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'We’re looking forward to spreading this new lust for life we have,’ he told Rolling Stone, doing his best to sound confident. ‘There’s a new strength in Metallica that’s never been there before. There are still fearful parts, too. But I’m pretty well set up. And I’m really proud of the new music. I think we did something where the pedal does not let up.’

Could you please explain the meaning of this idiom?

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    It might not be an idiom. He might be referring to the pedal of the kick drum. But it is difficult to say without more context.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jun 16 at 19:07

3 Answers 3

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It's a heavy metal music context. He's alluding to pedal to the metal (press the accelerator pedal hard down on the metal floor of the car) - full belt, thrashing it.

It reminds me of Spinal Tap with the amp that goes to volume 11 - full volume, full pace, full bore, flat out.

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  • Thanks, and to LET UP A PEDAL means to stop accelerating? Commented Jun 16 at 20:05
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    In this context, that's what he means. But don't bother learning it, and certainly don't make any attempt to use it yourself! The only thing you might usefully learn here is the actual idiom I linked to - [put the] pedal to the metal. In all the 10s of millions of books indexed by Google, the only instance of the sequence "the pedal does not let up" is the text you're asking about! Commented Jun 16 at 20:11
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    @VladVintskevich - The meaning is kind of fuzzy. Do not expect to see masterful, grammar-book-perfect English prose in what a guy in Metallica says to a music journalist. Commented Jun 16 at 21:44
  • @VladVintskevich You have the correct idea, but the phrasing "let up a pedal" is not common/idiomatic. In American English a more idiomatic way to say that would be "let up on the gas" or "ease up on the gas"; both of which mean to reduce pressure on the accelerator pedal (and thus reduce the rate of gasoline flowing to the engine).
    – DotCounter
    Commented Jun 17 at 16:04
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    @DotCounter Note, it doesn't say "let up a pedal" (pedal is the object); it says "the pedal doesn't let up" (pedal is subject) Commented Jun 17 at 19:15
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I think the most likely explanation is that Hetfield deliberately used poor phrasing to create a short, punchy sentence.

Hetfield is drawing from the common idiom 'pedal to the metal', which as @FumbleFingers says is a reference to pushing the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor and figuratively going all out.

To 'let up' means to relent (and this is reinforced here because you literally let up an accelerator pedal). He should have said that the band doesn't let up; this is a fairly common type of mistake, where the grammar is fine and the sentence looks logical at first glance but the subjects are mixed up. However, there's no nice way of rephrasing this that I can see; you either have to change the metaphor or make the sentence much longer and more complex.

I think this is the most likely explanation, but @stangdon's comment that he might be referring to the pedal of the kick drum and literally saying that the drum beat is unrelenting is possible. I'd love to see an answer or comment from a major Metallica fan about whether that or another music-based explanation is plausible.

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    Electric guitars also have pedals that control the amplifier.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 17 at 14:41
  • "Poor phrasing"/"mistake"? It's just a metaphor, and it's an idiomatically common one, in other contexts as well as music (business, etc.) Meanwhile, bringing literal drum or guitar pedals in just confuses the OP; there is zero chance that the passage discusses them. (For one thing, a kick pedal that "doesn't let up" would be a very limited musical usefulness!) Commented Jun 17 at 19:17
  • @Andy Bonner 'Pedal to the metal' and 'let up' are commonly used; mashing them together into 'the pedal does not let up' is certainly not common, and as I said makes the pedal the active party when it logically should be the one being let up. And this is a common type of mistake; it's very easy to mix up the subject and object in a sentence, especially if you're doing something complex like mixing metaphors. I'd really like to hear a fuller explanation of why you think there's zero chance Hetfield was referring to something musical in that sentence.
    – aantia
    Commented Jun 18 at 8:41
  • @aantia Why it's likely not a literal musical pedal: The context, first of all. All other sentences in that paragraph are talking about the band's attitude and levels of confidence and assertiveness. It would be odd to say "We're strong, we're vivacious, we're prepared, we're accomplished, and we used a lot of hi-hat." Another is that, if a literal pedal (kick, hi-hat, or guitar effect) were intended, the context doesn't identify which one and, unlike the metaphorical car pedal, it would need to. And of course the biggest is that it would be an odd way of talking about these musical pedals... Commented Jun 18 at 14:33
  • ... If you depress a kick drum pedal and don't let up, you get a single kick. If you do the same for the hi-hat, you can play the closed hi-hat all day, but that would be musically odd (and not exactly useful to Metallica's sound). Most guitar effects pedals are switches; I think they take effect as soon as they're depressed, but keeping it depressed would have no different effect than releasing the switch. Variable pedals like wah are normally manipulated and not simply left at one position. A volume pedal could make sense, but that's about the only one, and again it's not understood as... Commented Jun 18 at 14:37
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Consider the following:

"We put the pedal to the metal and we never let up off the gas."

The above sentence combines two car-related idioms: "put the pedal to the metal", and "let up off the gas".

put the pedal to the metal - describes pushing a car's accelerator pedal as far as it will go (i.e. all the way to the metal floors - which is also were the equivalent "floor it" idiom comes from). This can typically be used to mean "go fast" or "go as fast as possible" or "go as intensely as possible".

let up off the gas - describes reducing the pressure held to a car's accelerator pedal (which implies reducing the acceleration and/or speed of the car). This will typically be used to mean "slow down".

Combined, the two idioms play off the same concept and strengthen one another:

"We (go as fast as possible) and (we never slow down)."


Back to the quotation:

"...I think we did something where the pedal does not let up."

In the article you quoted the speaker does not say either idiom outright, but both are implied.

However, as this is an article about the band Metallica putting out new music, we can assume that this sentence is treating the combined-idiom as a metaphor.

They are playing music with intensity, and that intensity does not diminish.

Or, to say things more idiomatically:

"...I think we (made) something where (we put the pedal to the metal and we never let up)."

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