REVIEW: Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (Megaforce)

Although the likes of Venom, Merciful 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 bulked at this concept and requested they chose a slightly less, I would say embarrassing, they would say “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 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 got myself a copy in 1983 I hope that on hearing the final track here Metal Militia 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 solo’s 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 80’s thud. Only Cliff Burton’s solo piece, (Anaesthesia) 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 that 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, they 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 metal heads. 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 the thrash and let’s not beat around the bush here, the whole of the metal scene would have to offer in the future.

~ by wallernotweller on May 27, 2010.

2 Responses to “REVIEW: Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (Megaforce)”


  2. Nice METALLICA post.

    Fans may want to peep this:

    Rock on!


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