Until It Sleeps

"Until It Sleeps"
Single by Metallica
from the album Load
Released May 21, 1996[1]
Recorded 1995
Genre Hard rock
Length 4:30
Label Elektra
Metallica singles chronology
"Sad but True"
"Until It Sleeps"
"Hero of the Day"
Music video
"Until It Sleeps" on YouTube

"Until It Sleeps" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica from their 1996 album Load. It was the band's first number one song on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, as well as their first and only song as of the release of Death Magnetic to hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, debuting and peaking at number 10.[2]


The song was performed with orchestral accompaniment on the album S&M.

An early demo version of this song was entitled "F.O.B.D" (recorded on December 8, 1995), because it reminded the band members of the Soundgarden song "Fell on Black Days," in that the "It grips you...It stains you..." refrain is in the same 6/4 time signature that "Fell on Black Days" is in. The band can be heard saying "Fell on Black Days" on the fanclub-only Fancan 1 CD just prior to jamming on a portion of "Until It Sleeps." The 10" vinyl version of the single is red in color.

Moby, credited as "Herman Melville", did an industrial-sounding remix used as a B-side.[3]

"Until It Sleeps" became the first "officially" pirated MP3 when it was released by Compress ’Da Audio (a piracy group and spinoff of the Warez scene) via a Internet Relay Chat network on August 10, 1996.[4]


The lyrics of the song, written by Hetfield, address his mother's battle with cancer, to which Hetfield's "it" refers. They can be seen as either describing the emotional pain he feels for the loss, or the physical pain his mother was feeling while she was ill. Both of his parents were Christian Scientists, and did not believe in medicine. The lyrics are also interpreted as dealing with anger issues. Hetfield's father, Virgil, died in late 1996, during Metallica's Load tour.

Music video

The song also has a music video directed by Samuel Bayer (Nirvana, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins). It was shot in various locations around Los Angeles on May 6 and 7 in 1996. It was premiered by MTV on May 21.[5] The video depicts surreal concepts dealing with fall of a human, taken from various paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. Apart from the general forms inspired from Bosch's paintings, the prominent figures in the video are the human-eating monster from The Garden of Earthly Delights, the fall of Adam and Eve from Haywain and Christ in the Crucifige Eum (Crucify Him) scene of Ecce Homo.


The video of the song won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video in 1996.

The song won a 1996 Metal Edge Readers' Choice Award for Song of the Year.[6]

Track listing

US single
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:36
2. "Overkill"   4:08
International single part one
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:33
2. "2 X 4" (Live) 6:06
3. "F.O.B.D." (aka Until It Sleeps – early 'writing in progress' version) 4:56
International single part two
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:36
2. "Kill/Ride Medley" (Live) 10:19
3. "Until It Sleeps" (Herman Melville Mix) 4:20
Japanese EP
No. Title Length
1. "Until It Sleeps"   4:35
2. "Until It Sleeps" (Herman Melville Mix) 4:22
3. "Kill/Ride Medley" (Live) 10:19
4. "2 X 4" (Live) 6:08
5. "Overkill" (Live) 4:11
6. "F.O.B.D." (aka Until It Sleeps – early 'writing in progress' version) 4:56

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1996) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[8] 12
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[9] 8
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[10] 16
Canadian RPM Top Singles[11]
Canadian RPM Alternative 30[12]
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[13] 1
France (SNEP)[14] 10
Germany (Official German Charts)[15] 15
Ireland (IRMA)[16]
Italy (FIMI)[17] 9
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[18] 9
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[19] 11
Norway (VG-lista)[20] 2
Spain (AFYVE)[21] 16
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[22] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[23] 22
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[24]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[25] 10
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[25] 27
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[25] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (1996) Position
Billboard Hot 100[26] 92
Canadian RPM Top Singles[27] 61


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[28] Gold 35,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[29] Gold 0*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[30] Gold 5,000*
Sweden (GLF)[31] Gold 25,000^
United States (RIAA)[32] Gold 500,000[33]

*sales figures based on certification alone

Release history

Region Date
Worldwide (except North America) May 20, 1996
United States May 21, 1996


  1. "Until it Sleeps". Metallica.com. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  2. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 421.
  3. Thump 'n Grind
  4. Witt, Stephen (April 21, 2015). "The Man Who Broke the Music Business". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  5. Metallica In For a Lollapalooza of a Summer
  6. Metal Edge, June 1997
  7. "Australian-charts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  8. "Austriancharts.at – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  9. "Ultratop.be – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  10. "Ultratop.be – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  11. "Top Singles - Volume 64, No. 2, August 26 1996". RPM. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  12. "Rock/Alternative - Volume 63, No. 21, July 08 1996". RPM. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  13. "Metallica: Until It Sleeps" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland.
  14. "Lescharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in French). Les classement single.
  15. "Musicline.de – Metallica Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  16. The Irish Charts - All there is to know
  17. Italian peaks
  18. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Metallica search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  19. "Charts.org.nz – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Top 40 Singles.
  20. "Norwegiancharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". VG-lista.
  21. Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  22. "Swedishcharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Singles Top 100.
  23. "Swisscharts.com – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Swiss Singles Chart.
  24. Metallica - Until It Sleeps - UK Singles
  25. 1 2 3 Metallica - Awards AllMusic
  26. "Billboard Top 100 - 1996". Retrieved 2010-08-27.
  27. "Top Singles - Volume 64, No. 18, December 16 1996". RPM. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  28. Kent, David (2006). Australian Chart Book 1993-2005. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-45889-2.
  29. "New Zealand single certifications – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Recorded Music NZ.
  30. "Norwegian single certifications – Metallica – Until It Sleeps" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway.
  31. "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden.
  32. "American single certifications – Metallica – Until It Sleeps". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  33. "Best-Selling Records of 1996". Billboard. BPI Communications Inc. 109 (3): 61. January 18, 1997. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
Preceded by
"Humans Being" by Van Halen
Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks number-one single
June 8, 1996 – July 19, 1996
August 3, 1996
Succeeded by
"Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" by Stone Temple Pilots
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