Ride the Lightning

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This article is about the 1984 Metallica album. For the album by Marshmallow Coast, see Ride the Lightning (Marshmallow Coast album).
Ride the Lightning
Studio album by Metallica
Released July 27, 1984 (1984-07-27)
Recorded February 20 – March 14, 1984 at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark
Genre Thrash metal
Length 47:23
Label Megaforce
Producer Metallica, Flemming Rasmussen
Metallica chronology
Kill 'Em All
Ride the Lightning
Master of Puppets
Singles from Ride the Lightning
  1. "Creeping Death"
    Released: November 23, 1984 (1984-11-23)[1]

Ride the Lightning is the second studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica. The album was released on July 27, 1984 by the independent record label Megaforce Records. It was certified 6× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2012, having shipped six million copies in the United States.


On July 25, 1983, Metallica released its debut studio album Kill 'Em All through the independent record label Megaforce Records. Shortly afterwards, the band began composing new material and during the fall, the songs that would comprise Ride The Lightning were being performed at concerts. On February 20, 1984, the band started recording at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark.[2][3] The album was produced by Flemming Rasmussen, founder of Sweet Silence Studios,[4] who went on to produce the band's following two albums: Master of Puppets (1986) and ...And Justice for All (1988).[2] Metallica finished recording Ride the Lightning on March 14, 1984, and it was released through Megaforce on July 27.[3] On September 12, Metallica signed with major label Elektra Records who re-released the album on November 19.[3]

Ride the Lightning is the last Metallica album to feature co-writing credit from former lead guitarist Dave Mustaine.[2] He was expelled from the band on April 11, 1983, prior to the recording of Kill 'Em All.[5] He is credited on the title track and the instrumental track "The Call of Ktulu".[2] The album also represents the first time that the lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett, is given writing credits.[2] Hammett took the album's name from a passage in Stephen King's novel The Stand.[6] In 1984, the French record label Bernett Records misprinted the color of the album cover in green, rather than blue. Four hundred copies with the green cover were pressed. Because of their rarity, this misprint caused these green albums to become a collectors' item.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[8]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[10]
Q 4/5 stars[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[12]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[13]

According to Q magazine, Ride the Lightning confirmed Metallica's status as the leading heavy metal band of the modern era. The journal credited the group for redefining the norms of thrash metal with "Fade to Black", the genre's first power ballad.[11] Kerrang! implied that the album's maturity and musical intelligence helped Metallica expand heavy metal's boundaries.[11]


Chad Bowar of About.com ranked Ride the Lightning the second best Metallica album. He said that the band's sophomore record was a big step forward from its groundbreaking debut album.[14] Steve Peake, also writing for About.com, named "Ride the Lightning", "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Fade to Black" and "Escape" in his list of the "Top 10 Metallica Songs of the '80s".[15] The album was placed number five by IGN Music on their "Top 25 Metal Albums" list.[16]


The songs on this album show a musical maturity from Metallica. The songs were better composed than those on their previous album Kill 'Em All, which was noted for its one-dimensional sound. James Hetfield also developed more socially aware lyrics, noted in songs such as "Ride the Lightning" and "Fade to Black".[citation needed]

Fight Fire with Fire[edit]

The introduction to "Fight Fire with Fire" displays Metallica's evolving towards a more harmonically complex style of songwriting. The song encourages the eye for an eye approach, and its lyrical themes focus on revenge and Armageddon, resulting in the end of the world. The song was covered by Apocalyptica on their album Cult, Therion on the 'Tribute to The Four Horsemen' tribute album, as well as by Polish death metal band Vader, released as a bonus track on their album Necropolis. Black metal band Abigail Williams also covered "Fight Fire with Fire" as a bonus track to their 2010 album In the Absence of Light. The song is featured in the indie film Hesher and in the video game Guitar Hero: Metallica, along with "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Fade to Black" and "Creeping Death". In bassist Flea's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee speech for Metallica, he cited this as being the first Metallica song he heard.

Ride the Lightning[edit]

"Ride the Lightning" is Metallica's first song which directly highlighted the misery of the criminal justice system; the lyrics are written from the perspective of someone who is anticipating death by electrocution. The song is one of two on the album that credits Dave Mustaine. It was also released as downloadable content for the music video game Rock Band. A relatively infrequent part of the band's live setlist, the album title track was first played live in San Francisco in November 1983. Following Cliff Burton's death, it largely vanished from Metallica concerts until the 2000s. According to James Hetfield, the song "was not a criticism of capital punishment, which I'm actually a supporter of. Rather, it's simply about a man who faces death in the electric chair for a crime he didn't commit."— as in the beginning of lyrics by stating, "Guilty as charged/But Damn it/It ain't right ".

