"Creeping Death" is a song by Metallica and is the seventh track on their album Ride the Lightning. It is written from the point of view of the Plague of the Firstborn (Ex. 12. 29), that is, the Destroyer. The song is 6 minutes and 36 seconds long. "Creeping Death" is also one of Metallica's most frequently played songs, and stands as a classic example of the band's "old school" style. The middle section, based around ominous chants of "Die!" set to a perilous phrygian-mode chord progression, is a fan participation staple during Metallica shows.
An early version of the song is circulating but the particular recording does not seem to appear on the band's No Life 'Til Leather demo tape. It was released as a single in 1984 on the Music for Nations label in the UK and France. The b-sides were the cover songs "Am I Evil?" (originally by Diamond Head) and "Blitzkrieg" (originally by Blitzkrieg). Together these covers were known as Garage Days Revisited, which set the stage for Metallica's next cover record, the Garage Days Re-Revisited EP.
Throughout the song there is made mention of more of the ten plagues. In the second verse, four of the ten plagues are mentioned:
Blood, Running red and strong, down the Nile (The first of the ten, water turned to blood)
Plague (This line might refer to the 5th plague, disease of livestock)
Darkness three days long, (The ninth of the ten, the sun was blocked for three days)
hail to fire (The seventh of the ten, burning hail fell from the sky).
The title comes from when the band was watching the Charlton Heston film The Ten Commandments which depicts Moses and The Exodus. During the part where the Angel of Death (a black ground fog) is sent to take the first born children, bassist Cliff Burton stated "Whoa, that's like creeping death!" to which guitarist James Hetfield replied "Whoa, man, that's fucking poetry!"
You can also hear Cliff Burton roaring the backing vocals during the third chorus. When Jason Newsted was in the band, he often sang it alone in live performances.
Creeping Death has been covered by many bands, including Drowning Pool & by Machine Head on several occasions. At the second Desert Rock Festival in Dubai, heavy metal giants Sepultura joined in Machine Head to perform a cover of Creeping Death as the last song to end the concert. Bullet for My Valentine also performed a live cover of the song during their UK tour in January 2007.