Metallica's The Thing That Should Not Be at Lyrics.org.

Lovecraft is also one of the most recognizable names in American literature, implying that his books were of a deeper fare than, say Marvel comics. In other words, many prominent artists, including Metallica, can be said to really be into his works. And accordingly, it is one of his books entitled The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which Cthulhu plays a prominent role, that served as the inspiration for “The Thing That Should Not Be”. That is to say that “the thing that should not be” is a reference to Cthulhu itself.

So with that in mind, this isn’t necessarily what one would classify as a quintessential heavy metal piece. And the fact that this track more less serves as a theme song to The Shadow Over Innsmouth, that reality may explain why some Metallica fans are not fond of this tune. Or put more plainly, in order to fully appreciate these lyrics one has to be familiar with the aforementioned text, upon whose plot it is based.

The Lyrics of “The Thing That Should Not Be”

In our attempt to succinctly explain the storyline this song is based on, utilizing the terse knowledge of the text that we have ascertained through this research – well, you may want to brace yourself for this. For starters, Cthulhu is like this very old, gigantic, hideous creature that lives under the sea. There are other underwater residents, known as Deep Ones, who are more human-like. And the people of Innsmouth, a port town, are apparently afraid of the Deep Ones, on top of breeding with them as a form of sacrifice or what have you. Or phrased more directly, they’re bonking mermen. And the Deep Ones themselves worship Cthulhu.

Also concerning the mentioning of “madness” in this song, apparently part of Cthulhu mythos, as it is called, is that if someone actually sees the creature, he or she will lose their mind. Such a concept seems to be what James Hetfield and the gang are alluding to also. So it’s like seeing “the thing”, since it “should not be” in the first place, would drive you bonkers, as in completely altering one’s understanding of reality.

All of that said, hard rockers are usually known to harp on more serious topics than science fiction. So it is possible, especially considering some of the other terminology involved, there is some deeper meaning to this song which perhaps requires a more in-depth study of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, as well as Metallica’s artistry. But it’s like, heavy metalists can be fanboys also. And by the looks of things, this song reads like it was written for a Shadow Over Innsmouth soundtrack, if such a thing actually existed.

Metallica, "The Thing That Should Not Be" Lyrics

Facts about “The Thing That Should Not Be”

This song is from “Master of Puppets”, which Elektra Records released on 3 March 1986. And to note, the Metallica album that came out prior to this one, “Ride the Lightning” (1984), featured another song based on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, that one even being entitled “The Call of Ktulu”. Apparently, the band has also dropped other songs inspired by this fiction.

Metallica mainstays Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich wrote this song. And the band co-produced it as a whole, in conjunction with Flemming Rasmussen.

A live rendition of this tune, backed by the San Francisco Symphony, can be found on Metallica’s 1999 outing “S&M”.

The Thing That Should Not Be

“Master of Puppets”

“Master of Puppets” was released in 1986. It serves as the band’s third studio album.

The entire album  was recorded at the Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. The studio was founded by Flemming Rasmussen. Flemming, a record producer himself, has been credited alongside the band with co-producing the album.

As a means of promoting the album, the band embarked on “The Damage, Inc. Tour”. This was a concert tour named after a track on the album.

The album peaked at No. 29 on the Billboard 200. It was No. 8 in Portugal and No. 7 in Finland. In the UK, it reached No. 41.

By 2003, the album had sold over 6 million copies in the US and received a 6x Platinum certification by the RIAA. It received the second 6x Platinum certification from Music Canada while the UK, Argentina, New Zealand, Austria, Finland among others certified it Platinum. It was certified Gold in Italy and Belgium.

“Master of Puppets” won numerous accolades, including becoming the 1st metal recording to be selected for preservation by the National Recording Registry. It was second on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time” list published in 2017. It was placed at No. 167 and No. 97 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” which was published in 2012 and 2020 respectively.

Furthermore, it is featured in the 2005 book, “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” by Robert Dimery.

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