Witch Hunt

Background and Commentary

“‘Witch Hunt,’ the production piece on Moving Pictures, is the most reworked and fretted-over song on the album, and introduces the three-part Fear trilogy [later a four-part series] from the vantage point of the third part. Lyrically, it is a poetic indictment of mob mentality; musically, it is Alex at his most sinister.”—Martin Popoff, Contents Under Pressure

The piece is comprised of “cinematic images of a night lit by torches held by howling mobs. Metallica’s lyrics for ‘Holier Than Thou’ is a direct steal from the song’s final verse: ‘Point the finger, slow to understand / Arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand.'”—Robert Telleria, Merely Players

“The narrative part of the song, the description of the assembling of the lynch mob, very adroitly uses the mage of darkness and firelight to reveal how evil lies beneath the surface of pious intentions, obvious to everyone but the self-deceived mob itself. The darkness of the moonless night, in the eyes of the vigilantes, is a tactical shield making possible the righteous crusade, yet the rest of us plainly see that the mob gathers in darkness because they are creatures of darkness.”—Carol Selby Price and Robert Price, Mystic Rhythms

“We went outside of Le Studio [in Quebec] and it was so cold; we were well into December by then, I think. We put a couple of mics outside. We started ranting and raving. We did a couple of tracks of that. I think we had a bottle of scotch or something with us to keep warm. So, as the contents of the bottle became less and less, the ranting and raving took on a different flavor and you got little lines of—you remember the cartoon Roger Ramjet [first aired in 1965]? What was the bad guy’s name? His gang of hoods, they always had these little things they would say whenever they were mumbling. We were in the control room after we had laid down about 12 tracks of mob—in hysterics. Every once in a while you’d hear somebody say something really stupid.” (In the Studio)—Neil in Merely Players

The piece is the third part of the four-part Fear series. (Originally it was a trilogy.)

“The idea for the trilogy was suggested by an older man telling that he didn’t think life was ruled by love, or reason, or money, or the pursuit of happiness—but by fear. This smart-but cynical guy’s position was that most people’s actions are motivated by fear of being hungry, fear of being hurt, fear of being alone, fear of being robbed, etc., and that people don’t make choices based on hope that something good will happen, but in fear that something bad will happen.

“I reacted to this the way all of us tend to react to generalities: ‘Well, I’m not like that!’ But then I started thinking about it more, watching the way people around me behaved, and I soon realized that there was something to this viewpoint, So I sketched out the three ‘theaters of fear,’ as I saw them: how fear works inside us (‘The Enemy Within’), how fear is used against us (‘The Weapon’), and how fear feeds the mob mentality (‘Witch Hunt’).

“As it happened, the last theme was easiest to deal with, so it was written first, and consequently appeared first on record, and the other two followed in reverse order for the same reason.”—Wikipedia

The fourth in the series, ‘Freeze,’ released almost 20 years after release of ‘Witch Hunt,’ looks at that moment when one chooses to fight or flee.


The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand


By americanpig11

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

e –3—-9—10—5—6—2-|

do that a couple times



followed by


For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.


“Witch Hunt” guitar cover

“Witch Hunt” bass cover

“Witch Hunt” drum cover

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~ by rvkeeper on February 5, 2011.

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