The Lexical Peculiarities of the Metallicas Lyrics

Semantic meaning of the lyrics of Metallica. Thematic Diversity and Semantic Layers of Lyrics. The songs about love and feelings. Philosophical texts. Colloquialisms and Slang Words. The analysis of vocabulary layers used in the Metallicas lyrics.

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The Lexical Peculiarities of the Metallica's Lyrics


No language can be learned without learning words. What is the study of English vocabulary? It is a definite process of expanding one's vocabulary, which involves three stages: the introduction of new words, the practice of their use in similar situations, and, finally, the possibility of their use in all areas. By other words, it is necessary not just to get acquainted with new lexical units (words), but also to illustrate their meaning in as many usage situations as possible, so that later, if necessary, the word can rise in one's memory. So the question of learning the vocabulary of English has been actual since the ancient time till present.

Great attention has been paid to the problem of learning lexis. Many linguists and scientists have worked hard at this, and, as a result, a lot of important things of lexicology have been discovered by them.

Thus, for instance, lexicology was divided into branches each of which has its own object to study:

- general lexicology (studying vocabulary in general paying no attention to that what language the words belong to);

- semantics or semasiology (studying the lexical units meaning).

- phraseology (a branch of lexicology studying groups of words having stability of the structure and figurative meaning (to put down roots, to keep abreast of the times, the black sheep, fight fire with fire, etc.). [28; 8]

Within lexicological studies vocabulary can be studied in the synchronic (at present stage of its development) or diachronic (in the context of the development process) aspects. [28; 8]

The main problems of lexicology are connected with word building, semantics, phraseology, studying vocabulary as one system. Many researches are linked with the problems of new words. [28; 9]

There are many ways of formal and informal learning vocabulary. It can be anything from reading raw words and trying to remember them to using different means such as literature, live communication, media and so on. One of quite effective ways to study the lexical content of a certain language is using of music of various genres of the country the language of which we learn.

It's interesting that using songs in the learning a language one can aim a few important targets at once, and not just to learn the words. The purpose of learning a foreign language is not only getting knowledge, skills and abilities, but also mastering different kinds of information connected with the country the language of which is learned. It includes ethnic, linguistic, cultural and aesthetic aspects. To improve the process of learning a foreign language not only consciousness of students must be influenced but also their emotional sphere. And what can influence the feelings and emotions of students more than music? Music can provide enormous help in studying a foreign language at any stage of training. Songs leads to vocabulary expansion as it helps to learn new words and phrases. In songs already known vocabulary is found in a new contextual environment and this promotes its activation. They contain proper, geographical, historical and cultural names, various events and realia of the country the language of which is studied, linguistic nuances, idioms, poetic words etc. Songs make students feel the language, help them to learn stylistic features, to digest and activate grammatical constructions, to improve their skills of comprehension, translation and pronunciation. Besides, they spirit students to compare the mother tongue translation of the songs with their foreign original texts making them think in English.

So it's up to this problem to be set in this work. The theme of the course paper is The Lexical Peculiarities of the Metallica's Lyrics. The aim of the research is to find out the lexical peculiarities of the lyrics of Metallica. To achieve the aim the following tasks were put forward:

1) to analyse the songs of Metallica and their meaning;

2) to study the features of the Metallica's lyrics;

3) to compare the features of the Metallica's songs with those of other bands of the same genre;

4) to analyse the vocabulary of the band's lyrics;

4) to determine the peculiarities of the songs of Metallica.

The object of the research is the lyrics of Metallica and its phenomenon; the subject is the analysis of semantic meanings of the Metallica's song texts and vocabulary layers used in them. The following research methods were used:

1) bibliographical;

2) analytical;

3) descriptive;

4) comparative.

The scientific novelty of the research is that for the first time the lexis has been researched on the example of the metal band Metallica in this area. The work begins with an introduction presenting the topicality of the problem set in it and the main aspects of making the research. Then two parts of the main content subdivided to units follow. The first part deals with the themes and semantic meaning of the Metallica's songs. The second one is devoted to lexical analysis of the vocabulary layers used by the band. The work is ended with conclusions. Finally, the applications and bibliography were added.

