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Meaning of the song ‘One’ by ‘Metallica’

Released: 1988

“One (Remastered)” by Metallica is a bone-chilling dive into the tormented psyche of a war veteran who lies severely wounded, trapped in his own body. The track paints a grim, visceral picture of the horrors of war and its aftermath using emotionally charged language and vivid imagery.

The song’s first verse, “I can’t remember anything… Nothing is real but pain now. Hold my breath as I wish for death. Oh, please God, wake me,” introduces us to the protagonist’s existential crisis. He can’t differentiate between reality and illusion, trapped in a mind tormented by the brutality of war. He’s pleading for the mercy of death, unable to bear the mental and physical pain, bringing to the fore the harsh reality of mental agonies that are often overshadowed by physical injuries in war narratives.

Verse two, “Back in the womb, it’s much too real… Cut this life off from me,” gives us a deeper look at his condition. The line “Tied to machines that make me be” elucidates his vegetative state, kept alive artificially, a tragic “wartime novelty.” The stanza ends on a poignant note, reflecting his yearning to be detached from this pitiful existence.

Then the chorus, “Now the world is gone, I’m just one. Oh, God, help me,” signifies his sense of isolation and desolation. He feels completely alone, abandoned to endure his suffering solitary, which amplifies his desperation for a divine intervention to end his distress.

“Darkness imprisoning me… Body, my holding cell,” is a metaphorical representation of his confinement within his own damaged body, likening it to a prison cell. His physical incapacities scourge his spirit, symbolized as a ‘body-holding cell,’ amplifying his sense of entrapment and helplessness.

In the final verse, “Landmine has taken my sight… Left me with life in hell,” the full extent of his injuries are laid bare. He’s lost all essential faculties, rendering him literally and metaphorically blinded, silenced and immobilized, alluding not only to physical wounds but also the profound psychological trauma. The sole thing left is a life in hell, a living testament to the futile and horrific cost of warfare.

In its essence, “One (Remastered)” is Metallica’s unyielding commentary on the inhumanity of war. By giving voice to the silent agony of a war’s forgotten victim, Metallica confronts the listeners with an unsanitized depiction of its gruesome aftermath, compelling us to question the glamorization of violence and senselessness of such conflicts.

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