Top 10 Songs That Feature A Tolling Bell

A bell ready to be toll’d (photo via thejudge13)

One of the best things about music is the variety of instruments. One underappreciated instrument is the tolling bell. The tolling bell does one thing really well and that is set a mood. What mood? A doom mood. A mood where you know death is creeping closer and the devil’s hour is upon us. You might think to yourself “I’ve heard songs with tolling bells that do not set this mood!” You are wrong for thinking that. You are thinking of a ringing bell. This is a list about tolling bells.

10. BAT OUT OF HELL — Meat Loaf.

Total Toll Tally: 9

There are a number of factors that go into a good song and a number of other factors that go into a good song that features a tolling bell. A big factor is the number of times a bell tolls in a song. Bat Out of Hell features a tolling bell faintly towards the end. The bell only tolls 9 times and it’s almost lost in the music. What helps it crack the top 10 list is Meat Loaf explicitly calling out the tolling bell with the following lyric:

And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell!

As you will learn from this list, mentioning tolling bells is almost as important as tolling bells themselves.

9. Red Right Hand — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Total Toll Tally: 16

This song may have the best sounding tolling bell on the list. It is loud and low and very ominous, although underutilized. While the energy is low, the grim mood is as prevelent as any other track on this list. An important part of a song that tolls a bell is the mood it sets. The tolling bell conjurs images of death and Red Right Hand has the grim lyrics to support this.

8. Salad Days — Minor Threat.

Total Toll Tally:8

Minor Threat’s Salad Days may not embody the meeting with God or the Devil that a tolling bell traditionally implies, but that’s the exact reason it makes it on this list. Tolling bells aren’t a part of punk culture, so for a punk band to incorporate tolling bells in one of their tracks is really quite innovative.

7. Hallowed Be Thy Name — Iron Maiden.

Total Toll Tally:20

Hallowed Be Thy Name is a great example of a tolling bell song. It has it all. Killer guitars, howling lyrics, it’s long as fuck, and a solid tolling bell tally. The only reason this song isn’t higher on the list is because it doesn’t lean hard enough on the tolling bells.

6. Twist Of Cain — Danzig.

Total Toll Tally:4

You might be wondering why a song with such a low toll tally isn’t struggling just to make it on this list in the first place. First reason? Danzig rules. Second reason? Innovation. Most songs use a tolling bell in the intro. Twist of Cain tolls the bells in the outro. While other songs on this list toll the bell as a warning, letting you know you are entering a dark place, by the time you hear the bells in Twist Of Cain it’s already too late. The tolling bells are very prominent here and have a nice deep hollow toll to them. Great song, great tolling bells.

5. Hells Bells — AC/DC.

Total Toll Tally:13

Easily one of the most famous bell tolling songs out there. When you think of a bell tolling in a song, this might be the first song that comes to mind. The bells toll very low and deep in the intro setting the mood perfectly. Then once the song kicks in you realize the whole thing is about the bells! The total toll tally could be higher though, which is keeping it from climbing up this list.

4. For Whom The Bell Tolls — Metallica.

Total Toll Tally:25

This could be the most well known song about a tolling bell. This is the total package. It’s got the guitars, it’s long, lyrics ABOUT a tolling bell, and a very solid total toll tally. Easily one of the best songs with a tolling bell and the BEST song ABOUT a tolling bell. But this isn’t a list about songs about a tolling bell so we must move forward.

3. Hail Mary — Tupac.

Total Toll Tally:50

You will be hard pressed to find a song with a higher total toll tally. A tolling bell anchors this song in it’s entirety, an impressive feat. Tupac sets the same tone as even the most metal song on this list. Lyrics about death and impending doom make this a traditional tolling bell track even though it is not in the traditonal genre. Innovation and embracement of a tolling bell will get you far on a list of the 10 best songs featuring a tolling bell.

2. The Undertaker’s Entrance Music.

Total Toll Tally:15

This features the tolling bell like no other. You might think this song does not deserve to be so high on this list but the purpose of the song is to announce a man named The Undertaker. This song represents the personification of a tolling bell. Every time you hear this, you don’t just get a sense that death is coming you actually see the Dead Man himself. A truly great use of a tolling bell.

  1. Black Sabbath — Black Sabbath.

Total Toll Tally:28

This is the oldest song on the list having been released in 1970. I believe this to be the originator of the tolling bell sound in modern music. No doubt Black Sabbath influenced most if not all of the other artists on this list and none have been able to nail the effect of a tolling bell quite like Sabbath did. This song starts off with thunder and rain and somehow the sound of complete darkness and of course a tolling bell. The guitars rule, the lyrics are evil, it’s long as hell, and it has a very high total toll tally. Simply the best and no one has been able to do it better.