The Thing That Should Not Be

Album: Master Of Puppets (1986)
Play Video


  • This is based on Cthulhu short stories by H.P. Lovecraft, an early-20th century American writer. These stories depict a certain scary monster dubbed by Lovecraft as the Cthulhu, which is the "Thing That Should Not Be." .
  • The specific story by H.P. Lovecraft that this song references is The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Written in 1936, it was Lovecraft's only story that was released as a book when he was alive. His other short stories were published during his lifetime in a magazine called Weird Tales. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Anthony - Wichita, KS
  • The 1984 Metallica song "The Call Of Ktulu" is also based on H.P. Lovecraft's works. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Matt - Fullerton, CA
  • Band members James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett wrote this.
  • Metallica included this on their 1999 live album S&M which they recorded with the San Francisco Symphony. In that version, the second verse was removed and the third verse was put in place of the second. They went straight to the last chorus from the solo. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - Paramus, NJ
  • In the book Rush: Album by Album, Kirk Hammett says that one of the riffs in "The Thing that Should Not Be" is taken from a riff in Rush's "Jacob's Ladder."

Comments: 33

  • Dave Hamrick from Norman, OklahomaThe Thing That Should Not Be specifically refers to the Great Old One Rhan-Tegoth, a creature that appears in the story The Horror at the Museum by Hazel Heald (ghostwritten by HP Lovecraft).
  • Luke from London, UkCrunching song. This was my 'air guitar' tune as a teen.
  • Todor from BulgariaAbout the title itself - it most probably comes from one of Lovecraft's other works - "At the Mountains of Madness": "It was the utter, objective embodiment of the fantastic novelist’s ‘thing that should not be’". I just finished reading it and wanted to share my idea.
  • Chris Marshall from IdahoYea and I guess you know all about all the guys in metallica and their monetary handlings. These guys have came full circle: they're sober, honest, humble. S--t dude they all let the rift with D. Mustaine go by the wayside. These guys got heart and soul, been through "hell and back", and lived to tell about it,including another awesome guy Mustaine. Wake up and listen to metal or go for a walk. Metal forever.
  • Ljseinfeld from Chicken Coop, NyAh, Master of Puppets... a good album, good songs, and recorded before Metallica turned into money-grubbing douchebags with trendy haircuts. Lovecraft aside, they became the thing that should not be...
  • Zero from Nowhere, NjWell nowadays what with youtube, limewire the point is pretty much moot Most people download these days anyway. I'm really the only one I know besides the rest of my friends who still buy CD's. It's a shame all the record stores are going out of business. Anyways now Metallica are letting people download entire concert porformances, though I don't know if you have to pay or if you have to be a member of their fanclub or what if anyone has anymore info please post.
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzMustaine was out of the band way before MoP was released.
  • Bryan from Providence, RiActually Adam, the Novela "Shadow over Innsmouth" wasn't released at the time the song came out, seeing as it was published in 1936. And considering about how much it relates to lines written by Lovecraft in "The Call of Cthulhu" it is kind of obvious that the song was inspired by Lovecraft's works.
  • Adam from Rochester, NyI highly doubt it was written about this, seeing as how this novel was released the same year this song was, as well as the amount of people saying it was inspired by Lovecraft (not too familiar with him, but as a fan or horror novels I'll inevitably pick up some of his stuff sooner or later), but after I read Stephen King's IT, every time I've heard this song I was reminded of IT.
  • Up Yours from Townsville, WaAnyone ever consider that this song might have been written about Dave Mustaine? After all, he WAS kicked out of the band right around the time this album came out.
  • Kyle from Sidney, Bcnobody conversing about the meanings of the lyrics just how metallica tried to raep napster up the butt. very sad.
  • Austin from Bristow, VaOne of the creepiest Metallica songs ever. I love it.
  • Andrew from Chicago, IlThe *what*? John from Millersville, you could not possibly be more misinformed. First off, the ostensible goal of the RIAA *is* in part to represent the interests of the artists. They're not the upholders of the law, and in fact most of the stuff that they try to scare you away from doing isn't covered by copyright law at all! But that doesn't stop them, because far from being the protectors of the law, they *write* the law, by paying off congressmen to support legislation that allows the RIAA's member corporations (but not the artists!) to make more money. It's a money grab and a power grab. It's not justice.
  • Billy from Cresco, PaTo whomever said that music should be free should think about what they are saying.

