For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica song)

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was first released on the group's second album, Ride the Lightning (1984). Elektra Records also released it as a promotional single, with both edited and full-length versions. The song is generally regarded as one of Metallica's most popular; by March 2018, it ranked number five on the band's live performance count.[2] Several live albums and video albums include the song.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
Metallica - For Whom the Bell Tolls cover.jpg
Promotional single by Metallica
from the album Ride the Lightning
  • Album version
RecordedFebruary 20 – March 14, 1984
StudioSweet Silence, Copenhagen
GenreHeavy metal[1]
  • 5:10 (album version)
  • 3:59 (promo edit)
Lyricist(s)James Hetfield
Metallica singles chronology
"Creeping Death"
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
"Master Of Puppets"
Audio sample


The song was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's 1940 novel of the same name about the process of death in modern warfare and the bloody Spanish Civil War. Specific allusions are made to the scene described in Chapter 27 of the book, in which five soldiers are obliterated during an airstrike after taking a defensive position on a hill.

Cliff Burton plays the bass guitar introduction with heavy distortion and a wah pedal. Burton wrote the intro before joining Metallica and first played it during a 12-minute jam at a battle of the bands with his second band Agents of Misfortune in 1979.

Track listingEdit

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" was released as a promo single with two versions of the song. An edited version appears on the A-side, with the full-length album version on the B-side.

Promotional 12-inch single
1."For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Edit)3:59
2."For Whom the Bell Tolls"5:10

Other versionsEdit


In 1999, Metallica recorded "For Whom the Bell Tolls" with the San Francisco Symphony, which featured again in their S&M 2 concert in 2019. It is included on the live album S&M (1999). Other live versions appear on Cliff 'Em All (VHS, 1987), Live Shit: Binge & Purge (1993), Cunning Stunts (DVD, 1997), Français Pour une Nuit (DVD, 2009), Orgullo, Pasión, y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de México (2009), The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria (DVD, 2010), Quebec Magnetic (DVD, 2012), and Metallica: Through the Never (soundtrack, 2013).


  • 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 seconds longer), the two are the same.




Chart (2019) Peak
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[3] 18


  1. ^ Joel McIver (2009). To Live Is to Die: The Life and Death of Metallica's Cliff Burton. Jawbone Press. p. 119. ISBN 9781906002244. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  2. ^ "Song Statistics". Archived from the original on July 27, 2018. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  3. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2019.

External linksEdit