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The Unforgiven (song): Wikis


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"The Unforgiven"
Single by Metallica
from the album Metallica
B-side "Killing Time", "So What?", "The Unforgiven (Demo)"
Released 1991
Format CD single
Recorded October 1990 - June 1991
One on One studios
Los Angeles, California
Genre Heavy metal
Length 6:27
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Producer Bob Rock
Metallica singles chronology
"Don't Tread on Me"
"The Unforgiven"
"Nothing Else Matters"

"The Unforgiven" is a single from Metallica's 1991, self-titled album, Metallica. Though one of the slower tracks on the album, its chord progression is distinctly one of the heavier. The song describes a man who never took risks and ultimately regretted it.

The song has since spawned two sequels (both in name proper as well as thematically), in the form of "The Unforgiven II", from the album ReLoad, and "The Unforgiven III" from the album Death Magnetic.



Drummer Lars Ulrich explained that the band wanted to try something new with the idea of a ballad - instead of the standard melodic verse and heavy chorus (as evidenced on their previous ballads "Fade to Black," "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," and "One"), the band opted to reverse the dynamic, with heavy, distorted verses and a softer, melodic chorus, played with classical guitars.

The horn intro was essentially taken from a Western movie and then reversed so its source would be hidden, as Hetfield later explained on Classic Albums: Metallica - Metallica. While Metallica has never disclosed what movie the horn was taken from, it is believed to be from a piece of music called "The Showdown," which was composed by Ennio Morricone for the 1965 Clint Eastwood "Spaghetti Western" film, For a Few Dollars More.

Live performances

"The Unforgiven" was played live as part of Metallica's Nowhere Else to Roam world tour which lasted from 1991–1993, in support of the Black Album. It was played again on the Madly in Anger with the World world tour in 2003–2004 and the Escape from the Studio '06 tour. *Ito the 2007 Sick of the Studio tour.* It has most recently been played in the bands current "World Magnetic" tour. Also, the song was the band's third Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #35. It had a music video directed by Matt Mahurin.

The live version of "Unforgiven" includes a second solo near the end of the song, something the original recording did not have.

Music video

An accompanying video was released for the song. Directed by Matt Mahurin, the black and white video is themed around a boy who spends his life living in captivity inside a small, windowless room made entirely of stone. As the video progresses he ages into an adult and then an old man. He spends his entire life carving into the stone to create a window while occasionally grasping his one possession: a locket. It is inferred that another captive lives on the other side of the stone room. The video ends with the old man finally creating a window through which he deposits his possession and subsequently lays down to die. A 11:33, "theatrical" version of the video exists, featuring several minutes of introductory scenes which precede the timeline of the main portion of the video. This version was featured on The Videos 1989-2004, the band's 2006 music video compilation.

Cover versions

The song was covered by Doug Pinnick, Vernon Reid, Frankie Banali, and Tony Franklin for Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica.

"The Unforgiven" has also been covered in other styles of music, notably in bluegrass style by Iron Horse on the album Fade to Bluegrass: The Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica. A Gregorian chant cover by Gregorian also appeared on Masters of Chant Chapter V, Swiss pop singer Stefanie Heinzmann (winner of the German TV talent contest SSDSDSSWEMUGABRTLAD[!sic] at the TV show TV Total) included a version on the delux edition of her debut album Masterplan, and a classical instrumental version by Finnish cello ensemble Apocalyptica appeared on their release Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. Tribute duo Harptallica recorded a harp version on their album Harptallica: A Tribute.

Track listing

  1. "The Unforgiven"
  2. "Killing Time"
  3. "So What" (12" Only)
  4. "The Unforgiven" (Demo)


The Unforgiven II

"The Unforgiven II"
Single by Metallica
from the album ReLoad
B-side Helpless (live)/The Four Horsemen (live)/Of Wolf and Man (live)
The Thing That Should Not Be (live)/The Memory Remains (live)/King Nothing (live)
No Remorse (live)/Am I Evil? (live)/The Unforgiven II (Demo)
Released 1998
Format CD single
Recorded 1996, at The Plant Studios, Sausalito, California
Genre Heavy metal, hard rock
Length 6:36
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Kirk Hammett
James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Producer Bob Rock
James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Metallica singles chronology
"The Memory Remains"
"The Unforgiven II"

"The Unforgiven II" is a song performed by Metallica. It was written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett and appears on the album ReLoad as a sequel to "The Unforgiven" (which appears on the album Metallica). Both songs have similar musical themes. They both start with the horn taken from For a Few Dollars More. The chord progression during the verses is strikingly similar to the one used in the chorus on "The Unforgiven". Over a decade later, the song was followed by a second sequel, "The Unforgiven III", from the album Death Magnetic.

The song has only been performed once live at the 1997 Billboard Music awards (the band played after they won the Artist of the Year award).

Track listing

CD single 1

  1. "The Unforgiven II"
  2. "Helpless (Live)"
  3. "The Four Horsemen (Live)"
  4. "Of Wolf and Man (Live)"

CD single 2

  1. "The Unforgiven II"
  2. "The Thing That Should Not Be (Live)"
  3. "The Memory Remains (Live)"
  4. "King Nothing (Live)"

CD single 3

  1. "The Unforgiven II"
  2. "No Remorse (Live)"
  3. "Am I Evil? (Live)"
  4. "The Unforgiven II (Demo)"

The Unforgiven II, Pt. 3

  1. "The Unforgiven II"
  2. "The Thing That Should Not Be (Live)"

The Unforgiven III

"The Unforgiven III"
Song by Metallica

from the album Death Magnetic

Released September 12, 2008
Genre Heavy metal
Length 7:47
Label Elektra
Producer Vertigo, Warner Bros.

"The Unforgiven III" is a song by the heavy metal band Metallica and appears on the album Death Magnetic released in 2008. It is the second continuation of the song "The Unforgiven", which appears on the album Metallica. Is precedent for the song "The Unforgiven II" (which makes appearance on the album Reload), which is the first sequel. It was nominated for a Grammy on December 3, 2009.

Chart performance

The Unforgiven

Country Position
United States
United Kingdom

Cover versions

Country Position



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