without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Bands usually suck when they start out. I know, debuts and sophomore efforts are usually among the favorites, but I mean before the first album is written. Here’s an example: my favorite non-metal band wrote about fifty songs before they recorded their first album. Even I think that the earliest ones suck.
Metallica is an exception to this rule. All of the songs from their first demo made it onto Kill Em All, and this stuff is pretty solid. The riffs are memorable and the solos excellent, the songs are fast and furious; everyone performs well, even Lars. His drumbeats are the typical generic patterns, but he works in some cool fills here and there. You can identify the album just by James’ voice. It has more of a shriek to it, but it’s well-suited to the music. I can actually hear the bass, and I’m not talking about just Anesthesia, I mean most of the album. There isn’t a decrease in quality over time, though you have standout songs. The album length (51 minutes) is just right for the amount of variation heard, and the song lengths themselves are short, the longest song only at seven minutes and Motorbreath at the shortest in their whole discography (barely three minutes). I wish they’d used this idea of shorter songs their whole career. There’s less experimentation with structure than in any of their other eighties works, but Kill Em All doesn’t need that. Its influences are obvious, and if you listen to it, it’s easy to tell that they were listening to lots of NWOBHM and punk when they wrote it. It literally defines thrash metal in a way that Metallica’s other albums don’t. As they went on, they became less and less thrashy, with this album the only pure thrash they’ve put out. Master of Puppets has about two complete thrash songs on it, and this is being generous because each of them have specifically non-thrash intros (Battery and Damage Inc). …And Justice For All should not be considered thrash at all, except for Dyers Eve.
Anyway, you’re here to read about Kill Em All, not the gradual stylistic shift of Metallica’s music throughout the eighties. I’ve just sung its praises for one really long paragraph, but there’s one thing I hate about this album. It’s the lyrics. Here are some examples: “We are gonna kick some ass tonight,” “leather and metal are our uniforms,” “ATTACK!!!!!!” “You only live once” (James yolo’d before it was cool), and of course, basically all of Whiplash (except the scream at the very end, I love that scream).
However, there is no doubt the actual music is very solid thrash. Hit the Lights, despite having the dumbest lyrics I have ever heard (I am tempted to do a dramatic reading of it someday), is a really fun song with crazy soloing, and before you know it, you’re headbanging and punching your lamps. A definite highlight. But think about this: you’re fifty years old and you’re still performing a vanity song you wrote when you were a stupid kid. Honestly I kind of feel bad for them. But that’s their punishment for not releasing a song that their fans have deemed worthy of being played at all of their shows in, say, the second half of their discography, more than twenty years.
The Four Horsemen is another highlight. Since I was introduced to this version before hearing Mechanix, Megadeth’s recording of this song freaks me out. As much as I hate Kill Em All lyrics, at least James isn’t singing about cars as a metaphor for having sex. (Disclaimer: Megadeth is cool and without Dave KEA would be far different.) It’s also the longest song on the album, at only seven minutes.
Jump in the Fire has one of my favorite main riffs, and it is followed by the famous bass solo, Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth). It is arguably the best solo on the album, but it’s more like a novelty to me. No disrespect to Cliff, but it doesn’t seem to fit on the album, not as a single track. It’s strategically placed near the middle of the album, providing a break from the otherwise relentless thrash, but it might have been better if parts of the solo were interspersed throughout the rest of the songs, or if it was only played live, or something else. All it does is give the album some variation and make you think, “Oh, cool, a bass solo, you don’t hear those every day.”
Phantom Lord is notable for its mellower bridge, and No Remorse for its pre-chorus riff, which I really enjoy. Cannibal Corpse has a cover of this song, and they do a good job. As for Seek and Destroy, it’s a solid piece, but its catchiness is really the only reason it’s played so often in concert.
Overall, a definite classic of the thrash metal genre and of metal as a whole. It flows well, except for Anesthesia, and for a debut, it’s great. The poor quality of the lyrics and the low level of variation can likely be explained by how it is their first album. Later on, there is more maturity, especially lyrically. They do away with vanity songs, and sing about more grown-up things, like being angry at your parents, turning into a wolf, death, cars, and the monsters under your bed. (But really, this album sounds immature, especially when compared to their later works.) If you’re new to thrash metal, this would be a good place to start.
Mostly ripped from the "No Life 'Til Leather" demo, this album is what represents what kicked off thrash metal as a genre, along with the album that kicked it up a notch, "Show Now Mercy" by Slayer in the same year. While Slayer's album is what influenced other extreme metal genre's and gave metal it's harsh sound we know of, this was the standard for classic thrash metal. Thrash metal started off as nothing more than punk driven heavy metal. This is very evident as all of the members of Metallica were big fans of punk music and used that influence here. It is heard mostly because of the noisy, fast riffs that don't have a lot of variety to the sound. A lot of them sound similar, however as bad as that sounds, they're still all incredible. Even though they still have the same basic sound, they are all played at such as fast pace and change note to note so quickly that one has to appreciate the talent. Plus, Kirk Hammett's smashing solos make up for it. He nails us with that right away, such as in the opening track "Hit The Lights", as the entire second half of that song focuses entirely on guitar solos. Him and James go very well together when playing guitars.
Every Metallica album sounds different and unique in its own way, and has a different overall theme behind it. If you ask me, this one mostly just sounds like a bunch of loud, angry, and young kids just wanting to play their fucking hearts out. Usually in a case like that, you get somewhat mediocre lyrics, but that is not the case here. "The Four Horsemen" is a seven minute song with an insightful meaning behind it, along with plenty of complex solos to keep the listener interested. At no point do any lyrics not make sense, nor do they sound like they were written by rebellious nineteen year olds, even though that's basically what they were at the time.
At no point does this album get boring. There is a bass solo thrown in there that to some would be boring, but it's complex enough that it could have been a guitar solo and keeps me interested. It's not too long, so it doesn't drag on. It has a perfect transition into "Whiplash", one of the faster and well known tracks off of this record. That song just makes one want to run, move fast, wreck some shit, mosh, or just anything destructive. That monotone riff near the beginning is a good example of how something so simple can still be entertaining if done correctly, as it is here.
Most people like to rag on Lars and talk about how bad of a drummer he is, but I don't think he's bad. He's not incredible, but he's not bad. The drums on here are just like any thrash album; fast and heavy. James, however, has very different sounding vocals on this record than on the other records. He's very harsh sounding, and less clean, which I think is partly the punk aspect taking place. His voice is also significantly higher than in other albums. But it fits very well and is very necessary for this record. Much like the content and music, his voice changes slightly on every album too. On here I would describe it as "high and harsh". It's just not as clean as the others, but that makes for a very good debut album. Nothing wrong with quality that is slightly poor.
I've noticed many Metallica fans do not like all of their music. They either like the first two or three albums, or the first four, or just the later stuff, if you're a fan of rock rather metal. But I like just about all of it, and I would recommend this record to someone who specifically likes thrash, speed, and complexity with solos. Any metal fan in general though could appreciate this album, as it was part of a big change in the metal industry.
This album is ground-breaking as it has been called the first album of the thrash/speed metal movement. This statement can be debated, but it is a very early thrash/speed metal album indeed. Yes, there had been demos before with this sound, even the band Stress from Brazil claim to have preceded this album with their debut studio album in 1982 titled "Stress". Even if that is true, this album was the match to the fuse for American speed and thrash metal. There is good reason for that statement. Let me go into detail and explain this.
This is a speed metal album with thrashy parts. The speed is what really catches anyone from the start. Next, the crunchy and ripping guitar tones make this almost automatically heavier than any predecessor (excluding maybe Venom and Motorhead). The guitars are also extremely catchy at points with songs like The Fourhorse Men, No Remorse, Whiplash, Etc. No band up until this point had this sort of mix. The solos are both easy to listen to and technical. They are not too special but they defiantly get the job done here.
This album has some great lyrics in songs like The Fourhorse Men, Jump in the Fire, Seek & Destroy and Phantom Lord. They all speak of some sort of mayhem or pain and devastation. This sets a frenzied mood in the lyrics for the whole album.
The vocals add to the heaviness with James Hetfield going from whiny vocals reminiscent of the N.W.O.B.H.M. bands they adore and aspired to be like, to gruff and crude barks in the style of Cronos of Venom and Lemmy from Motorhead. Almost every song on this album has the two different styles displayed within the first 2 verses and chorus of each song. The vocals are very well delivered in general. Most phrasing feel comfortable and catchy.
The bass is handled by none other than Cliff Burton, a monster on the bass. Unfortunately, the bass is lower in the mix than most would prefer. Though Cliff gets his spotlight on the track (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth. Where he plays a full on bass solo. This being a rare occurrence on any album. The bass tone on this album is created with Cliff's extremely warm sounding wah pedal tone. It makes the bass fit perfectly under the guitars on this album. Though this makes the bass hard to distinguish at times sadly.
The drums are the one weak link in this principally perfect chain of instrumentals and vocals. Lars does a very basic job here. He doesn't add much to the band on this album. His drum work is fast but it is mainly regular N.W.O.B.H.M. drums on steroids, nothing really innovative here. He was just getting used to drums at this point, as the next 3 albums by Metallica have excellent drumming through out. There are no really big highlights for Lars on this album. Though he does a pretty good job at catchy drums on Whiplash.
This album overall is short when listened to but it clocks in at approx. 51 minutes. This is a 10-track album that feels like it is only 5 tracks because of how exciting it feels. There is barely a second to breath. Which makes this album a worth listening to a lot more than once. This is a amazingly telling debut. It has elements that Metallica would use a fair bit through out the eighties. It is not too amateurish to make you feel like these are just a bunch of songs written to sound "heavy and fast" for the sake of being so. It is mainly technical and fast with a feeling of a adrenaline rush through out. This album is around 31 years old but it has aged well for a speed/thrash album. I would defiantly recommend it to any metal-head as it is a necessity in thrash and a classic of metal in general.
By 1983 the splendor of the NWOBHM came to an end, the decline of the movement was clearly reflected on the abysmal commercial sound of Def Leppard’s massively successful Pyromania, which set the rules for the next 7 years comical parody of 80’s heavy metal big record labels thought they could make cash from. Fortunately, a new subgenre was born, totally contrary to the trends and fashion of those times: Thrash. Metallica had been playing their stuff since late ’81 but it wasn’t until July ’83 when they eventually put out their debut. Yeah, the debate about which was the truly first thrash act ever and whose the roots of the subgenres were is endless and exhausting and it goes on and on, though it’s obvious these guys were the first to make that challenging new sound reach a wide audience.
These guys attack hard from the start with the frantic “Hit The Lights”, whose tempo is nearly uncontrolled, its main riff so direct and primitive, the main chorus incessant…a successful combination of heavy metal lines and punkish attitude that doesn’t get that thrashy in comparison of what is yet to come. “Motorbreath” is configured similarly, featuring also that alternative riffing bridge and a hyperactive pickin’ part, fast, fierce but still more accessible than the record heaviest artillery. So the riffs of those compositions are certainly loose and straight, defining a vigorous tempo influenced by preceding speed metal bands, although not many others around played it as fast as Metallica on the mighty “Whiplash”, particularly. That one became a subgenre anthem instantly, giving it a title (Adrenalin starts to flow-You're thrashing all around), determining its nature and essence with those incredibly dynamic sharp riffs and that harsh rapid rhythm, building a solid basis for a pretty humble technically song that offers no notable diversity or variation on its structure, yet it doesn’t lack strength, energy and power at all. ‘Tallica are doing it simpler and more direct, mostly refusing to embrace specially complex schemes nor introducing advanced arrangements, though tracks like “The Four Horsemen” and “No Remorse” are exceptions that show a bigger versatility of riff series, tempo changes and refined breaks that break the usual uniformity and absence of ambition of other tunes. However, scruffier doesn’t mean worst. “Metal Militia” for instance is explicitly basic, constructed by that insistent raging riff that remain mostly untouched, yet competent enough to design a truly consistent wall of sound with no incredible skill or complication. Even Cliff’s bass solo, which is far from perfect or completely precise, affects the effectiveness of the album, even though it breaks its continuity inevitably.
