Ride the Lightning

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Ride the Lightning
Metallica studio album



February 20 - March 14, 1984

Format (s)


Genre (s)

Thrash metal

Title (number)


running time




Metallica , Flemming Rasmussen

Studio (s)

Sweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen ( Denmark )

Kill 'Em All
Ride the Lightning Master of Puppets
Single release
November 23, 1984 Creeping Death

Ride the Lightning ( English for lit .: "Ride the Lightning" and accordingly "Die on the electric chair ") is the second studio album of American Metal - band Metallica . It was first released on July 27, 1984 by Megaforce Records and Music for Nations . After the band was signed by Elektra Records in September 1984 , the album was re-released on November 19, 1984. In the USA alone , Ride the Lightning has been sold over six million times and has been awarded six times platinum .

Ride the Lightning is considered a genre classic and is seen as a musical bridge between Metallica's debut Kill 'Em All and the more progressive follow-up album Master of Puppets . Musically, the band expanded their style to include more varied and complex arrangements. The lyrics of the album deal with topics like despair, hopelessness, death and fear of loss.


Guitarist and singer James Hetfield (2008)


Metallica began working on their second album in the fall of 1983. In contrast to the previous album , bassist Cliff Burton was able to take part in the songwriting for the first time, as the songs recorded for the previous album had been composed before he joined the band. Burton's classical musical training had a major impact on the music on Ride the Lightning , which was more melodic and technically demanding.

“Cliff [Burton] showed me and James [Hetfield] the way to a whole new musical horizon of harmonies and melodies . […] The whole way James and I wrote the songs together […] was shaped when Cliff was still in the band and had a lot to do with Cliff's musical contributions. "

- Lars Ulrich, 1992

In contrast to the debut album Kill 'Em All , many tracks on Ride the Lightning have an untypically slow tempo for Thrash Metal. According to drummer Lars Ulrich , the band realized in advance that they “don't have to play fast to sound hard and powerful”. Lyrically, the band moved away from the clichés typical of the genre such as sex , Satan and violence in order not to sound interchangeable.

On October 24, 1983, the band recorded the demo Ride the Lightning , which was financed by the then European record company Music for Nations. In addition to the songs “Fight Fire with Fire” and “Ride the Lightning”, which were already written in early 1983, the demo contains the songs “ Creeping Death ” and the instrumental piece “When Hell Freezes Over”, which is called “The Call of Ktulu” on the album. Originally Metallica should only fake live recordings of "Seek and Destroy" and "Phantom Lord" Songs for the jump-in-the-Fire - EP as B-sides record. The English progressive rock band Twelfth Night caused the “audience applause” . Although the demo received some devastating reviews, Metallica stuck to their musical course correction.

As before the recordings for the previous album Kill 'Em All , singer James Hetfield was plagued by self-doubt about his vocal abilities. Hetfield therefore tried again to get the Armored Saint singer John Bush to Metallica. As in the previous year, Bush turned down the offer and did not want to abandon the members of his own band. In a 1991 interview, John Bush stated that he had no regrets about his decision.

“Who knows if Metallica would ever have been so successful with me as a singer. In any case, I can't imagine Ride the Lightning with John Bush vocals. "

- John Bush, 1991

In February 1984 Metallica played their first concerts in Europe as a support act for Venom as part of the “Seven Dates of Hell” tour. After the end of the tour, Metallica traveled to the Danish capital Copenhagen , where the four band members rehearsed the new songs in the rehearsal room of their friends, the Mercyful Fate .

Ride The Lightning is characterized by a balanced distribution of songwriting. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich were involved in the compositions for all eight songs. Cliff Burton took part in six and Kirk Hammett in four songs. The guitarist Dave Mustaine , who had been fired the previous year (before the recording of Kill 'Em All ), is named as co-author of the two songs "Ride the Lightning" and "The Call of Ktulu", with Mustaine himself referred to as the main songwriter.


Drummer Lars Ulrich (2008)

Because Jon Zazula, founder of Megaforce Records and manager of Metallica, was in financial difficulties and was unable to finance the recordings, Martin Hooker of Music for Nations agreed to pay for the studio. The band chose Flemming Rasmussen as producer , whose production of the Rainbow album Difficult to Cure had impressed the members of Metallica. In an interview on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the album's release, Rasmussen stated that "for financial reasons" he was not the producer of the album, but rather a sound engineer . In the album credits, the band is named as producer and Rasmussen as assistant.

The recording began on February 20, 1984 at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen. Also for financial reasons, the recordings took place at night, as the studio was fully booked by other artists during the day.