1. Semantic meaning of the lyrics of Metallica

1.1 Brief Information of Metallica

Metallica is an American heavy metal band, performing music in the styles of thrash metal and heavy metal. It had a great influence on the development of metal and it belongs to the big four thrash metal bands along with such bands as Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. More than 100 million copies of Metallica's albums have been sold worldwide, having made it one of the most commercially successful metal bands.

Creating their music Metallica got the inspiration from such bands as Motorhead and Diamond Head, and also Black Sabbath, Saxon, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Merciful Fate, Venom and other British metal bands. Also, some punk rock bands such as Misfits, Zeroption, Discharge and The Ramones influenced the music of Metallica.

Metallica is the most innovative metal band of the late XX century. It was founded in California (USA) in 1981 by Lars Ulrich (drums), a native of Denmark, and James Alan Hetfield (vocals, guitar). They met thanks to an advertisement in a music magazine. In several months the musicians along with Ron Makgavni (bass) and Lloyd Grand (guitar) recorded their own first demo called No Life Til 'Leather.

Their legendary debut album Kill 'Em All became the result of four years of existence of Metallica. In 1984, the band recorded Ride The Lightning, and in 1986, the record Master Of Puppets which confirmed the serious intentions of Metallica and their quest for glory was released. Before releasing the third record they signed a contract with Elektra Records and reissued 2 previous albums.

After releasing the album Garage Days Re-Revisited, the musicians signed a contract with Mike Blade, the producer of Guns N 'Roses. Long work in the studio finally began to bear success to the group. Great support for the popularity was brought by the touring of Metallica. A lot of awards showered onto the musicians, and this confirmed their bet on the professionalism and hard work.

In 1996 the next album Load was released and it debuted number one in charts of the United States. This CD was a turning point for the image of Metallica and redirected it to the audience of alternative rock fans. Spring 1998 began for the band with a world tour in support of their new album Reload. It included the song The Memory Remains, which they recorded along with the legend of the 60's Marianne Faithfull. The new album titled Garage Inc. was released in late autumn of 1998, it included new songs and some covers. A year later, Metallica's new live album S & M with the participation of the Symphonic Orchestra of San Francisco was recorded. The beginning of 2000 for the group was marked by birth of a song I Disappear, which was recorded for the movie Mission Impossible 2.

The process of recording new songs was very difficult and with constant quarrels and scandals. As a result of that the musicians hired a psychoanalyst and engaged in group therapy. At the end and the beginning of every day of recording the group collectively discussed the incidents. It was interesting that a camera crew worked in the studio all that time.

In summer 2003 St. Anger was completed and appeared in stores. Its music, according to the points of view of critics, was almost the most extreme and aggressive during all the career of Metallica. But opinions about the new album of the group split into two camps: some praised the musicians for such an uncompromising and courageous step, but others thought it was the end of Metallica. A year later, a documentary film titled Some Kind of Monster was released. It showed in details the agonizing process of creating the album. The film was viewed positively as it gave the opportunity to look deep into the process of music creating.

In March 12, 2007 Metallica started recording the ninth studio album titled Death Magnetic which finally was completed in September 12, 2008. [8]

1.2 Thematic Diversity and Semantic Layers of the Metallica's Lyrics

In general, lyrics of Metallica as a representative of thrash metal direction adhere to common norms of songwriting in rock and metal. The same techniques and principles, the same characters and metaphors are basically used. However the texts can't be considered as the songs about the only thing, they reflect the breadth of topics and individual styles. They contain social reflections and philosophical thoughts, subjective lyricism and protocol listening of life, mythological characters and futuristic prophecies. The poetic texts often turn to symbolism (the mythological, biblical, Christian, Gothic, romantic) and metaphors. Sometimes they use paradox, nonsense, absurdity which reveals a pre-cultural origin, rooted in the carnival element of medieval, rituals of paganism. There is logical creativity, tricky wordplay. The difference is that thrash metal tracks quite faster and harder, more aggressive, both in playing the music and singing the songs, and thematic and lexical contain. Reality is described in the state it is in fact. Often dark characters mixed with satanic, infernal, brutal images are used to give the songs a sharp critical mood, to awake resentment in the hearts of those who care of the problems the world has got today. Social texts expressing indignation of biting global problems and protest against them dominate in this kind of songs. Metallica more often than other thrash metal bands goes beyond the norms of the genre turning to various topics, for example, of psychological or philosophical nature. In the songs there are fantastic stories, observing human psychology, calls for life, bitter feelings for the fate of mankind etc. Let us consider the main thematic areas, semantic layers and metaphor usage of Metallica's lyrics and give specific examples of songs. [18; 284]