For Whom the Bell Tolls[edit]

The lyrics of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" are based on the Ernest Hemingway novel by the same name; said novel is about the horror and dishonor of modern warfare. The chromatic introduction, which was written by bassist Cliff Burton before joining Metallica,[17] is often mistaken for an electric guitar; actually, it is Burton's bass guitar augmented with distortion and a wah-wah pedal. For Whom The Bell Tolls became a live favorite, and one of Metallica's most recognizable songs. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" has been covered by several bands; most notably, by punk rock band Shotgun Remedy on the album A Punk Tribute to Metallica, by Apocalyptica on the album Inquisition Symphony and by Sunn O))) on its album Flight of the Behemoth. It was also the opening song for the 2009 movie Zombieland. At WWE's pay-per-view Wrestlemania XXVII, Triple H used it as his theatrical entrance music, but on the DVD, it was replaced with an in-house rendition of the song due to copyrights. The Montreal Canadiens hockey team use this song as they enter onto the ice to start each period of their home games.

Fade to Black[edit]

"Fade to Black" is a power ballad. The lyrics suggest a man's contemplation of his eventual suicide. Musically, the song begins with an acoustic guitar introduction and becomes progressively heavier and faster, similar to Metallica's future ballads, "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "One" and "The Day That Never Comes". "Fade To Black" became a live staple of the band, having been played over 1000 times since the album's release. Kirk Hammett's guitar solo on the song was ranked #24 on the 100 Best Solos Ever Reader's Choice in the September 1998 issue of Guitar World.[18] Many notable bands have covered "Fade to Black", including Apocalyptica, Apoptygma Berzerk, Disturbed, Sonata Arctica, Steel Prophet, The Lemonheads, Mandrake and Iron Horse.

Trapped Under Ice[edit]

"Trapped Under Ice" is about a person who wakes from a "cryonic state". Realising there is nowhere to go, and no one will come to the rescue, the person helplessly awaits the impending doom in terror. It is based upon a demo song of Hammett's former band Exodus entitled "Impaler", which was later released on its album Tempo of the Damned (2004). This song has only been played live 21 times as of 2013 and was completely ignored between 1985 and 1999. The song is a playable track in Guitar Hero World Tour. "Trapped Under Ice" was covered by parody metal band Austrian Death Machine on its 2009 album Double Brutal.


Originally entitled "The Hammer", the track has only been performed live, in its entirety, one time. It was first played at the first Orion Music + More music festival at Bader Field, Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 23, 2012, while performing Ride the Lightning in its entirety, though it was previously jammed during the encore at the last concert of the World Magnetic Tour. "Escape" was covered by the American heavy metal band Hatebreed on its 2009 album For the Lions and also by French progressive death metal band Gojira, as a bonus track on their 2005 album From Mars to Sirius.

Creeping Death[edit]

"Creeping Death" describes the Plague of the Death of the Firstborn (Exodus 12:29). The lyrics deal with the ten plagues on Egypt, and throughout the song, four of them are mentioned as well as the Passover. With over 1400 plays as of 2013, Creeping Death is the second most performed live Metallica song after Master Of Puppets. The bridge of the song (with the recognizable lyrics "Die, by my hand!") was written by Hammett in Exodus for the song "Die by His Hand". The song was recorded and released by Exodus as a demo, but never featured on a studio album. "Creeping Death" was covered by Welsh glam metal band Tigertailz for a b-side in 1990, Welsh metalcore band Bullet for My Valentine on Kerrang!'s 25th Anniversary Higher Voltage compilation disk, the Italian black metal band Stormlord as a live track on its extended play The Curse of Medusa, and by rock band Drowning Pool on the Ozzfest 2002 live album. The intro was interpolated by ska band, The O.C. Supertones on the title track of their second album, Supertones Strike Back.