“That's why we usually started around 7 p.m. with sound checks and drum tuning. Since it got freezing in the evening, I let large gas stoves run hot from 5 p.m. in order to get the temperature in the large drum room at least over ten degrees Celsius when recording started. The recording of the drum tracks was a really ice cold affair. "

- Flemming Rasmussen, 2009

According to Rasmussen, Metallica was already very familiar with the material that had been developed, so that the musicians only needed a few takes . Despite the good progress in songwriting, the songs were rehearsed and rearranged a lot in the studio. The semi-ballad “Fade to Black” was composed in the studio. Daily recordings usually ended between four and five in the morning. The drums were recorded in a large warehouse that was directly behind the studio. The room was empty and not soundproofed , so there was a lot of natural reverberation there.

Since the band couldn't afford a hotel, the musicians also slept in the studio. On March 14, 1984 the recordings were finished.

cover photo

The album cover shows the electric chair of the US state Virginia against a blue cloud background. From Metallica lettering off draw lightning ( English lightning ) over the image. Two of them touch the electric chair. The picture initially sparked little enthusiasm among the musicians.

“After a (…) concert in New York we celebrated in a New York hotel when Jon Zazula presented the Ride the Lightning cover for the first time. James [Hetfield] and Lars [Ulrich] stared at it for a minute (…). They hated it. However, the lack of time allowed no further changes. "

- Scott Ian , guitarist for Anthrax , 2009

In France, around 400 copies were mistakenly delivered with a green instead of a blue background color. These specimens are sought-after collector's items today. However, numerous bootleg reprints are in circulation. The original picture changed hands at an auction at Christie's London auction house in July 2009 for a price of GBP 9,375  (approx. EUR 10,900). The exact identity of the artist is unknown, in the credits to the album “AD Artists from an original concept of the band” (German: “AD Artists after a draft of the band”) is noted.


The Roseland Ballroom in New York City (2007)

Ride the Lightning was released on July 30, 1984 by Megaforce Records in the US, Music for Nations in the UK, and Roadrunner Records in the Netherlands . The songs "Fade to Black", "Creeping Death" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" were released in 1984 and 1985 as singles .

In the first few months after the release, Megaforce was able to achieve sales in the five-digit range in the USA. This meant that Jon Zazula's small company reached its financial and organizational limits. Zazula then advised the band to look for stronger partners. Zazula organized a concert in the New York club "Roseland Ballroom" on August 3, 1984 , in which the bands Raven and Anthrax appeared in the opening act.

In the audience was Michael Alago, then 22, who worked as A&R at Elektra Records and was deeply impressed by Metallica's performance.

“The energy in the air was electric, the performance was brilliant. I ran backstage, barricaded the doors behind me and told the musicians how much I love them and how much I wanted to make them part of my personal and professional life. The next day they visited me with Chinese food and beer in the Elektra office. "

- Michael Alago, 2009

The band received offers from numerous record companies. Although some offers were financially more lucrative, Metallica chose Elektra because the band hoped to get more support from this company. According to James Hetfield, Elektra only had two metal bands under contract with Mötley Crüe and Dokken at the time , while other companies had more. At the same time, the four Metallica band members signed a contract with Cliff Burnstein's management company Q-Prime .

In addition to Elektra, Bronze Records also tried to get Metallica. During the recording in Copenhagen, the company owner Gerry Bron paid the band a visit. Bron was dissatisfied with the material played to him and asked the band to re-record the entire album in England with producer Eddie Kramer . Metallica refused to comply with this request and rejected the offer from Bronze Records.

On November 19, 1984, Ride the Lightning was re-released by Elektra. The version of Elektra is identical to the original release. Four days later, the 12 "single " Creeping Death "was released. The B-side contains cover versions of "songs Am I Evil? "By Diamond Head and" Blitzkrieg "by the band Blitzkrieg .

Some pressings of the album have wrong song titles. Pressings with the title “For Whom the Bells Toll” instead of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Cat of Ktulu” instead of “The Call of Ktulu” are in circulation.


Track list
  1. Fight Fire with Fire - 4:44
    ( Hetfield , Ulrich , Burton )
  2. Ride the Lightning - 6:36
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Mustaine )
  3. For Whom the Bell Tolls - 5:10
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton)
  4. Fade to Black - 6:56
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Hammett )
  5. Trapped Under Ice - 4:03
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett)
  6. Escape - 4:23
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett)
  7. Creeping Death - 6:36
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Hammett)
  8. The Call of Ktulu - 8:52
    (Hetfield, Ulrich, Burton, Mustaine)

Fight Fire with Fire begins with on an acoustic guitar played figure that after 41 seconds into a fast reef passes. It's one of the fastest songs Metallica has ever written. The text is about the threat of nuclear war . The song ends with the sound of an atomic bomb explosion .

