Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in Stranger Things 4's final episode playing Master of Puppets.

Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ in Stranger Things

Metallica‘s ‘Master of Puppets’ has been a go-to song for everyone who has watched the fourth season of Stranger Things. Some of us discovered it because of the show and for some of us, it was a good reminder of our past. But, let’s start from the beginning.

Who are Metallica and what album is ‘Master of Puppets’ from?

I’m not assuming you don’t know Metallica, but just in case you don’t, let’s get the introduction over.

Originally formed in 1981, this thrash/heavy metal band made their breakthrough five years later with their third album, Master of Puppets. Unsurprisingly, that’s where the song used in Stranger Things comes from. The album went Gold almost instantly and was certified Platinum two years later. 

Metallica made it to prominence because there was a demand for something rawer, more thrashing, more unbalanced, and much speedier – nothing their inspirations from Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, or Iron Maiden, could provide. Just go listen to any track on Ride the Lighting or Kill ‘Em All.

The song itself, renowned for its long instrumental section, is the most played track when the band tours the world and, as Metallica fans know, you’re actually obliged to shout the word ‘master’ back when the guys are smashing through the lyrics.

With ten studio and four live albums, those nine Grammy Awards are well deserved. Metallica is a powerhouse still very alive and kicking. It’s no wonder they were ranked as the 61st band on the list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

What is the meaning of ‘Master of Puppets’?

The ‘master’ in the song’s title refers to drugs and we all know what drugs can do to you – take over the control and leave you messed up.

Needlework the way, never you betray
Life of death becoming clearer
Pain monopoly, ritual misery
Chop your breakfast on a mirror
Taste me you will see
More is all you need
You’re dedicated to
How I’m killing you

James Hetfield, Metallica’s lead vocalist, confirmed in a 1988 interview with Thrasher magazine that the song “deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you’re taking and doing its drugs controlling you.”

Much like Vecna is the controlling type, scheming behind the scenes, slowly creeping in, making his way from the Upside Down, and destroying everything and everyone in his wake… so are drugs. Both drugs and power make you feel awesome but eventually bring your downfall.

Listen to the remastered version of Master of Puppets.

Why did they use Master of Puppets in Stranger Things?

When you’re about to fight the big baddie, you don’t bring kittens. When you’re about to face Darth Vader, you ditch Yoda and bring Obi-Wan. Ideally twice. When you’re about to take on Thanos, you don’t bring Hawkeye, you bring someone who can smash, someone who, when angry, is difficult to stop smashing, yeah, you bring The Hulk. SMASH!

‘Master of Puppets’ plays the very same role in the season’s finale – it smashes and elevates the scene to almost obscenely epic heights.

Watch the official clip of ‘Master of Puppets’ in Stranger Things.

I can hear the discussion between the brothers going something like this: ‘Hey, bro, how do we make Eddie depart the show in the most epicest way?’ The other brother pauses, thinking, then the lightbulb above his head springs into life for a mere second, and he replies: ‘I thought it was a tough question, but we let Eddie taunt Vecna by playing Master of Puppets.’ Both brothers looked at each other and yelled ‘hell yeah!’

Eddie is an underdog. He listens to odd music, his hair is way too wrong, he dresses in denim, no surprise he gets bullied. An experience many of us can relate to, especially if you’re a bit older. Anyway, Eddie also plays D&D, to sum the weirdo stuff up. But, the show takes place in 1986, exactly the year Master of Puppets was released. Eddie is a fan because the album is just epic.

To conclude, I’m not the only one who thinks that the song has become a property of Stranger Things, because, let’s be honest, Eddie owns it.

It’s always great to see old music being reused with new purposes and Stranger Things did it twice this season. Well done!

Written by Vinklarek on

Petr 'Pete' Vinklárek writes mainly about music. Prior to entering the digital industry, he taught Translation Studies & British and American Cinema at a university. In his spare time, he hikes, listens to podcasts, watches films, and writes poetry. Petr studied the English Language and Literature at The University of Ostrava; his master’s thesis covered some aspects of Warren Zevon's work.

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