By 1983 there were other fine aggressive metal albums, but Metallica put bigger emphasis on speed and sonic violence than anybody else, taking influence equally from heavy metal and punk. Particularly, the punkish nature of their riffs is what really made their music so unique and inventive. The combination of the attitude and simplicity of that alternative subgenre, with the technique of most NWOBHM groups provided their stuff of admirable consistency and dynamism. Well, Venom played it punkish and raw before but they weren’t that accurate instrumentally. Raven were nearly that fast and loose, though they never did it that intentionally dirty and unpolished, so these guys reached another level no other British 80’s metal band got that close before. The brutality and supremacy of riffs is the indispensable element of their methodology. Even if Hetfield’s choruses might get infectious and tiring, guitar lines lead the pack generally, defining the distinct sequences and tempo modifications, deprived of melody and sophistication. There’s no time for harmonies, advanced licks or exhausting progression. Instrumental passages aren’t particularly lengthy or varied here, there are a couple of quiet breaks on “The Four Horsemen” and “Phantom Lord”, but the rest is straightforward pure and simple thrash, pushing away the difficulty of the previous decade heavy metal trends and bluesy/classic influences. That’s what made them different from Motörhead, there’s no noticeable trace of classic rock & roll in their music, and they rather see themselves reflected on the fury of “Overkill” instead of the casual style of “Stay Clean”. The continuity and stability of speed and aggression is total. Even “Jump In The Fire” or “Seek And Destroy”, which start as weighty traditional heavy metal numbers, soon turn into vicious velocity, their determination is clear.
Who knows, maybe Savage’s Loose & Lethal or Exciter’s Heavy Metal Maniac should get the same recognition and credits for their contribution to the subgenre. Metallica were in the right place, in the right time so they achieved all popularity and acclamation. However, this record is a serious competent effort, musically strong, technically simple but tremendously inventive so its success is justified. It was the most extreme album by that time certainly and I guess nobody could predict what the band would become later…Anyway, more than 30 years later, it remains as one of the most vital records of the subgenre, an essential work that had also a big impact on other music genres…the unexpected success of the group would made their music reach unexpected audiences. Even my alternative indie rock maniac neighbor listens to it.
From my observations of other reviews, and comments, both on the internet and interpersonally, a lot of things can affect how you feel about this band. From when/how you started listening to them, to what other music you like. What your friends think about em and how douchey you heard the band members are. I feel my perspective is much less biased. There has to be some bias somewhere right? Definitely, but I don't know how much or what it's towards, but bias is unavoidable. I will however tackle these reviews carefully; focusing just on the album's themselves. I'll elaborate more on how I myself started listening to them in a later review.
Anyways.... Kill 'Em All was Metallica unhinged, in not so many words. They were basically kids when writing and recording this. Kids who loved NWOBHM, and wanted to push music to the limit. There is no variation here. From the band name, to the album title and cover, to the fact that you can say every song title while bobbing your head, holding up the horns, and furrowing your brow and suddenly you’re wearing acid washed denim, have long hair, and Reagan’s still the prez. This album screams eighties, and that’s a big part of its appeal. It rocks. It REALLY rocks. Every little bit is completely headbangable, and you almost can't help but do it. When Hit the Lights starts with that simple though 100% fitting intro, with all the instruments just kind of blaring and being loud, you can't know what’s coming. And that bouncy, bluesy riff starts playing..... OHHHHHHhhhhhh... it just feels great! Throw a few squealed WOO's and yelps in there and this song has you pumped from the get go. It's got just a brilliant structure, where just a few (albeit amazingly memorable riffs) are arranged in a way that it feels like you’re never hearing the same riff twice in a row. This is actually my personal favorite on the album. The catchy vocal lines and the never-ending stream of solos just can't be topped.
To combat the downright energy of that opener, we go right into The Four Horsemen, the most atmospheric song here. Mechanix is far inferior in nearly every aspect. It's faster, but just listen to this! It will ingrain its way into your memory, never to leave again. The lyrics are much better, unless you’re in middle school, and sex puns are fresh and raunchy. Though this version is not perfect either; there's a reason the band doesn't play the Sweet Home Alabama bridge live....
Let's take a step back and look at the big picture here. The cover image is striking and iconic, the band photo looks like a group who are considering beating you (seriously look at the picture, Cliff looks downright terrifying, Lars is giving the stink eye, James looks like he's part ape, and Kirk... well Kirk looks like a pretty girl. Maybe Lars is giving you a dirty look for eyeing his woman) and the album came out when Hellhammer was considered brutal. This was a big development in metal, with the speed, crunch and unbridled... well metal! This album should come in an iron jewel case, because this album, and the guys who made it were gonna be as heavy as they could, regardless of if anyone else approved. And what you here is the passion. Metallica rose to fame as the common man's metal band. They weren't going with an extreme image, or a false satanic image to gain notoriety. They were just young guys, who wanted to make metal music their way. And the metal they made had some amazing guitar work right from the beginning of their career!
The guitar work is heavy and fast, aging a little bit over the years, but still fun as hell. Great riffs. REALLY great riffs and a whole lot of 'em. I mean just pick a spot on the album, any spot, and the guitar work is like a spectral hand grabbing the back of your neck and shaking you back and forth. Classic, rocking style, not as refined as later works, by this band and others but no doubt still as potent as it weas when it first dropped. The bluesier tone is right at home here, and the bands clear youthful enthusiasm is audible in the multitude of powerful, often rapid riffing on display here. The admittedly few moments where the guitars slow down a bit, (never to a drone, but a good mid-paced gallop) are just as effective, like on Four Horsemen, Seek and Destroy, and bits thrown in across other tracks. And as I mentioned above, there’s a million solos, and they all shred.
But when every solo just comes off as shred, it gets a little repetitious and wears on me after a while. The album is over fifty minutes, and every track has a lot of soloing to it, and frankly, it's hard to discern one solo from the others. No solo really has a significant drop in quality from the others, and when I pick one song off my iPod to listen to I can listen to any song on here, but it wears me down to listen to every song in a row. The exact opposite of the masterworks to follow. Overall however, the guitar work is much better then your average album, and it truly laid the stonework for future thrash bands.
The bass just follows suit here, and as a result I don't really notice. Likely the result of Cliff Burton's late joining, as he would not have time to come up with his own, third-guitar style bass lines like on the next two albums. The much contested (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth is Burton's sole credit here, and it is a bit of a double edged sword. It is a very well done, interesting solo that merits a listen. Or two. But I find myself skipping it on repeated listens. No fault on the solo itself, but it is just a bass solo, and I think it should have had parts of it incorporated into a full song as opposed to being just hung out by itself. Especially since Cliff was getting a part of every live gig to do bass solos....
An energetic percussion section ties the whole thing together. Energetic is the best word to describe it, matching the enthusiasm in the guitars every second of the album (minus the first section of Pulling Teeth of course). Another way to analyze the style Ulrich demonstrates might be 'burst drumming'. Relatively simplistic beats, but with more rapid sections, and sudden thunderous fills. Technical? No. Could Pete Sandoval do this in his sleep? Maybe. But effective? Hell yes. Simple, effective, but most importantly (like everything else here) metal as all hell. Lars probably delivers the most diverse display here. For good reason of course, they wanted the guitars to be relentless. But the symbol work sometimes thrown in little segments has an almost jazzy, light-hearted feel. Hearing that type of subtle hints in songs like Hit the Lights and Phantom Lord, and all the great bursts mentioned above, make his drumming here sound refreshing and innovative even today.
The last issue I have to deduct points for are the lyrics. What we get here is nothing like the more topical, meaningful lyrics that we are treated to on the nest few albums. But the lyrics are fun, and match the youthfulness that this album exudes. And in fact I'm glad this albums the way it is. This is the Metallica album I listen to when I wanna just have fun. But cheesy lines like "No life 'til leather were gonna kick some ass tonight" and the sheer number of times "searching. seek and destroy" (Fun live, but in the studio? tone it down.) is said are not up to snuff. That being said I still spin it a lot. But choosing this over the opuses to follow? Not on my desert island. And if you could only have one Metallica record would this really be the one you choose?
For being metal, fun, metal, fast, metal, enthusiastic, and holy shit is this metal, Metallica's thrash progenitor gets 80 out of 100 or a 4 out of 5.
Hit the Lights
Seek and Destroy
The Four Horsemen
Let's face it, I love Metallica. To achieve what they have done is most people's dream: the money, the metal and the longevity. Just to debut so strongly would be enough for me. Kill Em All takes the speed of Motorhead, the guitar attack of Iron Maiden and the fun hot rockin'/fantasy themes of Judas Priest combined with a punk youthfulness, and spawns the diamond of the Big Four of Thrash Metal debuts, hell, it is the ultimate thrash debut.
Kill Em All feels like a collection of greatest hits from every influential heavy metal band that had come before. Increasing the tempo, overloading with riffs and solos, and a pleasant blend of young punk vs Lemmy vocals single-handedly preserves, updates and elaborates on the classic heavy metal formula. 'The Four Horsemen' definately stands out amongst the other tracks, sounding a lot tighter than the otherwise awesome Megadeth equivalent 'Mechanix'. To help tell the tale of, as is clear, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Metallica (reworking a song by ex-member Dave Mustaine) construct a monster: a just over seven minutes long sprawler with enough riffs to keep anyone happy, hell there's even a bizarre but effective send up of 'Sweet Home Alabama' in the bridge. It is a song that benefits from a slower tempo: each instrument is clearly defined, and the lyrics crisp and intelligible, unlike the awkward slurring of Mustaine on 'Mechanix'. The length, subject matter and progressive composition of the song leaves it feeling a little out of place amongst fun-loving tracks such as 'Hit the Lights' and 'Motorbreath', but demonstrates the full potential of the band.
Another highlight is the party-metal track 'Jump In The Fire', where the band invites you to just sit back and let the forces of rock take you away. Try to forget that chorus! I find myself remembering it each morning before washing... 'Jump In The Show-ahh!' I sing to myself... no joke. The rest of the album is equally as joyous, with Metallica reaching out to fans new and old on 'Metal Militia', and tracks like 'No Remorse' and 'Whiplash' demonstrating Metallica's respect of the power of the riff. Perhaps what makes these songs work so well is the combination of excellent verse riffs, a clear and unrushed vocal delivery and catchy but well-earned choruses. So often with early thrash releases can bands fail to spark interest during the verses, only to seem like they're trying too hard to be catchy in the choruses. Each song has memorable sections, and no wasted moments.