    A band puts its heart, its soul into their music. Its not easy to compose music, nor is it easy to make lyrics that generally have a deeper meaning to them.

    Lars Ulrich, you did what you had to do

    Anyway, it is a GREAT song.
  • Tac from Providence, RiRobert Bloch, the guy who wrote psycho, was H.P. Lovecraft's protege. Lovecraft had him fictionally killed in the story "The Haunter of the Dark," so maybe thats the meaning of the Robert you here in the song.
  • Shane from Tipperary, Irelandthis is james hetfields fav. song
  • Jt from Tullahoma, TnAround 3:43 in this song I can hear this voice say "Robert" I think, I dunno. It's this weird voice that makes me wonder. I don't know what it's about.
  • Matt from Gueydan, LaWell I can't say that I've ever downloaded a band's entire album but I usuallyjust download a song or two from a particular album and if I like them, I buy the album. With my internet connection downloading entire albums takes forever and I just don't have the patience fo that. Oh and buy the way, METALLICA KICKS A$$!!!!!!!!!!!
  • John from Millersville, MdWho ever said the RIAA was holding the band's best interests at heart? The RIAA holds the law at heart.
  • Avi from Long Island, NySomething most people have to understand about the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), is that they are d--kheads. I don't know if I can put it to you any other way. They are huge greedy bastards. Now, I'm not saying file sharing is OK, it's not, it's illegal, it's stealing, but the RIAA isn't interested in that. In the mid/late 90's there was that pop sensation going on, and rap was starting to become very popular. Many companies capitalized on this and switched more production to rap and pop, but most of it was low quality. The RIAA is going after file sharing 'services' because they think that that's where the money goes, and they are dead wrong. >>

    Even though CD sales increase, they'll still pursue the file sharers, because they're morons. They do not want to be held responsible for their own actions. The interest of the band is not at heart and, in fact, the artists barely make any money per CD through a contract with a major label. The legal contracts are very harsh, and if you do not sell, they let you go, but your musical property is theirs.
  • Gary from Madisonville, KyWhen a band begins it is true that they lose money due to piracy, but when you have reached the pinnacle Metallica is on then between merchandising such as DVD's, shirts, lighters, and such then you aren't really losing that much money. Music should be free anyway. Also, piracy of their tapes and the spread of those pirated tapes are how Metallica became famous in the first place, so screw Lars.
  • Paulo from India, United StatesThere is no proof that old Napster or any file-swapping programs resulted in loss of revenue for artists.
  • Jamie from Noel Shore, CanadaMetallica Vs. Napster.

    Who was losing money? Not just the band. The record distributers, the music stores, Everyone. The man who works for 8 dollars an hour at the record company, the teen who works at a music store to pay off college bills, Everyone loses money. Everyone except, of course, those who gain through downloading. During Napster's stint, music revenue was at an extreme low, sales had dropped, which made sense, why would someone pay for something which they could get for free? ... Thats beside the point. Another thing I found interesting about this Napster dispute is that famed rapper Dr. Dre was strongly on Metallica's side, yet he recieved little to no heat due to his stance on the dispute. I'm not against downloading, to an extent, i feel it would greatly help an artist by getting thier music out in the public..But to download their entire record is only killing their career.
  • Kevin from El Dorado Hills, CaThis song is based on The Call Of The Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft because in the book Tales of The Cthulhu Mythos the story Call of The Cthulhu Mythos chapter 2 page 19 it says
    That is not dead which can eternal lie,
    And with srange eons even death may die.
    And in this song they say

    Not dead which eternal lie,
    stranger eons, death may die

    Sound familiar? Also in the song they mention the great old ones which are the enemies of the elder gods or the great old ones are consider the "evil forces" and they also say in the song

    He watches, lurking beneath the sea.

    they are talking about Cthulhu's home which Inspector Legrasse discovered when he located the island in which the crew of a ship crashed on and report a strange beast. I have read the book hope i gave you all some good info.