The theme song Ride the Lightning describes the thoughts of a person who sits innocently on the electric chair and is executed . At the end of the song, it turns out that the protagonist had a nightmare . In an interview with Guitar World magazine , James Hetfield stated that the song is not directed against the death penalty , but rather deals with the idea of ​​being handcuffed to an electric chair when you did not commit the crime. While the song is kept at a medium tempo, the speed increases noticeably during the second guitar solo. The chords played reach higher and higher pitches .

The text of For Whom the Bell Tolls is based on Ernest Hemingway's novel Whom the Hour Strikes . It's about five soldiers who are killed in an air raid on a hill during the Spanish Civil War while trying to capture a bridge held by the fascists.

" For a hill men would kill. Why? They do not know. Stiffened wounds test their pride. "

- For Whom the Bell Tolls

“Men would kill for a hill. Why? They do not know. Encrusted wounds prove their pride. "

- Free translation

The chromatic intro, often mistaken for a guitar riff , was actually played by bassist Cliff Burton using distortion and wah-wah effects.

Fade to Black is the first Metallica-released ballad and first Metallica song that James Hetfield sings in a clear voice. Lyrically, it's about a man who because of depression suicide wants to commit. James Hetfield got the inspiration for this song after the band's equipment was stolen on January 14, 1984 in Boston , including a guitar amplifier that was scheduled for the recording . The basis for the song comes from James Hetfield, who one day played minor chords as an arpeggio on an acoustic guitar in the rehearsal room . The guitar solo at the end of the song was created spontaneously in the studio.

“I wasn't sure what to play. We'd been in Denmark for five or six months and we got homesick. Since it's a dark song and we were all pretty depressed, I thought of something depressed while playing. It helped a lot. "

- Kirk Hammett, 1991

Trapped Under Ice describes the desperation of a prisoner under a layer of ice, who drowns and freezes to death at the same time and calls for help in vain. According to Kirk Hammett, the song is based on the song Impaler by his old band Exodus . The text offers many interpretations, ranging from loneliness and alienation to drug and alcohol addiction.

In Escape is about an escaped prisoner . As a metaphor for the flight, his escape is above all things that prevent a person from living his life according to his own ideas. Alarm sirens sound at the end of the song.

Creeping Death is about the Ten Plagues that, according to the Second Book of Moses, occurred in the 13th century BC. BC visited the land of Egypt . The title of the song denotes the tenth plague, in which the death of every firstborn son is ordered. The band got the inspiration for the song when the musicians watched the feature film The Ten Commandments together . Three of the ten plagues are described in the text: The second stanza names the first plague, in which the waters of the Nile are turned into blood , and the ninth plague, three days of darkness . During the Bridge , the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, is announced. The song was originally written by Kirk Hammett's former band Exodus and was called Die By the Sword .

The inspiration for the instrumental The Call of Ktulu comes from HP Lovecraft's short story Cthulhus Ruf . History says that the mention of the name Cthulhu , in writing or orally, would bring the person closer to the being. The Metallica songs The Thing That Should Not Be from the album Master of Puppets , All Nightmare Long from the album Death Magnetic and Dream No More from Hardwired… to Self-Destruct are based on this myth.


Chart positions
Explanation of the data
Ride the Lightning
  DE 47 05/20/2016 (1 week)
  CH 78 09/28/2008 (1 week)
  UK 87 08/11/1984 (2 weeks)
  US 48 09/29/1984 (58 weeks)
Fade to Black
  CH 100 08/31/2008 (1 week)

Chart placements

Ride the Lightning only reached low chart positions. In mid-August 1984 the album entered the UK album charts at number 87 and lasted for two weeks. In the US album charts , the album only entered number 100 in March 1985 and was represented for a total of 41 weeks. The album could not be placed in Austria .

The chart positions in Switzerland and Germany are remarkable . In Switzerland, the album and the single were Fade to Black or about 24 years after the original publication in summer 2008, to place on the charts: Ride the Lightning reached number 78, Fade to Black space 100. For Fade to Black , it was the only ranking worldwide. In Germany, the album only entered the album charts in 2016 and reached number 47.