Four extremely talented friends have been given a chance to show off their skills. James Hetfield gives his all when singing, more than making up for his voice not yet being particularly tuneful, and his right hand plays some of the most memorable and inspiring riffs the band has produced. Lars Ulrich shines, sounding best when he's playing fast and hard. Kirk Hammet is let rip soloing left and right, suiting the feel of the album perfectly. Cliff Burton's abilities are best demonstrated on the album's interlude 'Pulling Teeth' (a track ignored for the final rating - it isn't actually a song), a silly but impressive noodly bass solo, but he does have his moments on tracks such as 'The Four Horsemen' and 'Hit the Lights'. Together they form one supreme being. A being dressed in leather, sporting long hair and metal chains. But most importantly, a being with a smile on its face. It's so fun to listen to Kill Em All, and not just in a cold-hearted ironic way.
The production doesn't feel polished and it works. Compare the guitar tone to Master of Puppets and ...And Justice For All. Benefiting from less dimension, Kill Em All sounds like an all American V8 muscle car, screaming down the highway. This is probably the only Metallica album where the bass is of satisfying clarity, providing a chunkiness that doesn't exist on the rest of 80s Metallica releases. Listen to 'Metal Militia' in comparison to 'Dyers Eve'... where did the bass go?!
All in all, there aren't many fair criticisms that can be thrown at it, besides maybe the inclusion of the bass solo, which is more like a cool bonus track than anything else. Some people think the album is dumb or stupid, but then you have to disregard most metal that came before it for similar reasons. Just have fun with it, Metallica sure did.
Ah, Kill 'Em All. If you like deep, thought-provoking, awe-inspiring metal, then let me direct you to Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. But if you want a to kick back with a cold beverage and enjoy a ridiculously fun romp, then Kill 'Em All was made for you. Kill 'Em All is the first album by Metallica. In case you've been living under a rock your whole life, let a surface-dweller educate you. Metallica is part of the Big Four of thrash metal, the other three being Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. Metallica's first four albums (five depending on who you ask) are considered to be heavy metal must-haves. While Kill 'Em All is the weakest of Metallica's first four efforts without question, it's a great album that will warrant many listens for Metallica fans like myself.
Production is pretty fuzzy, but this album was recorded on a budget of approximately $12 that Lars probably stole from his mom's purse so I couldn't expect it to be a masterpiece. The only thing I really listen for as far as production on an album is simple contrast. I want to hear every instrument, and I want them to mesh together. Kill 'Em All has delivers in spades. Every instrument, every cooperating sound, flows perfectly together and no one aspect outshines the rest of the band, and the fact that you can actually hear Cliff Burton's bass is definitely a plus.
Kill 'Em All may not be the deepest Metallica album, but the instrumentation is very solid. Kirk plays some of his best and most memorable solos here, Hetfield's riffs are mind-blowingly fast, Lars's drumming is at its best (ie he actually sounds like he knows how to use a fill) and of course Cliff Burton was and is one of metal's greatest bassists. His solo (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth is one of Kill 'Em All's highlights and really draws you in in a haunting way. James's voice isn't particularly special here, he doesn't have a lot of subtlety in his delivery, but this album doesn't have many subtle moments so that's a bit understandable. He can still hit the highs and shriek like the best hardcore punk frontmen, and it fits the breakneck speed of Kill 'Em All exceptionally well.
So, what deep, harrowing topics does the songwriting on Kill 'Em All cover? life in the fast lane, and...more life in the fast lane, mostly. Just about every song is about how great it is to live fast, or how great it is to be Metallica, or just how great thrash metal is. And in the end, isn't that the noblest of causes?
I'll just put it out there: This is a very consistent album. The only track that's really different from the rest is Pulling Teeth. However, if an album has a formula, and the formula is good, that just leaves room for more standouts. It's nigh-impossible for me to pick a favorite track. I love the Four Horsemen with its apocalyptic musings, the midtempo chug of Seek and Destroy, but my favorite track, if I absolutely had to pick one, is probably Whiplash. This is the greatest example of why Kill 'Em All is so much fun to listen to-it's Metallica singing about thrash metal, how much they love thrash metal, and how much fun it is listening to thrash metal. I just like the idea of that.
So as we've admitted already, nothing here is going to challenge you in anything other than Guitar Hero. But that's a real breath of fresh air, in a way, isn't it? Isn't it great to hear an album that knows where it's at? It's not trying to change your life, or rock your worldview. Hell, The Four Horsemen is the deepest track by far, and even it doesn't take itself overly seriously. No, Kill 'Em All is just having a good time, and it wants you to have a good time with it. I don't think that's too much to ask. This is a band that usually takes itself very seriously, recording an album that doesn't take itself too seriously. I'd love to see more of that from other thrash bands. This isn't nearly as heavy as Master of Puppets, And Justice For All, or especially Ride the Lightning, it's just great, speedy, punk-influenced metal. This album, along with Judas Priest's Painkiller, is simply the epitome of a good time, plain and simple. If you like pure raw, all-killer-no-filler thrash metal, this is for you.
Kill 'Em All always feels a little out of place alongside the other great Metallica albums like Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, ...And Justice for All, and hell, even the self-titled "black album". Like all debut albums from the big 4, they are very NWOBHM-influenced, however Metallica's is second to Megadeth's for being the roughest. There are effects on the vocals that take away the power of the performance, and the overall power of the instruments isn't what it'd become on future releases. Some of the songs are also a tad weak like Metallica hadn't yet found themselves, and they probably haven't.
To my understanding, Kirk's solos were based on Dave's, by utilizing the first four bars or so, and then going from there. A lot of what would become Kirk's cliches like the use of the wah pedal, Ibanez Tube Screamer and minor pentatonic are quite evident here, but so are some non-cliches as well. To me, I think his playing started out a lot more interesting and worthy of a band of the magnitude that Metallica would later become. Particularly enjoyable solos here are Phantom Lord, Whiplash, and The Four Horsemen. He does a pretty decent job on the entire album to be honest, and while he seems less concerned about melody, he does play some of his fastest solos on this album. His guitar tone probably isn't the best, but it does fit the album quite well.
In all honesty though, the standout musician and MVP here has to be Cliff Burton. Pulling Teeth is quite an amazing solo piece and he does quite a good job throughout the rest of the album as well. For quite a few songs on Kill 'Em All, he makes the songs work by adding some rhythm to riffs that seem to lack rhythm. He also seems the most talented of the group, and it's hard to explain, but Cliff seems to be a lot more mature musically than the rest of the band. It's really nice how Cliff will add some spice to certain songs by doing a big Gene Simmons-style slide when it was originally probably a portion of the song where he didn't do anything. That said, it is kinda hard to hear him clearly underneath the guitars and kick drum, but if you take the time and effort to focus in on the bass, his playing will be quite enjoyable.
While James would go on to be the much-applauded gruff barker and supremely hailed for his right hand's ability to downpick at insane speeds, his playing and vocals aren't quite up to par here. My hypothesis on that is two part. First, he's younger, so his vocals haven't matured enough yet and thus aren't as gruff and powerful as they would become later on. Secondly, he hadn't quite honed his right hand to be able to downpick at amazing speeds like he's managed to do later on. I suspect maturing and touring are what improved both in that regard. Also, there seems to be an effect on his vocals which makes them less harsh and, at this time from what I understand, James was still boosting his amps with an overdrive pedal. For their first album, James does a great job with what they had available to them and didn't seem to waste all of their budget on drugs and booze. He does, however, do a great job on the songs Whiplash, No Remorse, and Jump in the Fire.
I dislike Lars quite a bit. The way he and James interlock with eachother is quite amazing, however, I don't think Lars has gotten much better since Kill 'Em All, and if anything, he's gotten worse. That said, he does some nice tom work here and there, and manages to play quite well for the songs, doing cool little fills here and there and whatnot, though I wish some songs, like Whiplash, had a double bass. In fact, sometimes I'm not even sure if he's playing the kick drum at all. Not sure if that's because of the way it was recorded or what. For instance, during Kirk's solo for Whiplash, it almost sounds like Lars isn't using the kick drum at all. I'd say of anyone on any of Metallica's records, Lars is usually the weakest link and it's especially evident here.
The mixing and production is alright, though of any album to get 20th/25th/30th anniversary re-recordings, Kill 'Em All is probably the only one I'd actually be interested to check out. I think if they did that and just played the songs [no irritating rewriting or rearranging, etc.], it could be quite good. The bass is kinda buried at times, which is a shame, and the guitar tones could be better. The reverb on the vocals doesn't work at all for me as I don't think it fits James' vocals at all. If Lars' performance and the mixing/production was done better, this album could probably earn at least another 10% from me in this review.
In closing, while I like this album and some of the songs in particular, I think you're better off checking out live shows where they play some of these songs. I suggest buying this album if you want a more NWOBHM-influenced Metallica album or are a completist.
Seek & Destroy
The year was 1983, and the stage was set for a phenomenon. An up and coming band had just fired their guitarist Dave Mustaine and called upon the services of former Exodus man Kirk Hammett for the recording of their ten song debut. The band was Metallica, taking their influences from the brash style of Venom and Judas Priest, they were to push the boundaries of what was acceptable in heavy music of its day to the absolute limit, creating a raw, powerful debut album that is generally considered to be the absolute birth of thrash metal.
Kill Em All was a fast album, more aggressive than anything that had been released to date, garnering the band a fair amount of attention in the Bay Area scene, building them a nice following. The album was something entirely fresh for its day, with songs such as Hit The Lights showing exactly how fast and heavy music could be played, without ever sacrificing its musical integrity. Hit The Lights was the original thrash metal song, a blueprint for everything else that was to follow, opening with the sound of the band jamming, before diving headfirst into a fast series of riffs that demolish everything in their path. Whilst not quite as mature musically nor lyrically as the albums that would follow, this was more than an adequate song, standing the test of time as one of the bands best songs, with the immortal sound of James Hetfield's tortured shriek of "hit the lights".
Hit The Lights is not the only great song found on Kill Em All, with reworked song The Four Horsemen (originally entitled The Mechanix during the time Dave Mustaine was part of the band) standing tall, along with Metal Militia and pure speed-metal brilliance Whiplash. Phantom Lord, however, proves to be the meatiest track on the album, being another Mustaine-written song, but a great track with some powerful riffs, particularly the first riff in the song. The guitar lines across the majority of this album are really well written and played, despite the speed they are played at and the age of those responsible for them. Whiplash has an incredibly fast riff that thunders along at a marvelous pace, whilst Motorbreath has some riffs that hint at a punk influence going into the writing.
The vocals on this release are completely chaotic, with Hetfield using a rather juvenile screech throughout much of the release, which isn't the best of vocal deliveries, but suits the unrefined nature of this album really well. The best vocal song on this album is found on Seek And Destroy, the most well known song from the album, being one of the only songs in which Hetfield sings in a normal tone for the majority of it, only occasionally letting out the shriek found on the rest of the album. The bass is audible throughout the album, which is rare for a Metallica album, and sounds decent enough. The extended bass solo, Anasthesia Pulling Teeth is a well written piece that showcases Cliff Burton at his finest.
However, there is also a very ugly side to this album, with the production being right at the forefront of it. This was recorded on a tiny budget of $1,500 and it definitely shows, with a huge amount of reverb on the vocals being more than audible, and the album having a very unprofessional sound to it, particularly on the recording quality of the guitars. This is a really poor production job, and whilst not being as bad as some early thrash acts, it certainly hinders the album. The other weakness of this album is the lack of memorability found on this record. Many of the songs are not catchy enough, and feel too long, without enough high quality riffs to carry them across their lengths. When the album works, it is fine, but the weaknesses on this album are unavoidable.
