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 Thrash metal
Length 5:10
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton
Producer(s) 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. It was also covered by Swedish band Sabaton on their 2014 album Heroes


  • 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]

  • Former Arizona Diamondbacks closer Heath Bell used the song when he walked in from the bullpen at Chase Field.
  • Former Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon used the song when he walked in from the bullpen at Citizens Bank Park.
  • Oakland Athletics closer Sean Doolittle uses this song when he walks in from the bullpen at the Oakland Coliseum.
  • 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.
  • The song was nominated for a Grammy in 1994, but lost to Nine Inch Nails's Happiness in Slavery
  • 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 is 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 also used by another wrestler, Sami Callihan (who was formerly known in WWE as Solomon Crowe).
  • The song is used by the Montreal Canadiens before the second and third 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.
  • The song was 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.
  • The song is used by the New Jersey Devils after a home power play is announced.
  • The song appeared in the film Daddy's Home.

The song is part of DJ Mode's We Are One mix that plays at New York City Football Club home matches


See also[edit]


External links[edit]