Ride the Lightning achieved the best chart placement in May 2007 in Finland . In the 22nd calendar week of the year Metallica was with ten albums simultaneously in the 40 album charts. Here occupied Ride the Lightning ninth.


For over six million units sold in the US, Ride the Lightning was awarded six times platinum. By the end of 2009, approximately 5.6 million copies of the album had been sold in the United States. In addition to the USA, Ride the Lightning received a platinum record in Germany and Canada and a gold record in the United Kingdom .

Country / Region Award Sales
Awards for music sales
(country / region, Award, Sales)
Denmark (IFPI) Denmark (IFPI) Platinum record icon.svg 2 × platinum 40,000
Germany (BVMI) Germany (BVMI) Platinum record icon.svg platinum 500,000
Canada (MC) Canada (MC) Platinum record icon.svg platinum 100,000
United States (RIAA) United States (RIAA) Platinum record icon.svg 6 × platinum 6,000,000
United Kingdom (BPI) United Kingdom (BPI) Gold record icon.svg gold 100,000
All in all Gold record icon.svg1 × gold
Platinum record icon.svg10 × platinum

Main article: Metallica / Music Sales Awards

country gold platinum 2 × platinum 3 × platinum 4 × platinum 5 × platinum 6 × platinum
United States
awarded by RIAA
5th November 1987 May 16, 1989 April 1, 1992 June 5, 1995 November 3, 1997 June 9, 2003 December 13, 2012
awarded by CRIA
June 30, 1987 January 27, 1994 - - - - -
United Kingdom
awarded by BPI
September 29, 1988 - - - - - -
awarded by BVMI
- May 24, 2019 - - - - -

Reviews and Importance

Rob Arnold during Chimaira concert in 2004 with Ride the Lightning t-shirt

When it was released, the album received excellent reviews from the specialist press. Götz Kühnemund from the German magazine Rock Hard gave the album the maximum number of 10. According to Steve Huey from the online magazine Allmusic , Ride the Lightning has "rewritten the rule book for a generation of Thrashers". If Kill 'Em All was the manifesto , Ride the Lightning was, according to Huey, the revolution itself. Stefan Lang from the online magazine Powermetal.de described Ride the Lightning as an “absolute metal classic” that “belongs in every collection”.

However, the album was less well received by some fans of the debut album. Metal Mike Blim wrote in Metal Hammer in 1984 that the band had "driven something into the commercial corner" with the album. Dave Lombardo from Slayer said in Fanzine Slayer that Ride the Lightning is not as strong as its predecessor. Jeff Hanneman, however, said the band's goal on their second album Hell Awaits was to show that Slayer, such as Metallica with Ride the Lightning, was in a position to release a second album that was better than the debut.

The German magazine Metal Hammer published an eight-page report in its December issue in 2009 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of publication. In addition to an overview of the genesis and meaning of the work, the article includes a reprint of an article about the album from 1984, interviews with Michael Alago and Flemming Rasmussen, quotes from musicians about the album and further information. Four years earlier, readers of Metal Hammer voted Ride the Lightning third on the list of the 100 best metal albums of all time.

The editors of the rock-hard magazine published the book Best of Rock & Metal in 2005, which comprised the 500 best metal and hard rock albums of all time. Here occupied Ride the Lightning finished third. The online magazine Loudwire put Ride the Lightning in eighth place in its list of the 50 best metal albums of all time published in September 2015. IGN Entertainment put Ride the Lightning at number five of the 25 best metal albums because the album "comes very close to perfect metal". The US magazine Guitar World put the solo played by Kirk Hammett at the end of Fade to Black at number 24 on the list of the 50 best guitar solos .

For the song The Call of Ktulu in the version of the live album S&M , in which the band recorded some of their songs with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra , Metallica received a 2001 Grammy Award in the category "Best Rock Instrumental Performance".


Guitarist Kirk Hammett (2008)

Tour and live performances

In November and December 1984 Metallica embarked on the Bang that Head that Doesn't Bang tour of Europe with the British band Tank , which was attended by an average of 1,300 people. This was followed by the Ride the Lightning tour through North America, on which Metallica WASP co- headlined and Armored Saint appeared as the opening act . The highlights of the tour in the summer of 1985 included appearances at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Donington Park , England, in front of 70,000 spectators, and the Day on the Green Festival in Oakland , California, in front of 60,000 spectators.