This is a solid enough release, but is marred by the production found on here and the crippling lack of many moments that stick in the listeners head. Purchase this for historical value and the The Four Horsemen, Whiplash, Phantom Lord and Hit The Lights definitely, but do not expect the finest album of all time.
Originally written for Sputnik
While most of the stuff I review tends to be popular to some extent, I've still never tackled the metal band. I mean, I've touched on Iron Maiden twice, but one of those was written when I was fifteen and it's really atrocious, and the other one I crapped out in half an hour and haven't read since I submit it initially five years ago. But Iron Maiden is really only the co-biggest metal band ever, and we all know who the big dogs in this game are. The most realistic estimate I've seen of Maiden's worldwide sales are something around 80 million albums, which is a monstrously huge number, especially for a heavy metal band. And with that in mind, Metallica has roughly 100 million with a shorter career and less albums. In terms of fans, influence, and continued relevance, I'd give the edge to Maiden as the biggest metal band of all time, but the numbers are certainly on Metallica's side.
And because they're the biggest, they're also the most visible and most controversial. Everybody has an opinion on the great dramas of Metallica's career, like how Dave Mustaine is the only good thing that ever happened to them (saying their early era was only good because of his influence is like saying The Courtyard of the Old Residency, Munich is only good because Hitler painted it), or how the commercialization would have never happened if Cliff Burton hadn't tragically died in that bus crash (he was a huge REM fan and wrote many of the melodic parts on Master of Puppets, he would have had no problem with, and in fact probably would have encouraged, a new direction), or how Lars is a wretched fame whore and money snatching gremlin who is a smooth talker but a crappy drummer (well... that one's true). The point is that no metal fan's development went by unblemished by the unmistakable scent of Metallica. They're just ubiquitous and profoundly influential on the development of heavy metal as a whole, and unless you entered the scene via Brenoritvrezorkre and Enbilulugugal, you've heard the first four or five albums at least once.
And with that, I need to do something strange and direct you to an Achewood strip. The scene is set when Teodor walks in on Ray playing with a toy truck:
Téodor: What's with the little toy dumptruck, Ray? You have a kid over?
Ray: This's mine dude! Don't be buggin'!
Téodor: From when you were a kid?
Ray: Kid kid kid! What's with all this kid imagery? Did you just see a kid? I play with this truck!
Téodor: Is this some kind of new hip-hop thing, like sucking on a pacifier was a few years ago?
Ray: Look dude, if you can't have fun playin' with a toy truck, then it's time to reevaluate your life. You've become jaded.
You now have my official opinion on early Metallica. This is how it is for me, and I know I'm not in the minority here. If you can't go back to the days of your youth, put yourself back in that frame of mind, and appreciate the entry-level metal acts the same way you used to, you've become jaded. I get it, your taste evolves, you grow away from what you once loved, but if you can't even spin Kill 'em All and wreck your neck to "The Four Horsemen" or "Metal Militia" on an even nostalgic level, then you need to reevaluate your life. What you've got here is some of the most aggressive and innovative metal of the first third of the 80s, and even disregarding the historical significance of this album, it still holds up today as a showcase of melodic fury, the fast paced rage of youth, and the purest form of early thrash, when it was still just a mix of heavy metal and punk.
You see, at this point in time, Kill 'em All was essentially in a league of its own. There were demos of Overkill and Exodus floating around in the bits of time surrounding the release of this album, yeah, but the only other full length album to come out in 1983 that can really be considered a thrash metal album by any stretch was Slayer's phenomenal debut, Show No Mercy, and that was released six months after Metallica's debut. Thrash at this time wasn't really a distinct entity yet, the sound we'd come to have solidified on later albums like Reign in Blood, Eternal Devastation, Bonded by Blood, Beneath the Remains, and other genre defining classics is nowhere to be found on Kill 'em All, but the groundwork is there. There's no denying that the triplet break of "The Four Horsemen", or any given section of "Whiplash" and "Metal Militia" are anything other than some of the earliest thrash metal ever put to tape. That fast, hard hitting grittiness of Discharge mixed with the riffing supremacy of Diamond Head and layered with the attitude of Motorhead; that is how thrash started, and it's a mindset that 97% of these newer "retro" bands need to get back to. Before there was a template to ape, Metallica just set forth by blending the stuff they liked. So what we're presented with is a little bit Saxon, little bit Ramones. Little bit Mercyful Fate, little bit Misfits. Little bit Venom, little bit Thin Lizzy. That alone makes this one of the purest tributes to that beloved style of music we all love. Kill 'em All was basically a love letter to all of Metallica's early influences, and in their aim to pay homage to their idols while simultaneously pushing the envelope, they kind of accidentally invented an entirely new style and stumbled into history. Even if they'd broken up or died after the release of this, I'm sure the benefit of hindsight, especially now with the internet, would have granted this album the notoriety it deserves.
And that's another thing people, especially younger folks, need to understand. They weren't superstars in 1983. Megaforce sure as hell wasn't Sony or EMG or anything like that, it really wasn't until after the two subsequent albums that they really reached the levels of success we normally attribute to them, and it was even more impressive back then, with how obnoxious and abrasive they were in comparison to everything else American audiences had access to. This is really just me scratching an itch more than anything, but the amount of historical revisionists who go on about obvious ballyhoo like that just drive me up the wall. Mustaine fanatics who get all butthurt about how they took all the success from Megadeth need to realize that they had just as much time to break out, the fact that Megadeth was always Metallica Jr. sure didn't help their perpetual shadow dancing, but that's another rant for another day.
But the main point here is the music itself, and as I've said dozens of times already, it's a stupendous blend of early rebellious music. Tracks like "Motorbreath" really showcase the punk edge and rock 'n roll attitude gleaned from Motorhead (the title likely wasn't a coincidence), while "Hit the Lights" could be seen as a double-time reimagining of "Highway Star" or "Heavy Metal Thunder". Pretty much everything here has something to enjoy, and nearly every song can be picked apart to discern all of the band's influences at the time. But with all that said, I have to say the band's age really does show, mainly in James's vocal performance and lyrics. The former is a positive quality, as there's such an inimitable charm to him shouting his adorable little peach fuzzed lungs out, giving it nothing less than 100%. His squawky yelp is very earnest and resonates well with the spirit of youthful backlash against the establishment. While on the other hand, the lyrics here are pretty inconsistent, and usually pretty bad. "The Four Horsemen", apart from making the odd mistake of replacing "War" with "Time", is pretty solid in this respect, whereas "Seek and Destroy", "Metal Militia", "Phantom Lord" and others just fall completely flat from a lyrical standpoint. Part of me wants to not hold this against them since lord knows I'm embarrassed about the lyrics I wrote when I was 17, but the fact of the matter is that they're here and they've been immortalized, as silly and stupid as they may be.
There are other kinks that really needed to be ironed out as well, like the painfully dull "Anesthesia". Really, of all the cues you could have taken from Battle Hymns, you didn't take the irreverent attitude, hard rocking riffs, or big choruses, you chose the torturous extended bass solo? Literally the only thing about Manowar's first album that I don't like and one of their most irritating trademarks throughout their career has always been that damn stupid, sloppy distorted bass solo that they always shoehorn in. Thankfully Metallica kept it contained to just this first album, so the overall damage was reined in. The track has taken on a life of its own after Burton's death and is often pointed to as evidence of his prowess, when really it's a pretty simple ditty that sounds like it was recorded impromptu in one take. Cliff's strength lied in his melodic sensibilities ("Orion" was his baby, and the strange, noodly parts from later albums were his main contribution), not his boring bass jam. I also can't help but dislike "Seek and Destroy". I know it's become a concert staple but it just sounds so corny forced that I can't get behind it. It works in a live setting, but here it sounds to me like a dirtier and heavier version of the glam rock bands that Metallica was rebelling against at the time. The main riff lacks urgency and just kind of piddles along lazily. And if I'm being excessively nitpicky (which I am), the first half of "No Remorse" feels kind of awkward and not entirely thought out. The second half is strong as hell, with that primitive thrash sensibility shining through a truly venomous vocal performance, it just takes a while to get there.
With all that said, I have to admit I'm just being extra tough on this since it's such a major album. It's legendary for both noobs and seasoned vets, so it really deserves to spend some extra time under the microscope. Those small quibbles aside, Kill 'em All is a stellar record for pretty much any other reason you can think of. Lars's drumming is technically mediocre, but his one-dimensional style works for what they're doing here. They weren't attempting any long epics like "Call of Ktulu" or "Orion" yet, they were still just a band of kids, full of piss and vinegar and unleashing their frustration in the only way they knew how. His signature style lends itself to the more punk rock attitude that's so prevalent on this album, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But for my money, above even the great early trad metal riffs being played at blazing speeds, the absolute highlight is Kirk Hammet's soloing. Man this album is just loaded with leads and solos at every possible opportunity, there isn't a single dead spot on the album. And every time he lets loose, he lets loose the goddamn kracken. Slow, emotional solos? Fuck that with dynamite, the goal here is to go as over the top as possible, and holy lord do they succeed. That outro solo to "Jump in the Fire" could well be the best one ever put to tape by the band, and the solo break in "Phantom Lord" (structured eerily similar to the famous section in "Hangar 18" seven years later, just let that swirl around in your heads for a bit, Megadeth loyalists) is fucking furious. Pretty much any song can be pointed to as an example of the blistering leadwork that helped define the band in the early days. Very fast, very melodic, very simple pentatonic flailing that sticks in your head and is instantly recognizable.
Kill 'em All is just goddamn impressive, both for the time and today. The hour long runtime (I'm assuming most of you are familiar with the CD version that I also grew up with, which features covers of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?" and Blitzkrieg's "Blitzkrieg", both of which are awesome) never drags and pretty much every song remains a classic. Everything here is fun to sing along with, fun to air guitar, and just fun to headbang like a caveman to. It's not a perfect album, to quote a much more recognized and influential writer than myself: "Even the first wheel was kinda squareish", but for what it is there isn't much else I could ask out of it. Metallica clearly gave it their all on their first whack at a full length, and it shows. It's primitive but it's clean, and the vibrant production helps the album shine brightly. The fact that I and so many other people whose noses aren't turned up so high that they could drown in a rainstorm consider this timeless isn't an accident. I'm not saying elitist snobbery is the only reason one could not enjoy this album, but chances are that you enjoyed this when you were young and first discovering heavy metal, and the fact that you've since collected every Vomit Sodomy tape and seen Njiqahdda play in a moldy basement in front of six people (including you and their parents) shouldn't stain your enjoyment of it now. Go back and listen to this now, remember how you felt upon first hearing early Metallica for the first time. You'll likely find that you can still find room in the shriveled black stalactite that was once your heart for a little bit of warmth and adoration for a timeless classic.
Originally written WITH A VISUAL AID for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
Although the likes of Venom, Mercyful Fate and Motorhead came before them, forging what became known as speed metal, it wasn’t until Kill ‘Em All arrived in July 1983 that thrash metal was born. Thrash was a genre of music that by 1988 I was fully immersed in. Always ridiculed by the mainstream press, album covers often featured paintings of skulls, flames, demons and every now and then a shark on a surfboard. Lyrical themes run the gauntlet from serious subjects such as nuclear war, but more often than not were based on horror movies and novels. Perfect fodder for your average teenage boy perhaps, but one step ahead of the pack at all times were Metallica.