Metal anthems are the songs having salient metal plaque that:

- tell about the life and activity of musicians:

Late at night all systems go

You have come to see the show

The show is through, the metal is gone,

It is time to hit the road.

Another town. Another gig.

Again we will explode.

Hotel rooms and motorways.

Life out here is raw.

But we will never stop,

We will never quit

Cause we are Metallica.


- tell about the life of their fans and of metalheads at all, and their feelings on the show:


It's how I live my life.

I can't take it any other way.


The sign of living fast


We got the metal madness

When our fans start screaming

It's right, well, alright.

(Hit the Lights)

Adrenaline starts to flow.

You're thrashing all around

Bang your head against the stage

Heads are bobbing all around,

It is hot as hell tonight.


- call people to join the society of metalheads in so-called invading the world:

The Horsemen are drawing nearer.

On the leather steeds they ride

With the four Horsemen ride

Or choose your fate and die.

(The Four Horsemen)

Join or be conquered

The metallization of your inner soul

Twisting and turning

Leather and metal are our uniforms

Protecting what we are.

Joining together to take on the world

With our heavy metal.

Spreading the message to everyone here

Come let yourself go.

On through the mist and the madness

We are trying to get the message to you.

(Metal Militia)

The leather armies have prevailed.

The Phantom Lord has never failed.

Smoke is lifting from the ground

The rising volume metal sound

Crushing metal strikes

On this frightening night

Fall onto your knees

For the Phantom Lord.

(Phantom Lord)

- call to be individual and free, and do what you please living in keeping with no one's guidance taking everything from this life for only once people live here:

Those people who tell you not to take chances

They are all missing on what life is about.

You only live once so take hold of the chance,

Don't end up like others the same song and dance.


Horsemen, armies, warriors, invaders, monsters, headbangers These metaphors are often used to determine metalheads. It can be explained by their adhering to so-called cult of freedom, power and unity (just like in the ancient time of warriors and knights), being fond of bikes (motorcycles symbolize horses), preferences in dressing (wearing leather clothes, spikes, chains) and behavior (head banging) etc. As usual such words are found with adjectives and other words and constructions having clearly seen metal plaque: leather armies, leather steeds (here leather saddles are meant), iron horses, metal warriors etc. Most of songs of the first Metallica's album Kill `Em All belong to this section. But from the next one to their latest release such texts appear quite seldom. [27; 99]

Social texts. They expose human vices such as greed, stupidity, spite, cruelty, hatred, hypocrisy, vileness, unreliability and alike, the weakness of human society and social phenomena such as warfare, power, injustice, money, corruption, religion, gambling, violence, isolation, alienation, addiction, suicide, murder etc. Three consecutive albums (Ride the Lightning - 1984, Master Of Puppets - 1986 and And Justice For All - 1988) kind of form a trilogy ruthlessly detecting the human sores.

In the song And Justice For All the author tried to expose intolerable injustice of the world court system touching the problems of money and corruption. The idea of it was taken from the film with the same title released in 1979. The main character (Al Pacino) - the lawyer - finally realizes how rotten justice system is, for you can bribe anyone. Innocent people are sentenced to death and criminals released. It turns out that money has become more important than justice.

Halls of justice painted green.

Money talking

Justice is lost.

Justice is raped.

