METALLICA — Kill 'em All (review)

METALLICA — Kill 'em All album cover Album · 1983 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
"Kill ´em All" is the debut full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Metallica. The album was released in July 1983 by Megaforce Records. After releasing a couple of succesful demos a very young Metallica were picked up by Megaforce Records in 1983. The band originally consisted of James Hetfield (Vocals, guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), Ron McGovney (bass) and Dave Mustaine (lead guitar and later of Megadeth fame). However There were too many tensions between the two latter and Ron McGovney was replaced by new bassist Cliff Burton. Metallica´s lineup troubles were not over though as James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich had to fire Dave Mustaine. Partially due to his drug and alcohol abuse, but also because of his abuse behaviour. The last drop was alledgedly when he kicked James Hetfield´s dog. Dave Mustaine was replaced by Kirk Hammett who had been a member of Exodus which was another legendary Bay Area thrash metal band. The new lineup recorded "Kill ´em All" in two weeks on a very small budget with producers Paul Curcio and Johny Zazula at Music America Studios, Rochester, New York. Johny Zazula was actually a very influential figure in the early eighties American metal scene also holding producer credits with bands such as Testament and Overkill as well as being the owner of Megaforce Records. The record label was founded after he heard Metallica´s "No Life 'Til Leather (1982)" demo tape. A true visionary who was willing and able to take a chance.

The music on the album is a mix of NWoBHM influenced heavy metal and punk but played with a lot more aggression (well... some punk are pretty aggressive. But still) and speed than usual for those genres and "Kill ´em All" is rightly so called one of the first thrash metal albums in history. The influence from bands like Diamond Head, Motörhead, Iron Maiden and Venom is very obvious in the music. The production is very unpolished and raw which helps give the music and even meaner sound than it already has. it´s definitely one of the most raw, fast and aggressive albums released in those days. Songs like "Hit the Lights", "Moterbreath" and "Whiplash" are absolutely crushing with their "pedal down" simple and powerful delivery. But there are more to the album than songs like that and I count "The Four Horsemen", "Phantom Lord" and "Seek & Destroy" as more sophisticated songs even though they are still pretty direct. "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" has to be mentioned too. It´s a distorted bass solo by Cliff Burton which he often played live in the early years. Most songs are credited to James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich but it´s noteworthy that Dave Mustaine is also credited on "Jump in the Fire", "Phantom Lord", "Metal Militia" and "The Four Horsemen". The latter is a song which in it´s original and shorter form was named "The Mechanix". Dave Mustaine would take this version of the song with him to his new band Megadeth and it is featured on the "Killing Is My Business...and Business Is Good! (1985)" debut album by that band.

The musicianship is solid (but not outstanding). Raw and unpolished. You can feel the hunger in the way these guys play their music. It´s like nothing else matters (pun intended).

"Kill ´em All" is a seminal thrash metal album and in retrospect it´s almost hilarious that the original vinyl pressing was limited to 1500 copies (which of course sold out in no time). Today the album has sold around 3 million copies in the US alone. For all it´s groundbreaking qualities it´s not an album I put on very often anymore and when I do it almost always comes off before it´s finished and therefore my personal rating will be 3.5 stars. If I rated albums from the perspective of historical importance "Kill ´em All" would probably receive a 4 rating. So add that half stars to my rating if you think that´s more fair.
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