The Call Of Ktulu

Album: Ride The Lightning (1984)


  • Written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton and original Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine (who left before the album was recorded), this instrumental was inspired by the story The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. The author is a big influence on Metallica - his work also inspired their song "Thing That Should Not Be."
  • In the book, the story says that mentioning the name Cthulhu (Verbally or written) will bring him closer. That's why Metallica used the name "Ktulu" and not "Cthulhu" - for fear of the beast. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    diego - Panama
  • Speaking with Guitar World in a 2002 interview, Kirk Hammett explained how he came up with the guitar melody in this track. "I tracked the whole album with Marshall amps and my Gibson Flying V," the Metallica axeman explained. "For that song, I knew that I wanted to come up with something really melodic at the beginning of the solo. At that point in the song, there's just a lot of riffing, a lot of heavy dynamics. I was thinking, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we had something somewhat melodic to lead into it?' Hence that little melody I played… It was our first instrumental, and it was an incredibly long guitar solo. It was like, 'How can I keep this solo going without making it sound like I'm just playing a bunch of notes?' So I thought that I would break it up into sections rather than play one long spew of notes.

    I used a modal approach, and there's also arpeggios that I play in the solo – they're actually 'broken arpeggios,' a term that I got from Yngwie Malmsteen. At that time, 1984, Yngwie was big in the guitar world; he influenced me in that he was using all these different scales and different arpeggios, and really got me thinking about that kind of sound. I was also thinking chromatically: there's that one part at the top of the next cycle where I play a chromatic lick that goes all the way down the high E string with the wah pedal.

    I actually wrote out the entire solo on pieces of paper, using my own notes and my own pet names for the individual licks. I would say that 80 percent of it was composed beforehand and 20 percent of it was improvised. When we revisited that song with the symphony on S&M, it was a lot of fun; it felt like I was visiting my guitar technique from, like, 15 years ago or something. I just don't play like that now – I'm a lot bluesier – so it was pretty trippy."
  • Metallica recorded this with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for their 1999 album S&M. That version won a Grammy for best rock instrumental.
  • The working title for the song was "When Hell Freezes Over." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - Paramus, NJ, for all above
  • There is a bass solo buried in the mix starting at about 1:28, but with some EQ adjustments, you can bring the solo out a little more. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Justin - Rio Dell, CA

Comments: 51

  • Willy from Toronto, Ontario, CanadaA great song by a great band. But that's what great bands do.
    And IMHO Metallica is the greatest.
  • Gary from East CoastDave Mustaine had credit in co writing the song not Kirk hammet
  • Endgame from Just Outside The Line Of SightNotice Khafre from Indianapolis, In was never heard from again. :00:
  • Jodie from XxFirst paragraph says written by original guitarist Dave Mustaine, then the third say Kirk. So which one is it? [Mustaine got the writing credit, but didn't play on the track - editor.]
  • Razwell from CaKudos to Trullio for really trying to channel Cliff on the live version!!
  • Zero from Nowhere, NjI don't care what anyone says, Kirk Hammet is awesome. A lot of people say he's overrated but I don't think so. The amount of thought and emotion he puts into his solos he's a composer just like James Lars and Cliff. I wish he would get more credit than he does. Yes, Dave Mustaine is better technically but I think Kirk is more unique and his solos are more memorable. (before I get flamed know that I am a huge Megadeth fan and I know that this song wouldn't be what it was if it wasn't for Dave's contributions.)
  • Michael from Santa Cruz, CaHearing this reminds me of when my older brother and I went to Castle Beach on a Friday night.The album "Ride The Lightning" had just come out and my brother brought his portable casette(!) player with him.He started the album LOUD and strangers were gathering around our bonfire asking who the hell are these guys?.Everybody was rocking out!."Call Of K'tulu" was the perfect ending for one of the best metal albus of the 80's.
  • Jorge from Bronx, NyGreat album and interesting tune,in all my playlists i had this tune first and followed by Mr Scary from Dokken
  • Khafre from Indianapolis, Inwait... If typing his name would bring him closer then he should be here since people use this and many other sources to find this song along with Googling cthulu. but for the heck of it Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu Cthulu
  • Matt from Bakersfield, Cathis song is totally awesome! the beginning riff is just great and the bass solos are haunting in the background. the guitar solos are freakin awesome i can't get enough off it.
  • Adam from Clinton Township, MiThe band has often said that they wished they hadn't changed to the name to its PHONETIC spelling... they wanted to spell it right, if we'd learn to say it right.