Justice is gone

Halls of justice painted green color or of dollars! Money talking! Quite interesting and very clear metaphors! At the end of the song we can find other ones. There justice is compared with a woman raped by killers of truth (or truth assassins), and the red tape of documents (a metaphor for bureaucracy) silence those who are trying to go against a corrupt system in which not the blame of a person is put to the scales, and his money.

Lady Justice has been raped

By truth assassin.

Rolls of red tape seal your lips

Their money tips her scales again

Just what is truth? I cannot tell,

Cannot feel.

The words and justice for all are known to every American as this is the end of their national oath. Unfortunately, these words have been just an empty phrase since then till now. [23]

Ride the Lightning is one more song touching the problem of injustice.

The hero of the song is a blameless man sentenced to riding the lightning (that's to say, sentenced to death by electrocution). And here he is sitting and waiting with horror for the switch lowered and the current rushed into his brain, but trying not to lose consciousness.

Death in the air.

Strapped in the electric chair

Wait for the sign

To flick the switch of death

Consciousness my only friend.

My fingers grip with fear.

What I am doing here?

The time goes so slowlyHe wants everything over right now if it realBut he wakes up in a cold sweat realizing that it has been just a nightmare. It is clear that all reasonable people are interested in the problem of the death penalty, but there is a really strong argument against it here: an innocent man can be executed. [22]

Another actual thing touched in Metallica's songtexts is warfare. The author showed the nonsense of war and its bitter consequences. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a thing, written under the influence of the book of Hemingway describing the Spanish Civil War. The sense of the song is the senselessness of war. It tells the story about an episode from the book: one cold morning five soldiers defending the hill were killed by an attack from the air. The soldiers wondered why they must do it For a hill men would kill. Why? In the second verse it is told basically about one of the unnamed soldiers and this makes the story more impressive.

Take a look to the sky just before you die,

It is the last time you will.

Blackened roar, massive roar fills the crumbling sky,

Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry,

Stranger now are his eyes to this mystery,

He hears the silence so loud.

Crack of dawn, all is gone except the will to be;

Now they will see what will be

The text is excellent, and many phrases became idioms. For example, Stranger now are his eyes to this mystery. The mystery for him has now become even more confusing, and the mystery means the really biting question: What are we fighting for? Why? Will it ever be over?

The war is also condemned in Disposable Heroes. The name of this song about the senselessness of war is full of bitter irony - Disposable Heroes, which after being used one time are thrown away. The hero of the song is a simple soldier, who was forced to fight, to follow without hesitation orders to kill until he falls dead. Of course, he could receive medals and badges, acquire fame, but it wouldn't solve the problem: the war is hell, and no winners ever can be there. And he realized it, he was going to die for sure.

Why, am I dying?..

Hell! Hell is here!

From the last verse we learn that the young soldier (who was only 21) did not have time to do anything in his life, and now he was completely alone and clutching a rifle waited for his death.

Looking back I realize nothing have I done.

Left to die with only friend.

Alone, I clench my gun.

This is not just a single story about one poor soldier but a metaphor for those who are forced or attracted by fame and glory to fight in war devoting the best years of their lives to horrible hell and realizing it some time later but as usual when it's to late and there's no more turning back. War is hell whatever people fight for! [27; 88]

The next quite important theme is addiction. In Master of Puppets Hatfield sings on behalf of a Lord that will inevitably lead his ward to death. It symbolizes drugs (heroin or cocaine) which became for the hero of the song the most important and desired thing in his life. So he even takes it instead of breakfast and can do nothing with himself. The Lord is pulling the strings of his puppet dragging him to death, calling him:

Come crawling faster!

Obey your Master!

At last the man realizes that his master fools him causing harm but he can't stop now.

Master, Master, where's the dreams that I've been after?

Master, Master, you promised only lies!

Laughter, laughter, all I hear or see is laughter.

Laughter, laughter, laughing at my cries

Never ending maze, drift on numbered days

In another song an addict is compared with a man who is trapped under ice and frozen so he can neither scream nor move there, and there's no one to help.

I don't know how to live trough this hell.

Woken up, I'm still locked in this shell.

Frozen soul, frozen down to the core.

