As Metallica’s first instrumental piece to be put on an album, “The Call of Ktulu” took many Metallica fans by surprise. In 1984, Metallica fans were used to the speed metal thrash riffs they had grown accustomed to on the band’s original release, Kill ’em All. When Ride the Lightning was released, with not only the classically-inclined “The Call of Ktulu” but also the uber-dark ballad “Fade to Black,” some Metallica fans were left scratching their heads.
Now, more than two and a half decades later, it’s hard for current Metallica fans to understand just how big of a switch up the inclusion of “The Call of Ktulu” and “Fade to Black” actually were. An instrumental has been part of virtually every album Metallica has put out, and ballads, (some offbeat, like “Sanitarium,” and some mainstream, such as “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” parts I, II and III) have become commonplace. However, in 1984, the instrumental and the ballad was entirely new.
“The Call of Ktulu” is now considered a Metallica classic. Originally written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, and original Metallica guitarist-turned-Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine, the track was an exhibition for not only Metallica’s skill but a rebellion against the very type of music the band was “supposed” to be playing.
In the Metallica documentary, Cliff ’em All, Cliff Burton spoke about the band recording different types of music such as “The Call of Ktulu.”
“We do what we want to do, you know. If they consider that selling out, then, whatever… Maybe you don’t play a thousand miles an hour the whole time.”
Metallica has made a habit for more than 30 years of doing exactly what they’ve wanted to do, and it hasn’t always sat well with even their most die-hard fans. The lyric from Metallica’s song “Eye of the Beholder” seems to sum up exactly how some of Metallica’s fans view the band and their decisions.
“You can do it your own way, as long as it’s done just how I say.”
Now, the release of the breakthrough track “The Call of Ktulu” is being commemorated in an astonishingly detailed piece of artwork done by the artist Richey Beckett.
For the uninitiated, Ktulu is a riff on the H.P. Lovecraft originated character concept of Cthulhu, first written about in the horror master’s short story, The Call of Cthulhu, published in Weird Tales in 1928. In the story, Cthulhu is described as one of the Great Old Ones, “[a] monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.” Hundreds of meters tall, Cthulhu was a god of sorts, submerged beneath the ocean where he affects mankind’s subconscious in a malevolent way until one day he will finally returns and destroys the earth.
Beckett ran with that concept and produced a piece of artwork that accurately fits Lovecraft’s description. Metallica unveiled the artwork earlier this week via Facebook and will offer it to Metallica fans starting with their Fan Club members this week. A limited number of prints will be made available, as well as a slew of black T-shirts emblazoned with the Great Old One.
[Photos via Facebook]