  • Greg from Georgetown, CanadaActually, the song The Thing That Should Not Be was inspired by the story The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. i have read through this page before and thought that if metallica did such a good job capturing the essence of a book, that i would check it out. i read through the story The Call of Cthulhu and because iv memorized the lyrics to The Thing That Should Not be, i noticed some similarites between the two. sorry if i showed anyone up, just wanted to make it clear
  • Anthony from Melrose Park, Il I work hard at my job and I get paid. They work hard at their jobs and they're going to get paid too. It's called capitalism. Lars fighting a legal battle against piracy has nothing to do with the caliber of the band's music. So say what you will - the fact remains that Metallica is one of the most successful and influential rock bands that will EVER be.
  • Brian from Pittsburgh, PaAny artist who is not compensated for his talent, takes a loss, be it monetary or sprititual in nature. Would you allow someone to live free in your house that you built? Take credit for something you did? I once blamed Metallica for the whole file-swap fallout and the RIAA (or whatever they are), but I realized that they have a right to be compensated for their creativity. I however, don't agree with the Record Industry's insistance on blaming file-swappers for the fall of CD's...maybe if they tried to stop it at the source rather than suing the planet, or lower pricing a bit, make CD's more attractive to buy then pirating them, it could help. Josh is right, royalties is what keeps you alive in the later years.
  • Brian from Paoli, InWell anyways.....I would call this one of the best metal songs ever, definetly my favorite off of Master of Puppets.
  • Brian from Mayfield Heights, OhTrue, rudi, true. But still.. the who's rich and doesnt want to get richer?
  • Rudi from Melbourne, Australiai don't think they're exactly strapped for cash though.
  • Josh from Warrenville, IlJeff- Look at it this way. If you worked long and hard to make something, and then you sold it and it became your main source of income. Then, someone takes it and makes it free, thus making you lose lots of money. Yeah, you can have things associated with your product (I.E. concerts and such) but those are only temporary and short, whereas the main source (a.k.a. albums) are there forever. So, hell yeah they lost a lot of money.
  • Nora from Richfield, MnJeff they most certainly lost money because of people like yourself that downloaded their ENTIRE albums and did not buy their albums. People who do this suck.
  • Jeff from Haltom City, TxAlthough I posted one of the SongFacts for this band, listed above, the reader should note that I am not a fan of this band at all. I think they are rather stupid, due to their famed row with Napster. (Did they really lose any money while Napster was in opertation? Any at all?) I am, however, a big fan of author H.P. Lovecraft, and just wanted to set the record straight.
see more comments

Editor's Picks


HardySongwriter Interviews

The country hitmaker talks about his debut album, A Rock, and how a nursery rhyme inspired his hit single "One Beer."

Dean Pitchford

Dean PitchfordSongwriter Interviews

Dean wrote the screenplay and lyrics to all the songs in Footloose. His other hits include "Fame" and "All The Man That I Need."

Fire On The Stage

Fire On The StageSong Writing

When you have a song called "Fire," it's tempting to set one - these guys did.

Michael Franti

Michael FrantiSongwriter Interviews

Franti tells the story behind his hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" and explains why yoga is an integral part of his lifestyle and his Soulshine tour.

Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World

Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat WorldSongwriter Interviews

Jim talks about the impact of "The Middle" and uses a tree metaphor to describe his songwriting philosophy.

Bill Withers

Bill WithersSongwriter Interviews

Soul music legend Bill Withers on how life experience and the company you keep leads to classic songs like "Lean On Me."