Originally this record was to be called Metal Up Your Ass, the front cover depicting an arm holding a dagger coming out of a toilet bowl. Thankfully Megaforce balked at this concept and requested they chose something slightly less, I would say, embarrassing and “easier to sell” title and cover. Bass player Cliff Burton, unhappy with being told what to do, chose the title Kill ’Em All and aimed it solely at the weak record company execs he felt were afraid to tell it like it was. In the long run though Megaforce did them a massive favour. Gone was the comic feel of the cover and in its place was a blood-soaked mallet fresh from a far more earthy and realistic kill. In fact, the only time Metallica fell into the teen horror thrash trap was when they released the Jump In The Fire single, taken from this album and on the front cover was placed part of a painting from leading fantasy artist Les Edwards, the image taken from the first in his series of The Devils Of D-Day artworks, showing a snarling demon. Whilst not completely at odds with the lyrical themes in the song, it showed the only time Metallica aligned themselves so blatantly with the stereotypical metal fraternity, especially in those early days. For the most part they were treading an uncharted path. I didn’t get to hear this record until after Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets were released, but if I had gotten myself a copy in 1983, I hope that on hearing the final track here, Metal Militia, that I would have instantly fallen in love with this new thrash metal sound, the fastest, heaviest and most- annoying-to-your-parents sound imaginable.
Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine does hold four joint writing credits on Kill ‘Em All, although he had been kicked out and replaced by the time of its recording and release. It was all down to alcohol if singer James Hetfield is to be believed and Hetfield kicking Dave’s dogs if you take Mustaine’s side. When watching his tears on the remarkable Some Kind Of Monster documentary made some twenty years after his departure, whatever the truth, it does show how rejection from what became the most successful metal band that there has ever been can do to a man. And lets face it, Megadeth became a huge multi-platinum selling group themselves, having a career that until recent years any band in the genre would be envious of. Yet Megadeth were always in Metallica’s shadow.
Kirk Hammett, Dave’s successor, fresh from completing guitar duties on fellow thrashers Exodus’ demo, was more than an aliquant replacement. His lead guitar work would inspire future generations of guitarists and bands who needed to add distinct melody to the speed. Check out the furious solo during Whiplash or the off the cuff intro for No Remorse for proof. The solos throughout are clear and the production sound is surprisingly bright, unlike a lot of rock albums released around this time that suffered from a muddy, distinctly '80s thud. Only Cliff Burton’s solo piece, (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth, whilst an excellent showcase for his skills as a bass player, doesn’t hold up too great with repeat listens. Future Metallica albums broke up the frantic pace with bombastic instrumentals or epic ballads. Pulling Teeth serves only as a breather to me. It was to be thirteen years until another filler appeared on one of their records, but with a tight budget that debut albums almost always receive and deadlines approaching, this one less than awesome moment is the only slight on an otherwise groundbreaking lp. The majority of the songs here, in fact you could say the majority of riffs compiled here, have become metal standards that defy age, and although trends come and go in the scene that was spawned from them, they have become for millions of people (and I include myself among these), the bar in which to judge all that came after. Kill ’Em All is an essential part of any rock or metal fan’s collection.
In September 2008, Metallica played London’s O2 Arena and finished the set with Jump In The Fire and Seek And Destroy. A few months later in Philadelphia, Whiplash was included into the set list. These songs not only have stood the test of time, but even today are making an impact on a whole new generation of metalheads. It is clear to any listener that Kill ‘Em All doesn’t reach the heights of the following four Metallica albums, but as a debut, breaking out from the underground in uncharted waters, this is a monumental document of what potential, not only Metallica, but the whole of thrash, and let’s not beat around the bush here, the whole of the metal scene, would have to offer in the future.
It's the early 80's. Heavy metal is stronger than ever, and an aura of sleaziness and brutality hangs in the air. Guys like Judas Priest, Maiden and Accept were chugging along strong. But a new breed of metal was in development. Faster, meaner, more vicious. They called it thrash. And in it's infancy it was the rawest, fastest heavy metal the world had been exposed to at the time. Arguably at the forefront of this movement was the great Bay Area thrash attack, including supermen Exodus, Slayer and our stars here today, Metallica.
What ever happened to this Metallica? This Metallica was uninhibited, spitfire-ferocious thrash that was ready to ram 50 minutes of metal up your sorry mortal ass and then take 100 more names. Now they play sloppy elevator music while Lou Reed rants about dogs humping and sucking off colored guys. But for just today, let's live it up in the past, shall we?
The Metallica here oft considered to be the classic lineup. First off is Mr James Hetfield on vocals and the rhythm guitar. His voice is the great, classic thrash style; highly aggressive with lots of youthful, somewhat raspy shouts and semi-growls. His actual singing and chanting is pretty solid too, while his guitar work, while a bit hesitant and held back at times, is still well done. The guy is in love with his fucking solos. Good ol' Kirk Hammett is on lead guitar, and he's probably the strongest here. The guy's a real riffmaster and he just sounds good, heading right into the music without very little flubs. The late great Cliff Burton takes up bass, and when you can actually hear him, he's solid as hell. He can shred the bass, coming up with his own killer riffs while adding punch to the songs' multiple cool solos. Rounding it out is some Danish guy on drums. I don't want be another one to jump on the "I Hate Lars Ulrich" bandwagon, but on a technical level, the guy ain't that great. He's very uneven and at times downright sloppy. He has a couple fast fills here and there, but he only really works well drumming by himself. When it comes to drumming along with a speedy Hetfield solo, he obviously can't keep up, so it's just this vague "tap tap tap" that somehow gets higher billing over Burton's bass. It works a little on this album, but overall Ulrich is, and always will be, Metallica's weak link.
The songs all, mostly, kick fucking ass, ranging from bloodthirsty speeders and thrashy epics to an instrumental and even some power metal-inspired moments. Classic "Jump In The Fire", which was, along with three other songs, co-penned by one-time member Dave Mustaine, is rife with semi-technical aggression, memorable riffage and some of Hetfield's best vox on the album. A personal favorite is "Phantom Lord", with it's all too brief synth intro, sharp guitar work including a handbangable main riff and it's interesting solo with some time changes. Then there's the epic "Four Horsemen" with its killer galloping riffage, a number of scorching solos, and some of Hetfield's meanest vox. Let's not forget "Seek And Destroy", the least thrashy song on here, but don't hold that against it. It has probably one of the best choruses due to its inherit simplicity and cooless. Some lesser moments include opener "Hit The Lights" (which certainly doesn't suck but it's just kinda so-so) and the boring instrumental "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)", which exists as little more than to show off Burton's great bass skills.
Overall, while there are some problems in the performance of the band and that a few of the songs don't stick out as much as they should, this is still a hell of a worthwhile addition to your metal collection. Forget what the band has become and instead try to focus on what they once were: true heavy fucking metal.
This album begins with a lightning fast picked E-Tuned guitars (Hetfield & Hammett) which sets the pace for what the CD is going to be like. Well in this era of heavy metal Metallica was considered not only to be thrash metal, but speed metal as well. Finely produced by Paul Curcio and Jon Zazula, this entire release is something easy to get into if you're a fan of these genres of music. Metallica circa 1983-1988 I'd say put out uncompromising metal which during the 80's was considered pretty extreme.
As to what road they went during the 90's to present day does not reflect anything at all like "Kill 'Em All". It was blatantly obvious with the release of "The Black Album" they simply abdicated their thrash metal roots and completely sold out. But focusing on this album, the rhythms and leads are innovative, Hammett simply shredding on lead and Cliff Burton (RIP) puts out his talent on bass with "Anesthesia - Pulling Teeth". You could actually hear the bass guitar not only on that track, but all of them entirely. Fuzzy bass tone.
There really aren't many thrash acts during the 80's that were more innovative in songwriting quality than Metallica. Although I do consider Slayer, Exodus, Testament and Anthrax were also some damn good thrash bands as well. But Metallica reigned superior over these other bands. Musically "Kill 'Em All" has guitar riffs that are simply unique, awesome, distorted as all hell and memorable tracks from beginning till the end of the album.
I would consider this album to be one of my most played out records that I've heard, but I still am not sick of these songs. It's a shame that a band that displayed so much potential which is evident on this release all the way up till "...And Justice for All". I think that if Cliff Burton was still around they probably wouldn't have taken their thrash roots away and become a total waste musically. Maybe some would argue this but I believe that he would've at least kept them within their thrash/speed metal origin.
The lyrical aspect of this release has nothing really to do with Satanism, just filled however with hatred towards humanity without any compromise in that respect. Hetfield's vocals go well with the music especially the high-end screams. I don't consider this release their best of the 80's I'd say "Ride the Lightning", "Master of Puppets" and "...And Justice for All" were their absolute best releases. However, this was a beginning for the band and showed their awesome potential at such a young age.
Metallica used to scoff at the idea of making videos. However, after "One" came out they began to make more music videos to make more money obviously. That's why I'm reiterating the point that if Cliff was still around they wouldn't have become "Metallisux" as coined by most old fans of the group. But "Kill 'Em All" is pretty much everything good that I look for in a thrash/speed metal release. If you don't have it already in your archives then I urge you to pick it up ASAP!!!
“Kill Em’ All”, just maybe the most influential thrash metal album of all time? Well some would agree, some would disagree. I think we can all agree that this album is one the most important thrash metal albums of all time. Introducing the masses to this new thing called thrash metal with some help from Overkill and Exodus, but demos aside, Metallica, for me at least, takes the glory when it comes to first full length thrash album ever.
“Hit the Lights” is a great opener, cymbal and guitar nonsense, a really simple but awesome riff, lots of speed and about 15 different solos equals an amazing song. “The Four Horsemen” once again has some pretty simple riffs but wow this song is good. Kind of NWOBHM sounding. This album has the most thrash ever put on a Metallica album. “Hit the Lights”, “Motorbreath”, “Whiplash”, “Phantom Lord”, “Metal Militia”, and “No Remorse” all have some insane speed in them. “No Remorse” probably has my favorite thrash part of all time. You’ll know what I’m talking about. “Jump in the Fire” is another slower song that has some of James’ best vocals. “Motorbreath” has an awesome drum intro and has some very punk influenced riffs and is full speed ahead the whole song. “Anesthesia” Pulling Teeth” is just a bass solo. Don’t get me wrong, Cliff is my idol, but I just don’t see the point. As far as bass solos go, it’s an amazing solo but I don’t really wanna listen to a bass solo. “Metal Militia” is definitely the fastest song on here. This song should be the thrash metal anthem.
Production on here is awesome. Raw, aggressive, thrash metal sound. Those crunchy guitars made famous from this album sound amazing. The drums sound really good. The bass is audible the whole time and the bass sounds really good. Kirk pulls off some awesome solos, and there are a lot of them on here.
This is easily my favorite Metallica album for two reasons. The music of course and this is the album that I fell that the members were most passionate about music. This is when I’m sure none of them expected to go huge and way before money ever touched them. James’ vocals are on a completely different level on this album. Lars played with the most feeling on here and he did a really good job. Simple? Yes, but amazing? Also, yes. I guess I can’t finish this review without thanking Dave Mustaine for being a co-writer in a few songs. I’m glad they kicked him out though, because now I get to listen to Metallica and Megadeth!
Overall, an amazing album. The first full length thrash metal album and it kills. Buy this right now if you don’t already own it.
