For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica song)

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"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 Heavy 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 American thrash 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 November 16, 2014, been performed 1,305 times, behind only "One" (1,324), "Seek & Destroy" (1,396), "Creeping Death" (1,413) and "Master of Puppets" (1,467).[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/post 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.
  • Dark-electro group Spew covered the track on the industrial tribute album The Blackest Album: An Industrial Tribute to Metallica.
  • 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 for their album Fade to Bluegrass: The Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica.
  • Beatallica used the music of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in their cover of The Beatles' "Michelle", including a chorus mixing both songs as "For Whom Michelle Tolls".
  • The Swedish power metal band Sabaton covered this song on their 2014 album "Heroes"
  • The Funk/Metal band Maelstrom made a 1:33 cover version of the song on their only LP "Step One" from 1990.


  • 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]


See also[edit]


External links[edit]