Break the ice, I can't take anymore

Eyes of glass stare directly at death

No release from my cryonic state.

How accurately such a metaphor reflects the bitter feelings and helplessness of a junkie! [29]

These are not the only problems of which Metallica writes. We can also find texts of premonition of nuclear apocalypse, when everything will be destroyed by fire as people are accustomed to treat others the same way they are treated, and it also applies to wars, the results of which will be disastrous for everyone, because we ourselves are bringing Armageddon. (Fight Fire With Fire); of the problem of environmental pollution and catastrophe, comparing the human affairs with the effect of nicotine which doesn't let breathe and surely fetches to death, our planet is dying because of us (Blackened); of the problem connected with up-bringing (Prince Charming, Dyer's Eve); of the hypocrisy of existing religion leaders which fool people having turned faith to profitable business (Leper Messiah, The God That Failed). Such songs are filled with compassion and reproach at the same time and contain a lot of impressive metaphors making us reflect of the illnesses of our world for that to defend ourselves somehow and never have our own life story of a disposable hero, a man trapped under ice, a puppet of a cruel merciless master or any other not made-up character having got in the hells today's life reality attracts to. [22]

Personal lyrics. These songs are about the inner world of a lyrical hero, of his frustration, loneliness, alienation. Here I do not include songs about love, which themselves form a separate section. And without them, personal texts play a significant role in the repertoire of Metallica. After the album trilogy most of Metallica's songs belong to this category. Here the lyrical hero recalls a typical Byronic one we know from literature, a man unpleased and tired with everything he sees around, a lonely rebel rising against the whole world, a romantic person ever suffering from the inner pain and searching for something better. Let's give some examples.

In the song Escape the text has got two semantic layers. It is a story about a man who escaped from prison. At the same time we can see the metaphor in this. The hero says that he himself knows how to live and is not going to follow anyone's points or orders. He considers the world with stupid habits and patterns false. So he wants to run away from it. These lines express his feelings:

Feel no pain, but my life ain't easy

I'll fight until the end.

To escape from the true false world

No need to hear things that they say.

Life is for my own, to live my own way

Don't tell me what to do,

I don't care now, 'cause I'm on my side.

The song touches the problem of discrimination of an individual and his rights describing the feelings of its victims who also can be considered as the same Byronic heroes who are discriminated in fact or just seem to be discriminated because of their specific views to the world. [17; 134]

Another personal song is The Unforgiven which tells the life story of a young man who from birth were trying to stand against the stronger doing his best for not to lose his individuality and having sworn that he is never going to be forced to act against his will and himself.

With time the child draws in

This whipping boy done wrong.

Deprived of all his thoughts

The young man struggles on and on, he's known

A vow unto his own

That never from this day

His will they'll take away

Never shined through in what I've shown,

Never free,

Never me, So I dub thee unforgiven.

In the Middle Ages the verb dub meant to call by a distinctive title, epithet or nickname. Thus unforgiven becomes a kind of title for those who are responsible for his being not free ant not himself. The hero gets older living a constant struggle with other people, but can not conquer.

Throughout his life the same,

He's battled constantly,

This fight he cannot win.

Tired, he's going to die, and it turns out that the narrator and the protagonist is the same person:

A tired man they see no longer cares,

The old man then prepares

To die regretfully.

That old man here is me.

Apparently, Hatfield just tried to look at his own life from the outside. [23]

Love lyrics - the songs about love and feelings connected with it. Mostly there are not a lot of such songs in the repertoire of Metallica. But if they are, as usual such lyrics have got a non-trivial view to the problem.

Unforgiven II is a second version or kind of continuation of the theme analyzed above. But it turned out to be more lyrical as it is devoted to relationship between a man and a woman. This is a story of love overcoming loneliness, the doubts as for mutuality and the desire to share all difficulties with the loved one. In the title there is a wordplay which becomes clear when we look at the refrain. The hero probably supposes that the woman he loves grew up in the same society he did, and perhaps together they can overcome all difficulties and be happy. He waits for her, still he wanders if she is not one of those whom he will never forgive:

Behind the door, should I open it for you?