Best tracks – “Metal Militia”, “Motorbreath”, and “The Four Horsemen”
Many people say that thrash metal was born with this album. Many people claim that this album has an important role for the history of metal music. Many people argue that this album was the first step of a famous legend. All of those things are true but when it comes to review Metallica's debut album, I would like to leave the nostalgic feelings away and concentrate on the music. That's where I must admit that this album is rather one dimensional and has a few fillers in here. Don’t get me wrong, I like this record that is full of energy and emotions and I don’t question its status at all. Many people may now contradict me by saying that thrash metal must sound exactly like this. But the debut albums of "Overkill" or "Voivod" prove that bands can already innovate within their first albums and sound rather diversified. The only time Metallica try out something else is during the memorable bass solo "(Anasthesia) Pulling teeth" which may be one of the greatest bass guitar solos ever recorded in the metal genre. It's simply experimental, diversified and technically of a pretty high standard and one of my favourite tracks in here. This courage, this open minded creativity, this last little kick of genius is what is a little bit missing in here.
The other nine songs are mostly straight forward thrash metal tracks with sharp riffs, aggressive but melodic vocal lines, fast guitar solos, a pumping bass guitar and a tight drumming. The sound is raw and aggressive and fits perfectly to the songs and the album title itself. The band employs the technical qualities of the heavy metal genre and mixes them with the fast paced energy of the punk wave and unites two genres that were very distinguished at the time and didn't seem to match together. The birth of thrash metal was a first step of the approach of the two genres and their fans. The great opener "Hit the lights" hits right my nerve and is a perfect definition of the Bay Area thrash metal genre. A little bit more elaborated tracks like the great grower "No remorse" or the catchy band hymn "Seek and destroy" work even better and are still a great definition of its genre almost thirty years after the initial release. The killer track "Whiplash" is also one of my favourite tracks on the record and varies a little bit more than some too generic songs its riffs, drum loops and melody lines. The song gives you no time to breathe and delivers everything the band stood for back in time. The guitar solo is simply outstanding and proves us that Kirk Hammett was the ideal choice for Metallica and delivers already here a better job than the overrated and arrogant egoist and former guitar player of Metallica Dave Mustaine would ever do. Sorry for the attitude and I apologize to all the "Megadeth" maniacs, but that's something where I just felt the need to write it down. Anyway, all those songs can without a doubt be called some classics.
But next to many catchy and great songs, there are also a few fillers on here that can't hold the high level. "Motorbreath" is a short and sweet track but has nothing outstanding to survive. The single "Jump into the fire" was not the best choice to spread the name about this young band and the new genre and is a rather overrated track. It's difficult to criticize this bunch of motivated and energized teenagers for some repetition but that might be the only weak point of this album and where there is a thin line between a very good album and an outstanding or even perfect record. That's in the end why my rating is really just slightly below the highest degrees of amazing and absolutely outstanding metal music.
Nevertheless, any metal fan should have this great thrash metal record in its collection even if Metallica created even better albums in the next few years in my opinion. This album is a raw definition of the birth of thrash metal with some great and unforgettable classics. But only a few years after, the concurrency and Metallica itself showed us that the summit of thrash metal has not yet been reached yet. They showed us that there was far more to discover than just this respectable beginning of an era. By the way, this album is a grower and gets really addicting and catchy with its simplistic but effective attitude. Anyway, anybody that would like to metal up its ass in an old school way has the perfect record for this right here.
One would be hard-pressed to find any Metal fan that is not aware of the story behind this classic album. Metallica spent a couple years making a name for themselves, playing live and releasing demo tapes, joining bands such as Exodus and Overkill in creating the sub-genre known as Thrash Metal. Released in July 1983, on Megaforce Records, Kill 'Em All was the first full-length album to emerge from the new Thrash scene. And while the band would later go on down a path that most true Metal fans found disgusting and horrible, it would be unwise to discount their early accomplishments. Many seem to forget that, when Kill 'Em All was released, it was considered quite fast and aggressive, even surpassing the mighty Venom.
The original title was to be Metal Up Your Ass, with ridiculous artwork to accompany this concept. This was shot down by the record label, thinking that it may cause problems with distribution, as far as I recall. In the end, it turned out to be a positive thing as the aesthetics of an album aid the music in creating the atmosphere. The artwork for Kill 'Em All was, definitely, more striking and appeared more serious than the proposed cover image.
This record was a very important part of my early musical development. Despite growing up with Rock and Metal, I didn't begin working on my own music collection until around 1989, and this band was the catalyst for that. In the beginning of my search for similar music, terms like "Thrash Metal" didn't mean very much to me. All I knew was that I had to find more music like this, which eventually led me to discover bands like Anthrax, Overkill, Megadeth and, of course, Slayer. Metallica was responsible for me seeking out more Thrash Metal which, in turn, would take me on to discover Death and Black Metal; as well, it was because of Kill 'Em All that I desired to look into the bands that had influenced them in the first place, opening up the gates to the NWOBHM bands and so on.
For those who were in the underground scene back then, these songs were already quite familiar, due to the number of demos that were released. However, the versions found on Kill 'Em All possess a decidedly harder edge, and a lot of this can be attributed to the vocals. Prior to this, James Hetfield utilized a style very reminiscent of Sean Harris, which was most evident on the various Diamond Head songs that they covered. In my opinion, the weaker vocal approach was one of the things that really killed some of the NWOBHM bands, or at least made a few of them take a little longer to get used to. Thankfully, here we find that Hetfield was discovering his own voice, developing a more aggressive sound. While he didn't stray into Cronos territory, his approach was more raw than melodic and this helped the overall feeling of the album.
For the most part, Kill 'Em All is much tighter and more vicious than what was heard on the No Life 'Til Leather tape. The sound quality isn't as much of a jump as one might expect, but that's actually a good thing. They retained the dingy and raw sound from the demos, while simply improving the execution. It's interesting to follow the development of these songs, from the early demo stages to the L.P. The arrangements are, more or less, the same. Obvious differences would include the extra parts added to "The Four Horsemen" (originally known as "The Mechanix") and the intro bit to "Phantom Lord". Some lyrics have been changed as well, which only benefits the band. Still, some ridiculous lyrics remain. "Hit the Lights" is an example of this. Listening back to the version that appeared on the Metal Massacre compilation, it's amazing how the song had evolved by the time they recorded Kill 'Em All. Hetfield's more aggressive vocals definitely save this song from ruining the album, as it's earlier incarnations would not have suited the record at all.
The general atmosphere of the album is more energetic than anything else. Despite some of the lyrics possessing a darker tone, there's never really a feeling of darkness or dread to be found here. Of course, the band were certainly never attempting to create a dark atmosphere, so this is only detrimental in the minds of those who would prefer this. The record is filled with great songwriting, with the fast riffs that get your adrenaline pumping and the more mid-paced riffs that still manage to embed themselves in your brain. Even though they surpass Venom when it comes to speed and even had an influence on Slayer, there's a somewhat upbeat feeling that permeates this album. In particular, the bass solo "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)" gives it almost a rehearsal/jam vibe. And that's not, necessarily, a bad thing. It adds a level of intimacy between the band and its audience, in a strange way.
When analyzing this album and its impact on the Metal world, one has to acknowledge the contributions of Dave Mustaine. Some would say that, since he wasn't even in the band for a full two years, that he can be relegated to being a mere footnote. This asinine opinion is actually very aggravating, as it shows a lack of understanding that Mustaine was a very crucial part of this band at a critical juncture in its development. It was in those earliest stages that things could have gone down a variety of paths and had they chosen a different guitarist, they might have ended up being yet another dead end band that only hardcore collectors ever heard of. Not only did Mustaine co-write several songs on the album, but his skilled playing helped bring those songs to life, in their earlier versions. In my opinion, regardless of any personal issues, he should have been allowed to play on Kill 'Em All. Those were his songs too, and his efforts helped lead them to the point where they could even record an L.P. If they wanted to eject him from the band as soon as they exited the studio, that was up to Hetfield and Ulrich. But it seemed wrong to go ahead and use his songs, without allowing him to take part in recording the album.
Kill 'Em All is, essentially, NWOBHM on steroids. It's heavier, faster and a little nastier than most of the bands that had influenced them. The same type of melodies are still to be heard, but with a sharper edge. The album is not one-dimensional, in any way. The pace varies throughout and the more atmospheric bits are already there, just not as prominent. Just listen to the middle section of "The Four Horsemen" for an example. And, for perhaps the most vicious-sounding song on the album, one need look no further than "Metal Militia", which I've always viewed as Metallica's own "Witching Hour" and one of the true highlights of the record.
Needless to say, this album comes highly recommended. If their later atrocities have kept you from exploring the old stuff, you're certainly missing out on a true classic.
In 1983, Metallica was just a modest and unknown band, in love with the aggression of Motorhead and with the speed and complexity of many of the british heavy metal acts, most notably Iron Maiden and Diamond Head. This marriage of styles originated this album, which emerged from an american scene still dominated by glam rock bands. Although this album is hailed as one of the first thrash metal albums ever released, it still doesn't sound like pure thrash metal in my opinion, as all the songs aren't JUST made of speedy guitar work and basic song structures. In fact, there are lots of progressive elements here and there, like tempo changes and breakdowns. The Four Horsemen, Seek and Destroy and the underrated Phantom Lord are examples of that, as they all have amazing middle sections. Don't get me wrong though, this album is one of the first thrash metal albums, but it isn't THAT aggressive, especially if we compare it with the early works of other thrash acts like Overkill and (obviously) Slayer. The tunes here are all pretty fast but the riffs kind of retain a somewhat happy and triumphant vibe, something absent on, for example, Show No Mercy.
Obviously, the most important thing of this album is the guitar work. The riffs are the meat of Kill'em All, and there's a lot of good ones here. Almost every tune has a memorable main riff or an interesting solo, which is great. Phantom Lord is an authentic thrash monster, with its NWOBHM-influenced main riff; Motorbreath follows the same path and Whiplash also contains some of the most aggressive and inspired riff ever crafted by this american act. Obviously the riff progressions are very primitive and basic, but at this time they were just an amateur band so that's perfectly understadable. Still, some songs here contain some progressive elements, which is rather surprising. Take Four Horsemen, for instance. After the usual fast first section, we reach a tremendous breakdown, with a nice solo and clean guitar lines. This is what makes Metallica different; while the majority of the other acts were just focusing on the aggression and power of their music, Metallica tried something more elaborate and, dare I say?, intelligent with songs as the already mentioned Four Horsemen.
On other hand, the lyrics here are hilarious. While not speaking about Satan and darkness and killing goats, their lyrical subjects were, hm, just laughable, really. Behold.
"With all out screaming
We are gonna rip right through brain
We got the lethal power
It is causing you sweet pain on sweet pain
When we start to rock
We never want to stop again"
"Thunder and lighting the gods
Victims of fury are covardly now
Running for safety
Stabbing the harlot to pay for her sins
Leaving the virgin
Suicide running as if it were free
Ripping and tearing"
Two very poetic examples, indeed. Fortunately, Hetfield improved a lot as a lyricist later on. Ah, and speaking about Hetfield, while his rhythm guitar is obviously excellent, his vocal performance is terrible. He wasn't a singer in the first place, and we all know that Metallica wanted John Bush, from Armored Saint, to be their vocalist. Bush didn't want to join Metallica though, so James had to sing. Technically, he's, as I've already said, terrible, but he has lots of attitude and enthusiasm. On Hit the Lights, for example, he sounds like a maniac, which really fits with the whole atmosphere of the track. During most of the times though, he sounds like a NWOBHM wannabe singer, which isn't good. That said, there are still worser vocalists out there.
