Why do Metallica, and James Hetfield in particular, hate the Ride the Lightning song "Escape" so much?

The song appears sixth on the metal giants' sophomore 1984 album, sandwiched between the deep cut/Side B opener "Trapped Under Ice" and the popular "Creeping Death."

While it's not one of the band's most panned songs, it's one Metallica just downright detest, and there's a reason why.

Let's get into it!

How Was "Escape" Written?

On Metallica's debut album Kill 'Em All, they came into the recording sessions with their material already written. That changed on the followup though, as the group was tasked with writing in the studio for the first time.

Regarding "Escape," in 2017, Hetfield recollected, "[Ride the Lightning] was the first time we wrote a song in the studio. I remember we had all the songs and Lars [Ulrich] said, 'They want us to record one more, they need one more for the album. I was like, 'You didn't tell me that...' So we had to write and it was really last-minute. So 'Escape' was one of those songs that was written in the studio."

It has an obviously more commercial sound and structure than any of the band's material at the time and many have gone on to accuse Metallica of having radio-friendly intentions with the track. Despite these qualities, "Escape" was never released as a single.

Hetfield, Ulrich and Kirk Hammett are credited with writing the song.

Metallica, "Escape"

Has "Escape" Ever Been Played Live?

Just once on June 23, 2012 at Metallica's own Orion Music + More Festival where they played the entire Ride the Lightning album.

Introducing the song, Hetfield told the crowd, "This is groundbreaking right here. This is historical for those of you who might know what's coming up next. The song that we never wanted to play live ever is now on the setlist. We're not afraid, we just hope it is good. And we'll do our best. You can sing along if you want, all right? That might help."

READ MORE: The Most + Least Played Song Live Off Each Metallica Album (And Ones That Were Never Performed Live)

What Have the Metallica's Other Members Said About "Escape?"

As recently as spring of 2023, Metallica reaffirmed their contempt for the song, responding to a fan's question on TikTok which asked, "Is Metallica's 'Escape' better than I remember it?"

A reply from Metallica read, "No, it's not."

When we played 'Escape' at the Orion Fest, we collectively agreed why we never play that song: It’s not really a great song to play live," Hammett once told Rolling Stone, explaining, "It’s in the key of “A,” like “The Call of Ktulu” and “Metal Militia,” but the key of “A” doesn’t really work well for us for some reason or another. Playing that song was more of a novelty than anything else, but we loved playing all the other songs."

Ulrich, typically the contrarian amongst the group, informed Metal Hammer, "It’s become this folklore that I hate 'Escape.' It’s not true! It was the last song that was written for the Ride The Lightning sessions, and it was purposely kept a little shorter than the other songs. We thought of it in the spirit of Iron Maiden’s 'Run To the Hills' or Judas Priest’s 'Living After Midnight' – dare I use the words ‘radio songs’? So instead of turning it into an eight minute 'Seek And Destroy' type of thing, we kept it on the short side. Then it got a bad rap, and I don’t know why. I don’t have a particular problem with it, but it never became a live staple like the other songs on the record. It just goes to show that you’re better off not trying to do things on purpose."

What Bands Have Covered "Escape?"

A handful of artists have covered "Escape," most notably Gojira, Hatebreed and Spirit Adrift.

Listen to each directly below.

Gojira, "Escape" (Metallica Cover)

Hatebreed, "Escape" (Metallica Cover)

Spirit Adrift, "Escape" (Metallica Cover)

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