The songs Creeping Death , Fade to Black and For Whom the Bell Tolls are among the most played songs at Metallica concerts; Creeping Death and For Whom the Bell Tolls have been performed over 1,000 times alongside Master of Puppets , One and Seek and Destroy . Fade to Black comes closest to this with almost 900 bets. The remaining songs on the album have so far been part of the live sets far less often. Escape was first played live at the band's Orion Music + More Festival on June 23, 2012 in Atlantic City , as part of the first full performance of the album Ride the Lightning .

Guitar Hero: Metallica

In March 2009, Activision released the video game Guitar Hero: Metallica . Among the 31 Metallica songs used for the game are five Ride the Lightning songs, Ride the Lightning , Creeping Death , Fade to Black , For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Fight Fire with Fire . The song Trapped Under Ice is playable on Guitar Hero: World Tour .

Cover versions

Numerous songs of the album Ride the Lightning were from other artists gecovert . The Finnish " cello rock" group Apocalyptica covered the songs Creeping Death , Fade to Black , Fight Fire With Fire and For Whom the Bell Tolls . The American metal band Disturbed released a live cover version of Fade to Black on the album Music as a Weapon II . Separate versions of the song Escape are on the cover of her album For the Lions of the US hardcore band Hatebreed as well as Japan - bonus track of the album From Mars to Sirius the French death metal band Gojira represented. The parodistic metalcore / thrash metal band Austrian Death Machine covered the song Trapped Under Ice on their album Double Brutal . The Polish death metal band Vader released a cover of Fight Fire with Fire on their album Necropolis . On the Metallica tribute sampler Metallic Attack: The Ultimate Tribute from 2004, Dark Angel covered Creeping Death and Death Angel Trapped Under Ice .

The mashup band Beatallica , which combines the music of Metallica with that of the Beatles , has so far used songs from the album Ride the Lightning three times . On their debut album Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band they combined the songs The Call of Ktulu with I Want You (She's So Heavy) on Ktulu (He 's So Heavy) . The second album Masterful Mystery Tour contains with Everybody's Got a Ticket to Ride Except for Me and My Lightning a mixture of the songs Ride the Lightning , Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey and Ticket to Ride as well as Got to Get You Trapped Under Ice a mixture of Got to Get You into My Life and Trapped Under Ice .


  • Joel McIver: Justice for All: The Truth About Metallica . Bosworth Music, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86543-368-8 .
  • Mick Wall, Malcolm Dome: Metallica - story and songs compact . Bosworth Music, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-86543-273-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

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  5. cf. McIver, p. 220.
  6. cf. Wall / Dome, p. 29.
  7. Michael Rensen: "Thrash, Trauer & Triumphe", p. 13. In: Rock Hard, April 2007 edition
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  10. cf. Wall / Dome, p. 31.
  11. cf. McIver, p. 183.
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  14. cf. Wall / Dome, p. 25.
  15. a b c cf. McIver, p. 171.
  16. cf. McIver, p. 172.
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  31. "Three songs, as we are used to from Slayer - so don't worry, slow down or driven a bit into the commercial corner (how, unfortunately? Metallica on their new vinyl), the Slayer boys are not; Now all you have to do is wait and see if they keep their promise to live '85 in Germany ... “Metal Mike Blim: Slayer. Haunting the Chapel. In: Metal Hammer , No. 10/1984, p. 66.
  32. "" Kill èm [sic!] All "er [sic!] Bra," Ride The Lightning "er ikke så sterk." Metalion: Slayer. In: Slayer vol. 2 1985 , p. 10. Quoted from: Jon Kristiansen: SLAYER. N ° 1 to 5 . Rosières en Haye: Camion Blanc 2009, p. 92.
  33. "Our aim was to show all the skeptic that we're in the position to deliver a better second as for example METALLICA have done with" RIDE THE LIGHTNING "lp." Nasty Karsten, Metalion: Slayer Awaits! In: Slayer vol. 3/4 - 1986. A Thrash Metal Attack , p. 24. Quoted from: Jon Kristiansen: SLAYER. N ° 1 to 5 . Rosières en Haye: Camion Blanc 2009, p. 180. In the French translation by Alexandra Maré, however, the meaning is changed to the effect that the band wanted to show that they could deliver a better second album than, for example, Metallica with Ride the Lightning : " Notre [sic!] But était de montrer à tout les skeptiques que nous étions en position de livrer un meilleur deuxième album que ce que par exemple Metallica a fait avec le LP Ride the Lightning . ”Jon Kristiansen: SLAYER. N ° 1 to 5 . Rosières en Haye: Camion Blanc 2009, p. 181.
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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on February 23, 2010 .