Could you be there, 'cause I'm the one who waits for you

Or are you unforgiven too?

There is an interesting nuance worth being mentioned in the following lines:

The door is locked now, but it's open if you're true.

If you can understand the me, then I can understand the you.

Translating this extract word by word we can see that there must be no article in front of pronouns which in general seems to be something unusual as for English grammar. But why the definite article is used here? If there were no article, the phrase would mean understanding at some point in time, but in this case it means understanding in a more global sense: understanding the essence of a person by your side, his character, habits, foundations etc. It means that the action (understanding) is not a short duration. [17; 183]

Philosophical texts. They set out the author's vision of the world, thoughts about human's essence, meaning of life and death, and other important mysteries. Such songs can contain various bright and unusual metaphors and symbols.

The song Sad but True is based on a film The Magic with Anthony Hopkins released in 1978, in which the hero, a puppeteer, gradually discovers that the doll to which he speaks has a mind and tries to manage him. The song tells about the inner ego of a man, the evil principle which says it is the only one who cares for a person, and makes a good principle to do various obscene things. But at the end the evil ego forces it to pay for all that's done and says that it now does not care what will happen to the good ego. It says,

You're my mask.

You're the one who's blamed

Do my work.

Do my dirty work, scapegoat

Do my deeds

For you're the one who's shamed.

In principle, the text doesn't say explicitly that these two opposite principles are two halves of the human ego, but at the end of the song everything's getting clear. I'm you! says Hatfield. Thus the author touches the philosophical question of right and wrong. [17; 59]

Some other songs belonging to this category are: Of Wolf and Man showing how people and animals are alike; Slither containing a metaphor presenting our life as jungles where a lot of poison snakes crawl, where the sun can make you blind and where there are no heroes anymore; Bad Seed comparing the world with an apple having bit which people may choke so they should be extremely careful. [17; 76]

Mystic songs are the lyrics using various mythical and fantastic characters such as Devil, demons, some monsters etc. As usual these characters are metaphoric or used as a warning, not a vocation.

In the Enter Sandman Hatfield, playing the role of the father, talks to his son, who does not want to fall asleep, because he constantly have nightmares. (Sand man is a hero of western folklore, who sprinkles sand to the eyes of people so that they have dreams - either nice or bad ones.) He says the prayer that American children recite before going to sleep, and the boy repeats it after him. Then he tries to convince his son that his nightmares do not exist in fact, they are just the creatures of his imagination.

Hush, little baby, don't say a word.

And never mind that noise you heard.

It's just the beast under your bed,

In your closet, in your head.

So the sandman symbolizes human inner fear often turning a simple thing into a horrible monster daily and nightly preying on its creator's mind. The author apparently calls people not to make a mountain out of a molehill believing that a lot of human problems are just made-up by themselves. But this, of course, has no relation to global world ones.

Jump in the Fire is another example of mystic songs. Here the devil talks to people welcoming them to hell:

So come on,

Jump in the fire!

Having analyzed the verses we see that the purpose of the song is not to call people to do something wrong or to join the devil in his dirty affairs but to keep them from doing this, making them think of the true state of things. The devil watches people killing each other. He is very happy because he believes that they will be in hell any way - early or late, voluntarily or forcibly. He says,

Living your life as me, I am you, you see,

There is part of me in everyone,

So reach down, grab my hand, walk with me through the land,

Come home where you belong.

Thus, the devil tempting all the earth is not a real person here but just a metaphor for evil and madness or evil principle living in every man in the world. By and by the evil grows and people no way differ from the devil any more. [17; 38]

So we've analyzed the main thematic areas of the song texts of Metallica. Sure, they are too seldom used in the raw. They usually merge together illustrating and complementing each other, forming the only complete system.

2. The analysis of vocabulary layers used in the Metallica's lyrics

2.1 Colloquialisms and Slang Words and Expressions

In general colloquial words and expressions are used in informal situations. They can be heard in the family circle, in conversations with relatives, friends, etc. They are also widely used in poetry and lyrics.

