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The Meaning Behind The Song: Only by Anthrax

The Meaning Behind The Song: Only by Anthrax

Thrash metal band Anthrax’s “Only” is a song from their critically acclaimed fifth studio album ‘Persistence of Time’ that was released in 1990. The track, composed by guitarist Scott Ian, speaks of issues relating to the state of society, how humans function, and the dark side that tends to lurk behind a person’s persona. In this article, we will look at the meaning behind the song ‘Only’ by Anthrax in detail.

Table of Contents

Verse 1: Clearly I remember, picking on the boy / Seemed a harmless little fuck, but we unleashed a lion

The song’s first verse sets the tone with lyrics that speak of an incident from a person’s childhood where they bullied someone for no apparent cause. Though the bullying seemed like a harmless act at the time, it unleashed the recipient’s inner rage, and the person became an uncontrollable beast.

The verse highlights how people can be pushed to the edge, leading to disastrous consequences.

Chorus: There is no one to blame but yourself, only you can prevent forest fires

The chorus of the song ‘Only’ stresses personal responsibility and accountability for one’s actions. It emphasizes that no one else is responsible for your actions but yourself. The mention of preventing forest fires uses this metaphor to convey that you must take steps to control what is in your power.

The chorus is a reminder that every individual must take responsibility for the greater good, and we must look at ways we can contribute positively to society.

Verse 2: Only the strong survive, no one to save my life / Only the strong survive, c’mon, let me see you try

The song’s second verse speaks of our primal instincts where only those who are the strongest and fittest will survive. The lyrics advocate taking ownership of one’s life and not relying on others for help.

The strong survive emphasizes the fact that one must strive to be strong, mentally and physically, to overcome any difficulties. It also emphasizes that one must be willing to fight and refuse to give up when the going gets tough.

Verse 3: What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger / I am not a stranger to the danger, I’m aware of what could happen

The third verse speaks about how challenges and obstacles must be perceived as opportunities for growth. It speaks of adversity’s potential to strengthen and build character. Scott Ian, in an interview, said of the song, “The whole premise is that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… you go through something really traumatic, people and animals adapt to their environment to get through.”

It highlights that danger is ever-present, and one must be aware of the potential hazards inherent to life.

Verse 4: I’m not a preachy kind of guy, so listen ’cause I’ll tell you why / I’m hard on the surface, soft on the inside / I’m a seed sown inside your head, I’m a glass that’s broken, been shattered to splinters

The fourth and final verse acknowledges the speaker’s intensity and the impression people have of them. The verse highlights the speaker’s down-to-earth nature and that they are not one to preach about anything.

The lyrics mention the speaker being a “seed sown inside your head,” implying that the message conveyed in the song is thought-provoking. The metaphor of the glass shattered to splinters conveys how the singer’s barrier has been broken down, revealing their vulnerability.

FAQs about the song ‘Only’ by Anthrax

Q: Who wrote the song ‘Only’, and what was the inspiration?

Scott Ian, one of the guitarists and songwriter of Anthrax, wrote the lyrics while Charlie Benante, the drummer of the band, came up with the drum patterns. The song’s lyrics were inspired by a story told to Ian by a friend. The friend had been bullied as a child and eventually snapped, becoming violent and aggressive.

Q: What is the meaning of the line – “Only the strong survive”?

The line “Only the strong survive” speaks to the idea that people must possess inner strength to overcome obstacles and challenges. This strength relates not only to physical fitness but also to emotional resilience, endurance, and perseverance.

Q: What was the critical reception to Anthrax’s ‘Only’?

The song ‘Only’ was well received by critics, who praised its message, musicianship, and the band’s superb performance. It is considered one of the highlights of the Persistence of Time album.

Q: What is the metaphor behind the line – “I’m a seed sown inside your head”?

The metaphor of “I’m a seed sown inside your head” implies that the message conveyed in the song is hard-hitting and thought-provoking, which means the lyrics will be remembered for a long time.

Q: What is the significance of “Prevent Forest Fires” in the song’s chorus?

The mention of preventing forest fires in the song’s chorus is a metaphor for personal responsibility. It implies that taking responsibility for one’s actions is just as important as preventing forest fires.

Q: Is the song ‘Only’ an anti-bullying anthem?

Though ‘Only’ references bullying, it is not intended to be an anti-bullying anthem. The song’s primary message is that every person must take responsibility for their actions and strive to be strong enough to overcome challenges.

Q: Is ‘Only’ an ode to rite of passage?

The song ‘Only’ is not an ode to rite of passage. It is an inspirational and motivational song with a personal responsibility theme.

Q: What does the song’s title ‘Only’ signify?

The song’s title ‘Only’ relates to the message of personal responsibility conveyed in the song. It suggests that in life, only you can control your destiny, and one must take accountability for their actions.

Q: Is ‘Only’ about human nature and behavior?

The song ‘Only’ is a reflection on the complexities of human nature and behavior. It speaks of the dark side that exists within all of us and acknowledges the primal traits that dictate certain kinds of behavior.

Q: What inspired the song’s music video?

The music video for ‘Only’ was inspired by George Romero’s post-apocalyptic classic ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ The plot of the video revolves around a struggle against a zombie-like horde.

Q: Is ‘Only’ one of Anthrax’s most popular songs?

‘Only’ is not Anthrax’s most popular song, but it is one of their most critically acclaimed. The song is widely considered a classic in the thrash metal sub-genre and has stood the test of time.

Q: What is the significance of the song’s opening riff?

The song’s opening riff, played by Scott Ian, is widely regarded as one of the most iconic riffs in thrash metal history. It is an energetic and aggressive riff that sets the tone for the song’s overall message.

Q: What is the biggest takeaway from ‘Only’ according to Anthrax?

The biggest takeaway from the song ‘Only,’ according to Anthrax, is that individuals must take personal responsibility and make an effort to be strong, both mentally and physically, to overcome challenges. The song’s message advocates taking ownership of one’s life, refusing to give up when things get tough, and striving to be better every day.

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