    Oh, and Jeff... To Live Is To Die IS an instrumental, the part with the voice is a recording of Cliff's voice reading his favorite passage from a poem called Excalibur.
  • Peter from Pittsburgh, PaI like the song, definitely one of their best, but the song doesn't remind me of a giant alien sea creature.
  • George from Puyallup, WaThis song was an odd experience for me. At first, I'd always skip it. Later in life, I started to really rock out to it. I always likened it to the pace many relationships I've had. The way it starts slow, and then gets heavy, and uptempo. It continues on into it's base riff while still seeming to rise and fall. It begins to build into a badass solo that made me feel the passion put into it. Then it slows down and drops off just like it began. Slow and quiet. I have played this song into the ground and I still come back to it frequently. One of my top 5 Metallica songs.
  • Aaron from Seattle, WaWhen were their ever voilins in this song?
  • Chase from Charelston, WvThe violins in this song send freeiin shivers down my spine that's what music is ssuposed to do
  • Aaron from Seattle, WaFirst time I heard this song the intro sent a shiver down my spine. I loved it. This is my 3rd favorite song of Ride The Lightning.
  • Nolan from Orange County, CaActually, Ryan, both songs (Hangar 18 and Call of Ktulu) were written by Dave Mustaine. If you took the time to learn both songs, you'd realize they're almost exactly the same! I didn't actually know that when I was learning Hangar 18. I felt like an idiot once I realized it though. The intro to Hangar 18 is actually all of the arpeggios from the intro, and later on in the song strummed and held like chords. The verse and chorus to Hangar 18 are harmonized, but they're still the same notes taken out of Ktulu. The only difference between Hangar 18 and Ktulu are the solo parts. Completely different riffs and solos. But other than that the intros are the same.
  • Ryan from Perth, Australiaheres some trivia for you, if you play the guitar and can play call of ktulu, the first couple of notes, if you strum them really fast in order insert of picking them slowely it actually plays the intro of the song hangar 18 by megadeth
  • Matt from Avon, CoLove this song. Personally, I think its more epic sounding than power metal.
  • Rizla_king from Dublin, IrelandThis song blew me away when i first heard it. Still does :) i think it deserves top spot along with Orion.
  • Dylan from Olmsted Falls, United StatesSimply a great song no matter what you know or think of the song.
  • Jeff from La Pine, Or"To Live Is To Die" is NOT an instrumental, it's close though,
  • Jeff from La Pine, OrI first heard this song, and I was like, "Are they going to start singing," Not knowing it was an instrumental song but every time after that when I heard it, it just got into my head, and I loved the feeling I got from listening to it and now I don't even have the album "Ride The Lightening" to listen to anymore because it was stolen from me.
  • Evan from Otway, OhGAH!! Orion, Call of Ktulu, and To Live is To Die....I CAN'T PICK!! *shoots self* yea anways, this is my 3rd favorite, right behind
    Orion, so we know whats first.
  • Zeynep from Ankara, TurkeyIt's an epic instrumental which has a sharp icy aura. Exceptional in the history of thrash. And I think S&M version was just great.
  • Ronn from San Francisco, Calong live cliff.
  • Billy from Otway, Ohthis song really makes me think of Cthulhu himself rising form Ry'Leh.
  • Josh from New York, Nypick your favorite... orion or call of ktulu. i say orion.
  • Jessie from Brisbane, Australiadefinately the best instrumental song i've ever heard. it totally rocks
  • Oskar from Bilbao, SpainThis instrumental captures the essence of the emotions that Lovecraft´s tale caused in me when I read it: it begins by creating a misterious and disquieting atmosphere which slowly leads you to a climax of madness. I just love both, tale and song.
  • Dillan from Toronto, CanadaThis might be my favorite instrumental piece of all time and surely one of my favourite songs ever its an amazing pice will never be boring and its history and reasons for the song are really cool and exteamly interesting.
  • Katie from Christina Lakefirst time i heard this, i wondered why they didnt add lyrics to make it even better. but lyrics woodnt have added anything, and cood have possibly made it worse. this is just me, but wenever i hear this song, i think of surfing in hawaii in the nite. but how do u even say ktulu? its so hard for me :P
  • John from Glasgow, Scotland"actually dave mustane had nothing to do with this song, it was cliff's baby, and all guitar parts are played by james and kirk."
    - Joe Johnson, aurora, CO

