For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
Metallica - For Whom the Bell Tolls cover.jpg
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" cover
Promotional single by Metallica from the album Ride the Lightning
Released August 31, 1985
Format LP
Recorded February 20 - March 14, 1984 at Sweet Silence Studios Copenhagen, Denmark
Genre Thrash metal
Length 5:10
Label Elektra
Writer James Hetfield / Lars Ulrich / Cliff Burton
Producer Metallica, Flemming Rasmussen
Ride the Lightning track listing
"Ride the Lightning"
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
"Fade to Black"
Music sample

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is a song by the American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released as the second promotional single from their second album, Ride the Lightning. Among their most-played songs, it has, as of October 17, 2012, been played 1,253 times, behind only "One" (1,273), "Seek & Destroy" (1,343), "Creeping Death" (1,367) and "Master of Puppets" (1,416).[1]

The song was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's 1940 novel of the same name about the dishonor of modern warfare and the protagonist's imminent doom during the bloody Spanish Civil War. Specific allusions are made to the scene in which five soldiers are obliterated during an air-strike, after taking a position on a hill.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" was released as a promo single with two versions of the song, an edited version on side A and the album version on the b-side.

The chromatic introduction, which is often mistaken for an electric guitar, is in fact Cliff Burton playing his bass guitar through distortion and wah-wah. The intro was written by Burton before joining Metallica.[2] Burton first played it in 1979 in a 12-minute jam at a battle of the bands with his second band Agents of Misfortune (with his old bandmate from EZ-Street and future Faith No More guitarist "Big" Jim Martin).[3]

The guitars and bass in the song are tuned slightly sharper than standard on this performance (and sharper than the other tracks on the album). Rumors and speculation abound regarding the reason for the discrepancy, but no definitive explanation has surfaced - one reasoning is the slightly sharpened guitar tuning is used to keep the guitars in line with the song's intro bell chimes.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

Promotional vinyl 12"
No. Title Length
1. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Edit) 3:59
2. "For Whom the Bell Tolls"   5:10

Other versions[edit]

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" has also appeared on Metallica's live 1999 album S&M, in which Metallica performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

Cover versions[edit]

  • Drone metal band Sunn O))) recorded a very loose cover of the song for their album Flight of the Behemoth, entitled "FWTBT"
  • Heavy metal band Trivium did an early cover of the song as a demo tape while the band was still forming. This version has become popular through internet streaming and eventually got the band signed.
  • Covered partially by Pop Punk band Sum 41 at the Metallica's MTV Icon special in 2003 and covered in full on May 1, 2009 as a part of the The Bamboozle weekend when Sum 41 played a complete Metallica cover set.
  • Ska/Punk Rock band Goldfinger played a partial cover at Bumbershoot in 1996.
  • Moonsorrow released an EP entitled Tulimyrsky, which features a 7:43 cover of the song, adding over two minutes to the song.
  • Covered by Apocalyptica for their album Inquisition Symphony in 1998.
  • German band Dark Age included a version of the song as a bonus track on the digipack release of their 2000 album Insurrection.
  • Although never officially released, Artillery covered the song.
  • This song was featured as an instrumental cover on the album Buddha Lounge: Renditions of Metallica - The Black Lounge along with ten other instrumental Metallica covers.
  • Bassnectar created a version of the song entitled "For Whom the Bass Tolls".
  • The song was covered by Eric Bloom, Al Pitrelli, Tony Franklin, and Aynsley Dunbar for the album Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica.
  • Covered by Iron Horse (band) for their album Fade to Bluegrass: The Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica


  • The song "Mope" by the Bloodhound Gang features the chromatic introduction riff in the chorus of the song.
  • The song "For Whom the Bass Tolls" by Bassnectar heavily samples the song.
  • The song "Bowties" by Yelawolf and DJ Paul on their mixtape "Black Fall" takes a sample from the song.


  • A remix by DJ Spooky appeared on the Spawn soundtrack, titled "For Whom the Bell Tolls (The Irony of it All)". Metallica later released it on "The Memory Remains" single re-titled "For Whom the Bell Tolls (Haven't Heard It Yet Mix)". Despite the different names and song lengths (the former is about 4 sec's longer), the two are the same.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Arizona Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell uses the song when he walks in from the bullpen at Chase Field.
  • Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon uses the song when he walks in from the bullpen at Citizens Bank Park.
  • The song was featured in the opening credits in the film Zombieland.
  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was featured in Tap Tap Revenge: Metallica as a playable track.
  • It is a playable track in Guitar Hero: Metallica, where it appears as the opening track in all instrument careers.
  • The song also plays as Professional Longboarder Matt "Monster" Malone competes.
  • It is used as the music that the Chicago Bears play before the opening kickoff.
  • The song was also used by The Florida State Seminoles when making their entrance before a home game, this version does not include James Hetfield's singing.
  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was used by the Northwestern Wildcats football team before defensive third downs (intro only).
  • It was used by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team before defensive third downs.
  • The song was used by WWE Superstar Triple H during his theatrical stage entrance at WrestleMania XXVII before his regular theme song "The Game" by Motörhead, played during his actual ring entrance before facing The Undertaker in a No Holds Barred match. However, it was not included in the DVD version due to licensing issues and it was replaced with an in-house rendition of the song.
  • The song is used by the Montreal Canadiens before the second period faceoff.
  • The song is used in the trailer for the video game Gaia: Honor and Vengeance. It is also remixed for the music of the staff roll at the end of the game.
  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the title of the season 1 finale episode of Pretty Little Liars♣.
  • The song title is tweaked for a season 4 episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, titled "For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils"♣.
  • The title of an American Dad! episode, "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", is a pun of the song title♣.
  • The song is used as a theme tune for BMXer Dave Mirra on all of his X Games runs and competition runs.
  • The song is also used by the Denver Broncos prior to defensive third downs.

♣It is unclear if this a reference to the Metallica song, or Ernest Hemingway's 1940 novel of the same name.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]