Blackened is the first track of Metallica's 1988 studio album ...And Justice for All. The eerie/strange-sounding intro is a reversed riff, followed by fast, heavy guitars. During the middle section of the song, it slows down into a heavy, rhythmic part with dual guitars, and a slow solo by Kirk Hammett, then it kicks back into a fast-paced song with Kirk Hammett's faster solo. The song follows Metallica's pattern of having a Thrash song as the first track on the album.
The song talks about nuclear war, eradication of humanity, and complete destruction of the earth, as well as the loss of natural life. It deals with topics such as the world being plunged into frozen darkness.
"Blackened" has the key signature E Phrygian. Phrygian is a mode, neither of the more common major (Ionian mode) or minor (Aeolian mode).
The BPM of the intro is about 72, the fast-paced parts are 192, and the slow bridge/solo is 128.
"Blackened" has perhaps the most changing time signatures of any Metallica song. The intro is in 4/4, then 3/4, 4/4 again, and then followed by a 5/4 measure, leading into the 7/4 riff. Then, the verse is in 6/4, going into the 7/4 riff again, then a 2/4 measure leading into the chorus, which is in 4/4. The 7/4 riff kicks in again, then the 6/4 verse, another 7/4 riff, and another 2/4 measure leading into the 2nd 4/4 chorus. Then the slow bridge starts with a 7/4 measure, then 4/4 for the rest until the dual-guitar build-up section, in which every other measure is 4/4, and the other measures alternate 2/4 and 3/4, in that order, but starting with a 4/4 measure. Some find it easier to alternate counting 6/4 and 7/4 measures, or even counting one pattern as a whole: a 13/4 measure repeating over and over until the slow solo, which is entirely in 4/4. Then there is a short 4/4 break, ending with a 2/4 measure that leads into the fast solo, which is entirely 4/4 except one measure before the last part of the solo that's in 5/8. Then the riff starts again, in 7/4. Then one final verse in 6/4, then a 2/4 measure leading into the final chorus, which is in 4/4. The last chorus repeats itself, with different words. This repeat is tied to the previous chorus by a 5/4 measure. Finally, the outro is in 7/4. It is somewhat difficult for inexperienced musicians to count the beat properly during the riff, because of the odd time signature and the accented notes for the melody, as well as the snare, are played on the upbeat.
The demo for "Blackened" is the same, but for the original song, the intro was supposed to go backwards, then go into the fast guitars.
- "Blackened" was first performed live on September 11, 1988, in Budapest, Hungary.
- The song has been played as an opener on the Damaged Justice Tour, and as the main set closer in 1990. After that period, the song was put apart until December 28th, 1999 when it returned for just 2 weeks on the setlist. "Blackened" was played frequently during Madly in Anger With the World Tour and World Magnetic Tour.
- As of October 2019, "Blackened" has been performed live 495 times.
- Jason Newsted showed James Hetfield the opening riff on bass, and James liked it.
Blackened is the end Winter it will send Throwing all you see Into Obscurity Death of Mother Earth Never a Rebirth Evolution's End Never will it Mend Never! Fire To begin whipping dance of the dead Blackened is the end To begin whipping dance of the dead Color our world blackened Blistering of earth Terminate is worth Deadly nicotine Kills what might have been Callous frigid chill Nothing left to kill Never seen before Breathing nevermore Never! Fire To begin whipping dance of the dead Blackened is the end To begin whipping dance of the dead Color our world Blackened Blackened Opposition, opposition...contradiction, contradiction...premonition, premonition...compromise Agitation, agitation... violation, violation... mutilation, mutilation...planet dies Darkest color Blistered earth True death of life Termination, termination, termination...expiration, expiration...cancellation, cancellation...human race Expectation, expectation...liberation, liberation...population, population...lay to waste See our mother Put to death See our mother die Smoldering decay Take her breath away Millions of our years In minutes disappears, Darkening in vain Decadence remains All is said and done Never is the sun Never! Fire To begin whipping dance of the dead Blackened is the end To begin whipping dance of the dead Fire Is the outcome of hypocrisy Darkest potency In the exit of humanity Color our world blackened Blackened!