The Call of Ktulu[edit]

"The Call of Ktulu" is the eighth and final track on the album. It is Metallica's second instrumental, following the first instrumental "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" from Kill 'Em All. The song's working title was "When Hell Freezes Over". The idea of the piece "The Call of Ktulu" is based upon H. P. Lovecraft's book The Shadow Over Innsmouth which was first introduced to the rest of the band by Cliff Burton. The piece's name was taken from one of H.P. Lovecraft's main stories featuring Cthulhu, The Call of Cthulhu, which was written in 1928 for the magazine Weird Tales. The name "Ktulu" is originally written "Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft, though there are many other spelling variations. "The Call of Ktulu" is also the last piece to include songwriting credit for Mustaine. He later recorded the song "When" for Megadeth's 2001 album The World Needs A Hero using a very similar idea. Both pieces have the same D minor chord progression in the intro. The song was re-arranged by Michael Kamen for Metallica's 1999 S&M project and won a Grammy for the best rock instrumental performance in 2000.[19]


  • "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 side B.
  • "Creeping Death" was released as a single, with the b-side also known as Garage Days Revisited (precursor to the extended play The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited, released in 1987): covers of "Am I Evil?" (originally by Diamond Head) and "Blitzkrieg" (originally by Blitzkrieg). Both of the b-side cover songs were included as bonus tracks on the 1988 reissue of Kill 'Em All. They were later featured on the Garage, Inc. compilation.
  • "Fade to Black" was released as a promo single in 1984, in glow in the dark green.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by James Hetfield, except "Creeping Death" by Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

No. Title Music Length
1. "Fight Fire with Fire"   Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton 4:45
2. "Ride the Lightning"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Dave Mustaine 6:36
3. "For Whom the Bell Tolls"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton 5:09
4. "Fade to Black"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Hammett 6:57
5. "Trapped Under Ice"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 4:04
6. "Escape"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett 4:23
7. "Creeping Death"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Hammett 6:36
8. "The Call of Ktulu" (instrumental) Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Mustaine 8:53
Total length:


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[21]




  • AD Artists – cover design
  • Fin Costello; Anthony D. Somella; Robert Hoetink; Pete Cronin; Rick Brackett; Harold Oimen – photography


Chart Peak
Australian Albums Chart 38
Finnish Albums Chart 9
Norwegian Albums Chart 40
Swedish Albums Chart 22
UK Albums Chart 87
US Billboard 200 100


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[22] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[23] 6× Platinum 6,000,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[24] Gold 100,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Creeping Death". Metallica.com. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ride The Lightning". Metallica.com. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  3. ^ a b c "Timeline: Metallica in 1984". metallica.com. Metallica. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  4. ^ Saulnier, Jason (13 January 2013). "Flemming Rasmussen Interview". Music Legends. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Band History: Part One". metallica.com. Metallica. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  6. ^ Angle, Brad (August 2014). "High Voltage". Guitar World: 54. 
  7. ^ "Metallica - Ride The Lightning". Discogs. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  8. ^ Huey, Steve. "Ride the Lightning - Metallica". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  9. ^ Kot, Greg (December 1, 1991). "A Guide to Metallica's Recordings". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 28, 2013. 
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5 (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 725. ISBN 0-19-531373-9. 
  11. ^ a b c "Metallica - Ride the Lightning CD Album Japan". CD Universe. Muze. Retrieved July 28, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Metallica: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  13. ^ Freeman, Channing (September 23, 2011). "Ride The Lightning - Metallica". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  14. ^ Bowar, Chad. "Best Metallica Albums". About.com. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  15. ^ Peake, Steve. "Top 10 Metallica Songs of the '80s". About.com. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  16. ^ Spence D. and Ed T. (2010-07-07). "IGN: Music - Top 25 Metal Albums". IGN. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  17. ^ "Cliff Burton with Agents of Misfortune performing pre-metalilca FWTBT". 
  18. ^ Cross, Dan. "100 Greatest Guitar Solos Part 3: Solos Number 21 - 30". About.com. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  19. ^ "Past Winners Search - Metallica". grammy.com. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  20. ^ Kaufman, Gil (2006-06-26). "Metallica Put Catalog On iTunes — Quietly". MTV. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  21. ^ Ride the Lightning (CD liner notes). Metallica. Megaforce Records. 1984. 
  22. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Metallica – Ride the Lightning". Music Canada. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  23. ^ "American album certifications – Metallica – Ride the Lightning". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved December 19, 2012.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  24. ^ "British album certifications – Metallica – Ride the Lightning". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved March 28, 2014.  Enter Ride the Lightning in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search

External links[edit]