So, highlights? First of all, Four Horsemen. Phantom Lord too. No Remorse is also excellent and truly underrated, it's a shame no one speaks about that track. Nice first section, filled with a couple of rather long guitar solos, leading us to the final part, dominated by a simple but very intense riff. There's an incredible live version of this tune out there, when Metallica played the song in 2003, in a small venue, I can't really remember where. It's worth watching, excellent live performance. Curiously, No Remorse was the result of the mixture between two tunes from Hetfield's former band, Leather Charm. Hit the Lights is also a very competent opener and finally Whiplash closes the list of highlights, one of the most aggressive Metallica songs, really. Energic and powerful, this song has it all. The other tunes are all pretty average, my least favourite probably is Jump in the Fire, a very boring tune with some uninspired riffing and drumming.
The production is rather weak, but what would you expect? So, a fine thrash metal record, all in all, but Metallica improved and released much better albums after this one. Still, a must have for thrash fans, as Kill'em All was one of the pieces that really shaped and created the genre.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the middle part of Four Horsemen.
Now that I’ve finally found a little time to get around to reviewing (and re-reviewing) the bulk of my thrash metal collection, it’s only a matter of picking a good place to start. And what better place than well-known territory? Kill ‘Em All, one of the earliest thrash LP’s, is the debut record of an obscure 80’s metal band by the name of Metallica, a band that would gain massive fame from the genre before abandoning it altogether for wishy-washy modern rock like that on Load/Re-load. But you already knew that.
The Metallica playing on Kill ‘Em All were nothing like the Metallica playing on Re-load. This was a band that held a strong claim over the elementary form of thrash metal not because they had sold the most albums, but because they were a part of the scene in spirit as well as name. The Metallica on here was a raging, pissed-off, riff-happy heavy metal unit poised to slaughter all who would challenge their dominance. And yet few if any modern thrash metal bands admit to being influenced by them. This I find completely absurd, as nearly every one of them has taken something from Metallica’s legacy (Fueled by Fire derive their whole fucking sound from them). Well, given the current state of the scene, maybe they should be taken a hint or two from albums like this.
Kill ‘Em All embodies everything that was good about thrash in the 80’s. First and most importantly, Kill ‘Em All showcases variety. Speed metal ragers like “Whiplash” and “Hit the Lights” coexist peacefully with mid-paced classics “Seek and Destroy” and “No Remorse.” Some tracks are short and punchy (‘Motorbreath”) while others are longer and more developed (“The Four Horsemen”). Never mind how many songs Mustaine penned, they were recorded by Metallica and they deserve credit for bringing this music to life. Secondly, there’s a general well-roundedness to the band’s performance. James’ screechy vocals, Kirk’s wild solos, Lars’ frantic drumming, Cliff’s stellar bass lines: all of these mesh together like a well-oiled machine to produce the best possible extension of Diamond Head-style NWOBHM. Compare this to today’s bands that shun clean riffs, mid-paced songs, melody, and variety and Kill ‘Em All holds up just as well as it ever did. It’s also longer than your typical thrash album, coming in at close to 50 minutes where most bands today barely surpass 30. Basically, it’s classic fucking thrash metal. Rabid drumming, guitars like razor blades, awesome, completely non-substantial lyrics, and a strong bass presence that many of their peers lacked are all reasons that this album continues to kick ass to date.
The album might appear a bit basic nowadays, considering the multitude of directions that thrash has gone since, but you’d be hard pressed to find an extreme metal guitarist that doesn’t know how to play “The Four Horsemen” or a bassist who can’t at least partially recreate Cliff Burton’s way-out-of-left-field, distorted, extended, bass solo “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth).” Material on this album, like the other early Metallica records, is part of the standard metal guitar repertoire along with the early works of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. And hell, even though I’ve heard it dozens of times, I still spin this album regularly. Mandatory purchase.
Notable Tracks: “Hit the Lights,” “No Remorse,” “Metal Militia”
This was probably the first thrash album I ever bought - I got the Black Album as I started to move away from mainstream rock, and then was advised to go right back to the start. After a few spins, I was only ever destined for a life as a metalhead.
The thing that really strikes you about this album, is the youthful enthusiasm of it all. Unemcumbered by alcoholism, drug addiction, family and all the rest of it, Kill 'Em All scorches by in a dazzling blur of speed. Hetfield's voice is still a screech, rather than the gruff but clean tone of recent years, the songs are barely developed, full of abrupt speed changes, and the solos are in plentiful supply - at least three in 'The Four Horsemen' alone.
Kill' Em All is above all a thrash album that celebrates the glory of metal, for metal's sake. The lyrics show virtually none of the socio-political bent that would surface on later records, instead revelling simply in the general brilliance of the embryonic thrash movement.
The tone of the whole album is set by the killer first riff to 'Hit The Lights', to this day one of the greatest riffs of all time, and the song itself is a thing of sheer visceral beauty, climaxing with a spiralling solo.
The rest of Kill 'Em All is simply riff after riff, and the amazing quality of the material is highlighted by the presence to this day of such classic as 'The Four Horsemen', 'Whiplash' and 'Seek And Destroy' in the live set. In fact, last time I saw Metallica, a full 21 years after the release of their debut, cuts from Kill 'Em All outnumbered those from all of the post-Black Album records put together.
Highlights abound: 'Whiplash' in its entirety, so joyously simplistic as to be almost bone-headed, especially the lyrics (They're not funny though. They may look a little cheesy now, but let's be honest. For all of the pseudo-academic bullshit written about extreme music, this review included, "thrashing all around, acting like a maniac" is what being a metalhead is all about. Period. Don't over-intellectualise this shit, just get drunk and headbang.) The first signs of the progression and dynamics that will define the classic Metallica period in 'Phantom Lord', 'Motorbreath', about the punkest they ever got, and the Judas Priest-on-speedisms of 'Metal Militia.' The solos throughout are brilliantly played by Kirk Hammett, although credit for the remarkably clever melodic construction must go to Dave Mustaine. Pick up any bootleg of Mustaine playing live with Metallica, and realise Hammett plays all of his solos note for note. I don't want to overstate Mustaine's input in Metallica, there are some idiots out there who claim he single-handedly wrote all of their best stuff, but the contribution is still significant. Their influences are recognisable - Maiden, Venom, Motorhead, almost every obscure NWOBHM band of all time - but on Kill 'Em All, Metallica transcend all of them by just playing harder and faster than anyone who came before.
That's not to say it's a perfect record. The drumming is shit throughout. Check the hideously out of time fills on 'No Remorse' for proof. Some of the riffing is a little too major-key at times, probably due to the Maiden influence, and 'Jump In The Fire' I've always found a little on the pedestrian side. There is also not enough bass on the record. While Cliff Burton's solo instrumental '(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth' is an interesting curio, and exhibits his serious talent, it is only on the next two albums that his genius really comes to the fore. Minor quibbles really though, in the light of the riches that Kill 'Em All provides. When you're having the greatest sex ever, does it matter if the weather outside is a bit on the drizzly side?
Kill 'Em All is certainly not the greatest album of all time. It's not even the greatest Metallica album of all time, they bettered it at least twice. However, it's importance to the genre of metal is arguably the greatest of all their albums, and as a pure statement of intent, it's rarely been bettered by any debut. Kneel before it's might, for the seed of greatness to come was sown in this fucking superb record.
Back in the early 80s there was a sort of war going on between various styles of metal, all of which are attributed to the NWOBHM. The war came down to what were the various bands of the scene going to specialize in. Were they going to go the all speed and energy route of Motorhead, were they going to take the mixed skills approach of Judas Priest or Riot, the musical intrigue of Iron Maiden and Angel Witch, or the lust and debachery of some of the other acts at the time who influenced the hair scene.
It was during this time that the genre known as Thrash metal was born, and it was all 100% unapologetically Motorhead influenced, although many of the bands in it took their more active bass cue from Sabbath, and the guitar solo sections from Deep Purple. From start to finish, Kill Em' All is a manifesto of sorts for this exact style of playing.
Unlike Metallica's later and current material, there are actually songs on here that don't break the 5 minute mark, which is a definate plus. Too many bands nowadays seem to think that a song isn't good until it's over 12 minutes long, has a thousand changes in it, and consists of guitar solos that regularly break the 2 minute mark. There is such a thing as overdoing it, and thankfully at this time period Metallica understood that.
The greatest songs on here fall into 2 categories, the Mustaine Catalog, and the former Leather Charm material penned by James Hetfield.
Of the latter, "Motorbreath" is lyrically stronger and has the live fast and stay true to yourself attitude that defines early Thrash. "Hit the Lights" has the edge in terms of riffs, particularly that amazing intro riff that kicks off after the freetime intro. The solos on this one are riveting, and perfectly suited for the venting style that Kirk Hammet always exhibits. Although Mustaine is 5 times the guitar player he is, he gets the job done nicely on here.
Dave Mustaine is responsible for 4 tracks on this album, which is quite alot considering he had been kicked out of the band at this point. It is understandable that he's been pissed off about what happened, seeing that Metallica basically got their asses off the ground by stealing his work. Of the material on here, "Four Horsemen" is obviously the most memorable, but the songs on here that would more define Metallica's early career would be "Metal Militia" and "Phantom Lord", both of which have riffs that be either paraphrased or actually copied (MoP's Disposable Heroes an example of the latter). "Jump in the Fire" is also quite excellent and displays the one time ever that Metallic would play a song in a non-open key, and thus makes the album sound a bit more varied and enjoyable to the more fine tuned ear than the play in E until you die and occasionally switch to F# approach that dominated the post RTL era.
The rest of the music on here is decent enough, but not quite as powerful as the stuff already mentioned. "Seek and Destroyed" features some great lead work by Kirk and has a very memorable opening riff, as well as some extremely hard to hear but interesting bass leads by Cliff Burton. "No Remorse" is loaded with riffs, but is a little bit too long and the tempo drags at times. "Whiplash" is a decent thrash tune, but the main riff sounds a tiny bit muddy. Mustaine's opening riff to Youthanasia's "Reckoning Day" is an example of a better version of this kind of rhythmic figure.
The outlier on this album is obviously Cliff's bass solo, dubbed "Anesthesia" (Pulling Teeth". Technically it's quite a display, but unfortunately it's too long for it's own good and there are only 2 sections that really provide a dynamic contrast, and that is helped along by the drums entering. Joey Demaio did a much better job a year before this album with his rendition of the William Tell Overture, which was probably technically more difficult than this song is as well, though obviously it wasn't original.
In conclusion, this album lives on what defined early thrash, speed and attitude. This unfortunately is not found on any other album by this band save "Ride the Lightning" and, at times, "And Justice for all". This is the uncorrupted, uncompromised, true face of Thrash metal. Bang your fucking head till your ears bleed and enjoy!
(note to admin: This is a resubmission, since I feel the original review i wrote was juvenile, innacurate and a poor description of the album itself. Please delete the original one I wrote.)
In 1983, when this was unleashed upon the world, Metallica had already built up a huge reputation around the bay area. Word of mouth about the band was buzzing around various cities on the west coast as well. From the onset, it was hinted at that this band would become huge eventually.
