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Ride the Lightning (album).jpg

For Whom The Bell Tolls is the third track off Ride the Lightning, the sophomore album by Metallica.

The chromatic introduction (which is usually 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. Burton plays it in a 12-minute jam at a battle of the bands with his first band "Agent of Misfortune." After the introduction, the bass settles into a steady triplet rhythm.


The song is about a section of the novel For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, in which International Brigades soldiers of the Spanish Civil War attempt to escape the fascists with their stolen horses and are killed by enemy aircraft on a hill on which they are surrounded. "Make his fight on the hill in the early day..."

Studio Versions

Ride The Lightning 

The original studio version with a length of 5:10. The guitars sound slightly sharper than a standard-tuned guitar should sound. It is rumored, however, that this is because the song was sped up after recording. If the song was sped up too much or was sped up using low quality means, it would raise the pitch of the recording, thus apparently sharpening the guitar's tuning. However, another rumor says that the guitars were intentionally tuned up to match the pitch of the tolling bells.

The "tolling bell" at the beginning of the song is actually Lars hitting an anvil that was in the studio where they recorded the song. The "bells" of the intro are sampled and played at Chicago's Soldier Field, whenever the Chicago Bears of the National Football League score a touchdown.


  • Typically, Cliff Burton would play an extended bass solo before Lars Ulrich would start a drum beat. Then, Burton would play the famous intro riff a few times before being joined by the rest of the band. After Burton's death, the song would still often be opened by a bass solo as a tribute.
  • During the first parts of the intro, James Hetfield usually yells a repeating "Hey! Hey! Hey!" to the drum beat, which the audience is encouraged to repeat on. Typically, the audience is also asked to sing the last line of the chorus.
  • "For Whom The Bell Tolls" was also performed live at the S&M concert and at many other concerts and tours.
  • During the Madly in Anger With The World Tour Robert Trujillo would play a bass intro.


  • There is a hidden F-Bomb at 2:50. If you listen to the vocal track, you can hear it.


    Make his fight on the hill in the early day
    Constant chill deep inside
    Shouting gun, on they run through the endless grey
    On they fight, for the right, yes, but who's to say?
    For a hill, men would kill, why? They do not know
    Stiffened wounds test their pride
    Men of five, still alive through the raging glow
    Gone insane from the pain that they surely know
         For whom the bell tolls
         Time marches on
         For whom the bell tolls
    Take a look to the sky just before you die
    It's the last time you will
    Blackened roar, massive roar fills the crumbling sky
    Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry
    Stranger now, are his eyes to this mystery
    He hears the silence so loud
    Crack of dawn, all is gone except the will to be
    Now they see what will be, blinded eyes to see
         For whom the bell tolls
         Time marches on
         For whom the bell tolls


Ride the Lightning.jpg
Ride the Lightning
Songs Fight Fire with FireRide the LightningFor Whom the Bell TollsFade to BlackTrapped Under IceEscapeCreeping DeathThe Call of Ktulu
Members James HetfieldLars UlrichKirk HammettCliff Burton
70 s & m.jpg
Songs The Ecstasy of GoldThe Call of KtuluMaster of PuppetsOf Wolf and ManThe Thing That Should Not BeFuelThe Memory RemainsNo Leaf CloverHero of the DayDevil's DanceBleeding MeNothing Else MattersUntil it SleepsFor Whom the Bell Tolls- HumanWherever I May RoamThe Outlaw TornSad But TrueOneEnter SandmanBattery
Members James HetfieldLars UlrichKirk HammettJason Newsted
Guitar hero M.png
Guitar Hero Metallica
Songs For Whom the Bell TollsThe UnforgivenNothing Else MattersEnter SandmanKing NothingSad But TrueNo Leaf CloverOrionFade to BlackThe Memory RemainsWherever I May RoamWelcome Home (Sanitarium)FuelFranticOneAll Nightmare LongHit the LightsMercyful FateSeek & DestroyCreeping DeathMaster of PuppetsBatteryThe Shortest StrawWhiplashDyers EveDisposable HeroesFight Fire with FireThe Thing That Should Not BeBroken, Beat & ScarredCyanideMy Apocalypse
Featured Band Songs Turn the PageTuesday's GoneAm I Evil?Stone Cold Crazy