Colloquialism is a unit of the informal vocabulary used by a majority of the population of all age groups. [6; 71]

Slang is a unit employed at present stage of development of language, whose meanings were metaphorically transferred. This layer of vocabulary used in informal speech. [6; 77]

The difference between slang and colloquialism is that slang units are basically metaphors with humorous, rude, sarcastic or cynical color. Slang lexical units are highly emotional, evaluative and expressive. [28; 46]

Looking through the song texts of Metallica we can observe using of such colloquial and slang words and expressions as:

- fan (devotee), gig (concert) thing (cause, job), em (them), thru (through), cause (because), til (until), etc.;

- ain't (isn't, aren't, haven't, hasn't), gonna, gotta, wanna, to quit, to break free, to get over with, to break away, to be through with, to deal out, to end up, to hit the road, to hit the lights, to ride the lightning, etc.;

- interjections well, alright, yeah, why?, damn it!, come on!, here we go!, etc.

Colloquial and slang units are used both to simplify the speech and make it understandable for people of any social grade, and to demonstrate the independence, to break the established rules of speech, to differ someone from others others, as well as to demonstrate one's belonging to particular social group. Thus, as hard music lovers worship the independence and liberty, such lexical units are so widely used in Metallica's song texts.

2.2 The Vulgarisms

A vulgarism, also called scurrility, is a colloquialism of an unpleasant action or unrefined character, which substitutes a coarse, indecorous word where the context might lead the reader to expect a more refined expression. Vulgarisms are assumed to be associated with low and coarse motivations that were stereotypically supposed to be naturally endemic to the meaner classes, who were not moved by higher motives like fame for posterity and honor among peers - motives that were alleged to move the literate classes. [2; 159]

According to Halperin the layer of vulgar vocabulary includes the following lexical units:

- strong expressions and curse words;

- indecent words. [28; 16]

As thrash metal is a high speed and aggressive direction of music with social critical texts, Metallica uses vulgarisms to express strong emotions such as irritation, anger, rage, hatred, indignation, etc. Nevertheless, it does it not so often as other bands of the same direction, and there are not many, but a few words or phrases repeated from time to time. For instance: ass, hell, damn, bloody, crap, fuck, fucking and some others.

2.3 Poetic Words

Poetic words demonstrate maximum aesthetic value and are used mostly in poetry and fiction. During the previous centuries of English poetry there was a tendency to use words and expressions that are different from those used in everyday communications or prose. Semantic structure of a given group of words are endowed with sublime connotations that immediately helps to distinguish them from other lexical items. [9; 66]

There are the following subgroups of poetic words:

- actual poetic words;

- obsolete words and archaisms;

- dialect words;

- rare words of French and Latin origin. [9; 69]

Poetic words perform a decorative function. They are used in poetry, but also sometimes can be found in prose, religious or newspaper texts.

As song texts should be considered as poems, we can make a conclusion that they contain poetic words as well. As for Metallica concretely, the most important place in its lyrics is taken by archaisms. Here are some of them: steed, harlot, ya, thee, behold, thou, thy and others. [7; 165]

2.4 Synonymy

Synonyms are two or more words from one language belonging to the same part of speech and possessing more or less the same denotative meaning, which can replace each other at least in some contexts, for example, to look - to stare, to glare, to gaze, to glance, to peep, to peer. The process of substitution takes place without much change in the semantic structure of words, but synonyms differ by morphemic composition, phonemic shape, shades of meaning, connotation, style, usage, valency and idiomatic use.

Synonyms are the most important expressive means of language. Their main function is to reflect any phenomenon in different aspects, shades and variations.

