On their new single, Danish trio Baby in Vain gives a nod to their countryman Lars Ulrich with an updated version of the Metallica concert staple “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
It’s a tall order to improve the stiff-upper-lip head-bobbing classic Metallica pumped out on 1984’s Ride the Lightning. Any self-respecting rocker instantly knows the guitar riff that anchors the original. Even when your mom hears this infectious tune, she gets the metal snarl while sporting the devil horns as she weaves through the carpool line.
Baby in Vain’s version of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a filtered version with more melodic vocals and fuzzy sounds. The trio ditches the original’s bite and big, ominous theatrics. They also ditch the bell tolling itself. They replace the song’s signature methodical guitar riff with a guitar line that more recalls Sonic Youth’s “100%.” The singing is dreamy in a Tame Impala sort of way, though I’d love to hear a female voice attempt to growl with the same passion as James Hetfield.
The original is still used today by spots teams and athletes to prep for a big game. Pretty sure these athletes would not be selecting this toned-down cover to fill opponents with dread. Who knows though; maybe Baby in Vain’s update to a more indie-rock sound can serve as an on-ramp for the younger music fans to investigate Metallica’s earlier work. Maybe they will also quietly discover mom was a head-banger.