The Sad Story Of How James Hetfield Wrote Metallica’s ‘The God That Failed’


All kinds of pain, loss, and tragedy can become valuable sources of inspiration for artists who often channel their feelings into their art, such as their paintings, writings, and lyrics. An artist’s childhood is of utmost importance, and some memories or scars might be detected in a musician’s songwriting, just between the lines.

Metallica released their fifth studio album entitled ‘The Black Album’ on August 12, 1991, which became the band’s most successful album. Almost every song was clearly well-thought and had greatly influenced their fans, the tragic story of ‘The God That Failed’ stayed on the headlines for a long time.

James Hetfield Wrote ‘The God That Failed’ As A Response To His Mother’s Death


James Hetfield grew up in a very religious family as his parents, Cynthia Bassett and Virgil Lee Hetfieldwere, were devoted Christian Scientists. They believed that they must surrender themselves to God and accept their fate. So, they reject any medical treatment, believing that healing comes only from God.

Unfortunately, at some point, Hetfield’s mother, Cynthia, was diagnosed with cancer and denied the medical treatment as a true believer. Shortly after that, she passed away and Hetfield was sixteen years old. He was both angry with his mother, who accepted her fate, and the God who failed to heal her.

Here’s what Hetfield wrote in the song:

“I see faith in your eyes / Never you hear the discouraging lies

I hear faith in your cries / Broken is the promise, betrayal

The healing hand held back by the deepened nail / Follow the God that failed.”

So, Hetfield’s anger and pain inspired him to write Metallica’s iconic song ‘The God That Failed.’ The song can be interpreted as a message to his deceased mother and everyone who thinks only God can heal them. In the lyrics, Hetfield emphasized that their faith can’t save them from a deadly disease, and expressed his sadness for losing his mother at such a young age.

You can listen to the song below.