One listen of this album shows that Metallica were listening to a lot of Venom and Motorhead at the time of this release. It had the punk attitude and aggression that was simultaneous with both bands, but there was a slightly more metallic crunch to them, as Venom had poor production qualities that overshadowed the effect of the guitar skills and Motorhead was more like fast rock n roll that many metalheads loved.
Highlights of the album include The Four Horsemen for its galloping rhythm and complex song structure. No Remorse was also great because of its crunching heavy beginning and its high speed thrash section near the end, and Metal Milita had some of the best riffs Metallica had written.
Not all of the album is great though. Hit the Lights is a bit repetitive, even though the great riffs make up for it, and Seek and Destroy can get quite boring, as it hardly goes anywhere other than the faster section in the middle. I dont mean to jump on the "metallica bashing" bandwagon, but I think it was Dave Mustaine who made Kill em All a truly great classic, as he wrote some of the better songs.
Overall, though this is an album that shouldn't be overlooked because of Metallica's new reputation as money grubbing corporate sellouts. Yes, it is thrash metal, and yes it is the template for the bay area thrash to follow (Testament, Death Angel etc. owe something to this album).
"Kill 'Em All" is generally called the first thrash metal record, and while I would argue that it isn't(Motorhead, Raven, and Venom were doing speed earlier), it's damned important, and the next one would tie up all the disparate elements and give us the first true thrash record. But I'm reviewing "Kill 'Em All" and it deserves our attention.
This album used to scare the crap out of me because it had so many tempo changes. People call Metallica's music simple today, and compared to say Dream Theater it is, but in 1983 NOBODY wrote like this. From the punky opener "Hit the Lights", to the rambling, rumbling, and ripping "Four Horsemen"(the interlude, the galloping end section...this is proto-"Master of Puppets"!), to the insane bass work out, it became apparent Metallica was not just your everyday band. Look at Motorhead or even Accept and you'll see that they wrote fast, but simple. Metallica took Diamond Head's complex structures and kicked it in the ass with Motorhead velocity and created metal magic at a higher level. Slayer's "Show No Mercy", often bandied about as "Kill 'Em All"'s equal in innovation had NOTHING on this album, and it wasn't until "Haunting the Chapel" and bah gawd "Hell Awaits" that they'd hit their stride.
"Seek and Destroy", despite it's derivative riff("Dead Reckoning" anyone?) was proof positive Metallica could write commercial music, though rock radio would never play anything with production this tinny, and "Whiplash", well "Whiplash" was arguably the precursor to the more bolted down aggression to come. Oh, and did I mention it rocked at dangerous levels?
Stand-Outs: “The Four Horsemen”, “Whiplash”, “No Remose”
Kill 'Em All marks the start for one of the most well-known thrash metal acts of all time. A band which I don't think I have to introduce, since you're here already, anyway. As I was saying, what we have here is a prime cut of pure thrash from a former giant, and it is good.
Hit The Lights...PURE FUCKING THRASH, just like everything else on the album! This cuts out all the bullshit and comes straight for you right off the bat with nothing but thrash, thrash, thrash, from start to finish! The riffs are distorted, monstrous, unholy beasts, Hammett's leads are very nice (though perhaps a tad overrated) and the bass looms over it all, offering a lovely backing for the shredding in the foreground.
Highlights: Everything! Well, maybe not EVERYTHING. I love Cliff and everything, but the bass solo is pretty suck. So is Phantom Lord, thoughit isn't bad enough to skip. Everything else, though, is mighty metal all the way through.
You are not a metalhead if you don't own this. I'm not even kidding. This is one of the finest offerings from a once great band, and a metal classic through and through.
Even back when Maiden and Metallica was pretty much all that I listened to, and I thought ”Master Of Puppets” was the best song ever, I found this album to be strictly mediocre. It’s got killer guitar work, I must admit. Fast, furious and fucking thrashy. Thank you Dave Mustaine. And Lars sounds better than on many other Metallica albums, not that that’s saying all that much. Cliff has got a boring as fuck bass solo on Kill’em All, but is otherwise quite hard to hear. James sounds like shit most of the time, and that is really the main flaw of Kill’em All.
James was never the greatest singer, that’s for sure, but he sure does sound a billion times better on RtL and MoP. On top of that, the lyrics are pretty fucking stupid most of the time.
HIT THE LIGHTS!!!
HIT THE LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHTS!!!
HIT THE LIGHTS!!!
Shut up James, please. Unfortunately, the only track this happens on is the boring as fuck before mentioned bass solo. No interesting instrumentals to at least give a break from James’ crappy wailing. Luckily, the solos on here are all great, definitely some of the best Metallica ever had. Thank you Dave Mustaine.
“The Four Horsemen” and “Seek And The Destroy” are the best songs on here. On Four Horsemen James actually sounds descent. And Seek And Destroy is nicely catchy. The other songs are somewhat worth listening to, if only for the magnificent leads. Again, thank you Dave Mustaine.
If you very much like Metallica, and it seems that most metalheads do, this album is probably worth buying. Thank you Dave Mustaine. As long as you don’t go and expect classics such as “Fade To Black”. Even if you actually like James vocals (or can at least tolerate them more than me), this album does get somewhat repetitive at times. Oh yeah, and thank you Dave Mustaine, for saving this album from being total shit.
1983 was a pretty good year. Maiden’s released the great ”Piece of Mind”, and Metallica released their debut. And Slayer. But that one wasn’t any good, so nevermind. Metallica consisted at the time of the same people as now, except for Cliff Burton, the deceased bassist. “Kill’em All” was a revolution within the metal genre, and helped invent what is now known as thrash metal. It has aged quite well, too.
First of all, the production is raw and nasty and kinda cool, but not good. You can hear the limited budget they had at the time. Still, as far as raw production goes, this is one of the better ones. The first track that opens this mighty fine debut album is ‘Hit the Lights’. A fast and raw song filled with attitude, it’s a good introduction to the album. Hetfield sounds very different than from later years. He really screams and shouts your ears out on this one, whereas he would start to sing not many years later. Hammett’s solo on the first song is also representative for the rest of the album. Fast, furious and wild. Man, he sure can play the lead. But it’s on the second track, ‘The Four Horsemen’, that you realize just how good this band is. It’s the epic of the album, clocking in at over seven minutes, and it goes through several motions. Of course, it’s thrashy, but in the middle of the song, there’s a calmer section, which is totally kickass, with a dual lead-guitar solo. The riffs are aplenty, and they all kill. Too bad they always cut the soft section of the song when playing live. Near the end, there’s an unearthly solo again, I mean you gotta hear it to believe it. Hammett at his best. ‘Motorbreath’ is another brilliant song, but quite different from the previous track. This is Metallica’s shortest song, “just” 3:08 long, and it’s really punkish. It begins with some very cool drumming from Ulrich, and then it’s on. Fast, thrashy, headbanging quality. I gotta stop praising this so much!
‘Jump in the Fire’ is a very good song, but one that many fans think is average. Well, sometimes it’s kinda boring, but it’s still great. About the only “satanic” song Metallica have, thank God. The lyrics aren’t too good, but the main riff really is. Both of them. The weird thing is the fine line between aggressive and cathcyness in Hetfield’s riffs. They are very memorable, but also angry and filled with attitude. Amazing. On to the next track. ‘(Anesthesia)-Pulling Teeth’ is bas(s)ically a bass solo, played of course the legend Cliff Burton. It’s easily the worst track, but it’s still cool and original. Ulrich also joins in the last third of the song or something. Cool, just not quality-wise impressive. Then, after this weird interlude, it’s time for some headbanging again, and ‘Whiplash’ provides it without doubt. This is thrash at its finest. Really fast, raw, and just killer! Hetfield’s doing a really great job here (as always…). Four verses just fly by, and it ends just before you develop a chronic neck injury. Track seven, ‘Phantom Lord’ is another great track. There seem to be some kind of sound effect at the beginning, but it could be some trickery with the amps as well. Again, thrashy and fast, with a great verse, and an almost as good chorus. Shockingly, the mid-section is almost ballady in its calmness (!), but it was just a taste of the diverse and accomplished songwriting Metallica would give us later on.
‘No Remorse’ is yet another great thrashy song. I know I call almost every song thrashy, so you may believe it all sounds the same, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Every song has its own style, and as thrash albums go, this is perhaps the most varied of the lot. Compared to later Metallica classics, though, it’s kinda samey. Where was I? Oh, yes, ‘No Remorse’. Well, it holds a high quality, but it’s not the best song on the album. That’s ‘The Four Horsemen’, by the way. Then we have the live favorite (for Metallica themselves, anyway, as they always played it until the late 90’s) ‘Seek & Destroy’. This is a more slow-moving song, and quite lenghty, but its quality is undeniable. A long intro, and it chugs along nicely. The opening riff is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and, well, every other riff in the song is great, too. Learn this song on your guitar, if you have one! The mid-section of the song is very fast, and creates a nice variety. All in all, it’s the second most complex song after the brilliant ‘The Four Horsemen’. The last song, ‘Metal Militia’, is a perfect closer. Just as fast and thrashy as anything else you might’ve heard. Lyrically, the chorus is very cool: “Oh, through the mist and the madness, we’re trying to get the message to you! Metal Militia!” Well, actually, it’s more the way Hetfield sings it. VERY cool. The song ends with a the sound of troops marching off to …wherever. Apart from the wicked instrumental ‘(Anesthesia)…’, this is the song where Burton impresses me the most. His bass work here is so damn great to listen to. At least the little it’s possible to hear. Yes, this is where the negative about this album comes:
The bass should’ve been more upfront in the sound, as it’s very hard to really hear what the eccentric genious is doing. This is a problem on most Metallica records. It’s obvious that Hetfield’s not a fan of bass, to say the least. Another bad thing is Hetfield’s voice. Although it’s cool, it could’ve been better. He really developed a good shouting/growling voice through the rest of the 80’s, but here it’s apparent that he doesn’t yet know how he should sing (if that’s an appropriate word). Apart from these two things, and the production, there really isn’t anything else to criticize. “Kill’em All” is a great debut from the now world-famous band, and it should belong in every metalhead’s collection. There are plenty of great riffs, lots of great, fast solos, and the drumming is great as well. The perfect start of a most interesting career for Metallica.
As much as I hate to admit this, there was a time when Metallica did not completely blow goat balls. This is their first album, and it does completely kick ass. There is really only one throwaway track, the gratuitous bass solo Anaesthesia/Pulling Teeth. Sure, Cliff was good, but that doesn't make the song any interesting.
The rest of this album is very good - ranging from frantic speed/thrash ("Metal Militia") to more controlled bludgeoning power-metal sound ("The Four Horsemen", "Seek and Destroy"). The opener, "Hit the Lights" (a Tanner/Hetfield Leather Charm song, along with Motorbreath) is probably the best song on here, and "Whiplash" the most ironic (see Destruction's treatment of the song for how it should REALLY be interpreted).
There are also two cover songs on certain versions of this album: Am I Evil, and Blizkrieg, from the 1984 Creeping Death single. Well worth picking up this version, because those two songs rule. Metallica actually do a good job, and Kirk does not biff the Am I Evil solo (he does completely butcher it most of the time when they do it live, though... ever wonder why they only play half of it live??).
Another note: the production is pretty decent, but there are versions of Seek and Destroy and Phantom Lord floating out there that sound even more vicious than the album versions. The Jump in the Fire 12" single had those two, with fake crowd noise added, as the B side - there is a non-noised version out there too, and those are totally worth finding.