Year 4, Day 40: Metallica – Ride the Lightning

For whom the bell tolls… Metallica rewrites the thrash metal playbook for generations to come with “Ride the Lightning”.


Year 4, Album 40: Metallica – Ride the Lightning


Track List

  1. Fight Fire With Fire
  2. Ride the Lightning
  3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  4. Fade to Black
  5. Trapped Under Ice
  6. Escape
  7. Creeping Death
  8. The Call of Ktulu

About the Album

Ride the Lightning is the second studio album from American heavy metal band, MetallicaThe entire album was recorded in three weeks from February 20th 1984 to March 14th 1984. The album was released on July 27th 1984 through Megaforce Records. The album peaked at 100 on the Billboard 200. Despite low ranking on the Billboard 200, the album has been certified 6x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Thoughts on the Album

So here we are… day number 40; we made it to the end of this year’s project. 39 albums down, one last one to go. Today’s album is truly a classic from the 1980s. It’s a classic in the sense that not only was it genre defining, but it ran contrary to musical sound of the decade. Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning is an all around excellent album that 32 years later still holds up excellently when compared to it’s contemporaries.

You know, I never really understand why people who love music absolutely hate the genres of metal and punk.I mean I can understand that on a certain level some people can’t connect with it. But It’s because of albums like this one that people love metal. The music is powerful and there is a swagger about that is confident, but not overbearing or off-putting. Ride the Lightning is one of those incredibly rare metal albums that is as equally charming and powerful, without it being too gimmicky. But I digress, we can talk about philosophy later…


With Ride the Lightning, every track experiments musically and exceeds those experiments tenfold. Each experiment is a mighty success. For example, the album opener, Fight Fire With Fire, has a sort of pseudo-classical introduction with acoustic guitar (and a harp!) before it breaks down the sound barrier and becomes one of the band’s finest and heaviest tracks in their catalog. The guitar riffs are insanely fast, which compliment the equally fast and pounding drums. While the bass grooves are there, it doesn’t shine like the drums and guitar do.

Fight Fire with Fire is followed up by the eponymous track, Ride the Lightning. The guitar intro by Kirk Hammett is excellently play before the main riff kicks in. The lyrics, about a man who was wrongly accused of murder and sent to death via the electric chair, are nothing short of pure brilliance. The we arrive at For Whom the Bell Tolls, arguably one of the greatest metal songs of all time. The church bell ringing to start the intro sends chills down your spine as the bass riff begins the song. And yes, it is a bass guitar and not electric though is sounds like an electric guitar… thanks to the musical theory/knowledge of the late Cliff Burton. The track seeming switches riffs and sounds excellently.

One of the other great tracks on here is Fade to Black, a haunting metal ballad about suicide/considering committing suicide. The track begins with a low-key acoustic driven melody before it gets ripped and slashed open by electric guitars playing a wordless chorus and ends with a wrenching guitar solo that plays over the top of a lyrical rhythm figure. Another highlight of the album includes, Creeping Death. The lyrics of Creeping Death are magnificent. The chorus is both powerful and catchy, something that is rare, even in other genres. The musicianship on the track is excellent.


… And there you have it. 40 albums in 40 days. Ride the Lightning is an album that not only stands the test of time, but sounds just good if not better than it’s contemporaries. Essentially, Ride the Lightning rewrote the playbook for generations of thrash metal (and metal) bands to follow.

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