You can always trust the Duffer Brothers to highlight the treasures of the ’80s on their Netflix series Stranger Things from technology, toys, and especially the music by making Kate Bush’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill” number one on streaming charts. With volume two of season four released over the Fourth of July weekend, the duo tapped into another music institution in rock legends Metallica and their use of one of their biggest hits “Master of Puppets” off the album of the same name. The series’ music supervisor Nora Felder spoke with Variety about securing the rights of the song from the band. This will be your spoilers warning going forward.
During team Hawkins’ plan to take down the Vecna, Eddie (Joseph Quinn) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) went to the Upside-Down to act as bait for the bat force surrounding the Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) from the port at Eddie’s trailer. Robin (Maya Hawke), Steve (Joe Keery), and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) would infiltrate the Creel House in the Upside-Down to try to take down the Vecna physically with Molotov cocktails and Nancy’s shotgun. Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) try to protect Max (Sadie Sink) from becoming the Vecna’s final victim. To draw the bats away, Eddie and Dustin set up music equipment on top of Eddie’s trailer as he starts to shred the original eight-minute song.
“It was another one of those ‘it has to be this song,’ moments,” Felder said. “This part of the story was anticipated to be a pivotal and especially hair-raising scene in which Eddie heroically stood tall for the fight of his life. I believe the Duffer Brothers felt that playing ‘Master of Puppets’ throughout the extended scene was the clear choice. No other song was discussed further, and we jumped in to clear it straight away. In some ways, aligns with Eddie’s seemingly arrogant and edgy in-your-face public persona.”
According to Metallica frontman James Hetfield, “Master of Puppets” is about drugs and how addiction controls people. Felder admitted much of it was about Eddie taking his life back after being misunderstood and framed for the murder of Chrissy (Grace Van Dien), the Vecna’s first victim of the season. “The Talisman-like qualities of Eddie’s guitar and punk-metal music help him reconnect to his closely-guarded traits of love, care, and courage,” she notes there are similarities between Vecna and the drugs referenced in “Master of Puppets.” “They share similarities in that they each have life-destroying powers that rob people of their essential personal powers. The aggressive up-tempo metal sound belies its cautionary psychological and socially conscious lyrics, which are rooted in a sensitive concern for others. The sensitive side that we’ve seen in Eddie, which is clearly evident in the scene when he meets up with Chrissy, is similarly masked and concealed by Eddie’s abrasive public image.”
Felder recalled getting the clearance from the band. “I got in touch with Metallica’s management office and carefully went over the scene and what the intent would be. I knew the clearance would be taken seriously as we had used one of their songs (‘The Four Horseman’) in season 2 and had learned at that time that they were fans of the show. ‘Master of Puppets’ is a pretty significant song in their catalog, and I think it’s considered a favorite in their live shows. I wanted to be respectful in making sure that Metallica fully understood what context the song was being used in, plus how integral it was to the scene and for this exciting new character, Eddie Munson, who no one had met yet in previous seasons.” After the band signed off, she confirmed it was Quinn who actually performed on set. “Yes, Joseph did take time to learn the guitar riff and was actually playing along to a guide track. Everyone thought he did a great job.”