    youre wrong actually, dave mustaine was involved in writing this too. he also wrote ride the lightning (the song, not the whole album). also, he wrote "the four horsemen", if you listen to that then "mechanix" by megadeth you'll hear a resembelence
  • Serkan from Ankara, TurkeyWell, a magnificent instrumental. It has a spirit, and has not a disturbing second in whole 8:52. More like a legend...
  • Ian from Hamilton, CanadaThe reason they spelt it "Ktulu" instead of "Chtulhu" might have been because Lovecraft wrote that no mortal man could write or speak the name of the beast. (Might also be why its an instrumental)
  • Adam from Poplar Bluff, MoI love this song, but I feel as if "To Live is to Die" is their personal best instrumental.
  • Paulo from India, United StatesThe "beast" is Cthulu himself. He's a gigantic god that came down from the stars. He looks vaguely humanoid but has claws on his hands and feet, wings on his back and an octopus for a head.
  • Paulo from India, United StatesAll these comments for this one and not a peep about "Orion"? Perhaps it's because "Cthulu" has more specific subject matter. They're both great, whatever the case.
  • Jeroen from Zottegem, BelgiumHere's some extra information: 'The thing that should not be' can be seen as a continuation for the call of Ktulu and it's about some kind of beast at the bottom of the sea (I think)
  • Lauren from Sydney, AustraliaWhen i first learnt guitar i was taught this song. I had never heard it before so i did research on it and found an amazing new world of Instrumental solos. Its amazing that you can play a song, and it can have no words, yet still have it mean so much. I think that any band that can write a song with this much impact is pretty kool
    -Lauren, Sydney Australia
  • Joe Johnson from Aurora, Coactually dave mustane had nothing to do with this song, it was cliff's baby, and all guitar parts are played by james and kirk.
  • Ian from New York, NyI have read both "The Call Of Cthulhu" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and I'm disapointed. This song, through really friggen awesome, doesn't really capture the mood of these storys. But to be fair, I doubt any band could really write a song that did fit the feel of H.P Lovecraft.
  • Mike from The Land O Chocolate, IlThe way that the guitar is played tells you about what the story is on this song. In the beginning it's fast, which gives you the idea of a possible battle. Then, in the middle as it slows down, but not too much, it could be interpreted as the end of the conflict, and the very ending could stand for the outcome.It could stand for the effect of the battle on the soldier or trooper.
  • Jamie from Noel Shore, CanadaKtulu was the name of a Dungeons and Dragons character used by Cliff Burton - as stated in Metallica's book "So What". Just a random piece of information.
  • Lefty from Adelaide, AustraliaA sensational song that I've love for 20 years. In my humble opinion, one of the songs that best lent itself to Michael Kamen's treatment on S&M. Just an EPIC song!
  • Jason from Monterrey, MexicoGood changes in the mood of the song, excellent bass guitar, metallica should have made more instrumentals.
  • Peter from Berlin, GermanyThe idea of the song "The Call Of Ktulu" is based upon H.P. Lovecraft's sole
    book "The Shadow over Innsmouth" which was first introduced to the rest of
    the band by Cliff Burton. The spark of beeing fascinated by the book began
    quickly spreading over the rest of the band. The song's name was taken from
    one of H.P. Lovecraft's main story featuring Cthulhu "The Call of Cthulhu" which
    has been written in 1928 for the magazine "Weird Tales". The name "Ktulu" is
    originally written "Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft.
  • Brian from Paoli, InProbably one of the best instrumentals ever, right up there with "Orion" great great song.
  • Brian from Mayfield Heights, OhAmazing. It paints landscapes, tells of eons, and writes the tale of a thousand years... without Hetfield ever uttering a word.
  • Mike from Long Island, Nyit tells a whole story without saying one word
  • Edgar from Laredo, TxA very awesome instrumental song.
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