There is the cassification of synonyms by Vinogradov which includes three types:

1) ideographic, which he defined as words that convey a single concept, but different shades of meaning (to look - to peer);

2) stylistic, which differ in their stylistic characteristics (person - buddy);

3) absolute (concurring in shades of meaning and stylistic characteristics: gift - present). [14; 119]

However, some linguists believe that this classification is controversial. For example, some researchers (G.B. Antrushina, O.V. Afanasiev, N.N. Morozov) suggest that absolute synonyms are rare and it's just a temporary phenomenon in the language. Language system, as a result of constant development, removes the absolute synonyms in the language, thus developing difference characteristics of synonyms. [28; 52]

Synonyms which can be found in the lyrics of Metallica:

The noun synonyms:

power - might - force - potency - energy;

madness - lunacy - stupidity - insanity;

way - road - motorway - path;

war - fight - struggle - battle - strife;

smoke - mist - fog;

attack - strike;

soldier - warrior;

fire - flame;

pain - agony.

The adjective synonyms:

insane - mad - crazy;

hard - heavy - tough;

horrid - terrible - scary - frightening.

The verb synonyms:

to walk - to wander - to roam;

to go away - to leave - to disappear - to fade away;

to become - to turn;

to live - to dwell - to exist;

to eat - to devour;

to crush - to destroy - to smash - to terminate;

to gather - to summon - to call;

to search for - to look for - to seek for;

to bow - to fall onto someone's knees;

to chime - to toll.

The usage of synonyms in the song texts shows how rich the language of the author is, how good he knows it. James Hatfield, the vocalist and the author of almost all the songs of American band Metallica knows English well as it is his mother tongue. Besides, he is a great poet. That's why his songs are just smothered in various synonyms both within some particular song, and through all the things by him.


Thus, by this research work the attempt of studying lexis on the example of rock music, particularly the American band Metallica, was made. The semantic and vocabulary layers were researched. Different sources were observed, analyzed and compared. Having studied the material we get to the following conclusions.

The lyrics of Metallica not just express the views, feelings and way of living of rock music enthusiasts but also refer to various quite interesting and important things troubling today's society, and the wide thematic diversity make it differ from other bands. Their song texts can be divided conditionally into the following groups:

1) metal anthems;

2) social texts;

3) personal lyrics;

4) love lyrics;

5) philosophical texts;

6) mystic songs.

These themes are too seldom used in the raw. They usually merge together illustrating and complementing each other, forming the only complete system.

The lyrics contain social reflections and philosophical thoughts, subjective lyricism and protocol listening of life, mythological characters and futuristic prophecies. The poetic texts often turn to symbolism (the mythological, biblical, Christian, Gothic, romantic) and metaphors, paradox, nonsense, absurdity. Often dark characters mixed with satanic, infernal, brutal images are used to give the songs a sharp critical mood, to awake resentment in the hearts of those who care of the problems the world has got today.

The Metallica's songs have to be set in one row with poetry, they have almost the same peculiarities and features, purposes and reasons, ways of achieving the aims which are set before them. The words are clear, not complicated. The following vocabulary layers were used predominantly.

1) colloquialisms;

2) slang;

3) vulgarisms;

4) poetic words;

5) common words.

The Metallica's lyrics contain a lot of synonyms giving them esthetic colors and showing how rich the language of the author is; antonyms making a contrast of some things clearer and brightlier or just used as simple units of common vocabulary necessary for communication, idioms and phraseology and other lexical units.

By the research work the practical profit of studying English using music were shown. Songs leads to vocabulary expansion as it helps to learn new words and phrases. In songs already known vocabulary is found in a new contextual environment and this promotes its activation. They contain proper, geographical, historical and cultural names, various events and realia of the country the language of which is studied, linguistic nuances, idioms, poetic words etc. They give information connected with the country the language of which is learned including ethnic, linguistic, cultural and aesthetic aspects. Songs influence emotional sphere, make students feel the language, help them to learn stylistic features, to digest and activate grammatical constructions, to improve their skills of comprehension, translation and pronunciation. Besides, they spirit students to compare the mother tongue translation of the songs with their foreign original texts making them think in English.

Using music and lyrics in learning English is a very effective informal way. Hence, I believe it would be sensible to include some music material to the main program of foreign literature or English at schools or just found a new subject for learning and analyzing lyrics of bands and single singers of different music styles, including hard music directions, not just in the sphere of lexis but also in other branches of linguistic science.


metallica lyrics lexical song

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