Purify

Album: St. Anger (2003)

Songfacts®:

  • This is one of the more opaque songs on the album. The key to it may lie in the circumstances surrounding the making of St. Anger.

    The band was experiencing a lot of friction. Bassist Jason Newsted had left on rough terms after asking for some time off to pursue a side project called Echobrain. Frontman James Hetfield's drinking had worsened to the point where he had to leave in the middle of recording to check into rehab. The band was still dealing with fallout from their battle with Napster, where an unauthorized demo of their song "I Disappear" showed up. On top of that, the band was frustrated with their label's continued pressure to do promotional work, as documented in the song "Sweet Amber."

    Basically, things were a mess. "Purify" seems to be Hetfield saying he wants to be cleaned of the past and of himself while acknowledging his own tendency to pessimism ("I can find the dirt on anything").
  • The lyrics make a play upon the word "purify." On Metallica.com, the words are shown to sometimes be "purify" and other times be "pure if I."

    Pure if I... Won't you help me?
    Purify you and I
  • The line, "White heat, white light" is a reference to the 1968 title track of the Velvet Underground album White Light/White Heat. Metallica made Lulu with Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed in 2011. There's no way frontman James Hetfield wrote these lyrics without being aware that they were almost verbatim from a Reed song.
  • The band has never played this one live.
  • St. Anger was the last album Metallica released under Elektra Records. They'd been with that label since 1986 and Master of Puppets.

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