Metallica Kill ‘Em All- 1983
Album Rating- 6
Let’s just get right to the point. “Motorbreath,” the third song off this album, is arguably the first pure thrash metal song to be released, and its machine gun style guitar riff helped launched the thrash metal genre. Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax were working on similar thrash-metal sounds, but their debut’s were all released after Metallica’s, so Metallica’s album was first on the scene. “Motorbreath” is short 3-minute tour-de-force song that is relentless the whole way through, and although it is not my favorite song on the album, it might be the most significant because of its inventiveness. (click here to listen to Motorbreath)
Out of the 9 other tracks on the album, there are two other pure thrash numbers in “Whiplash,” which opens the second half of the album and the closing track “Metal Militia,” which is he fastest song on the album.
In addition to the pure thrash numbers, there is also “The Four Horsemen,” “No Remorse,” and “Seek & Destroy”. These songs certainly have thrash elements, but the songs are much more focused on song structure. These songs all have multi-part structures and time signature changes that are rooted more in progressive rock than metal. These songs set the stage for Metallica’s best future songs such as “Ride the Lightening,” “Master of Puppets,” and anything off of “…And Justice For All” and “Death Magnetic.” The best of these three songs is without question “The Four Horsemen,” which is also the best song on the album, but the song is not without controversy. It was co-written by Dave Mustaine, who was kicked out of the band before the album was released. Dave went on to found his own band, Megadeth, and he released his own version of the song entitled “Mechanix” in 1985. The music (or, I should say the sheet music) to the songs is identical, but “Horsemen” is superior in my opinion, in that it has better lyrics, Hetfield’s vocals are better, and I like Hammett’s thrash style playing better than Mustain’s. Here are the two versions of the song. The true thrash riff begins in “Horsemen” at 2:05, and at 2:08 in “Mechanix.” Listen closely to those time points in the songs, and it will give you a good comparison of Hammett’s take on the riff, which I like better than Mustain’s, but in Mustain’s defense– he did write the riff. So in a sense, Hammett is just covering it.
Metallica’s “The Four Horsemen” (Click here to listen to The Four Horsemen)
Megadeth’s “Mechanix” (click here to listen to Mechanix)
The next group of songs including “Hit the Lights,” “Jump In The Fire,” and “Phantom Lord” have some thrash elements as well, but they are not quite as strong as the aforementioned songs.
Two final points on “Kill ‘Em All.” First, The album’s production is well below the standards of Metallica’s future releases, so the sound is extremely raw. Second, Hetfield was 20 when this album was released, and he sounds like it. He had not developed his signature vocal style yet, and like the production, his singing is much more raw here than on future releases.
In closing, “Kill ‘Em All” is not the best debut album in history, but it might be one of the most important in that it pioneered the machine gun style thrash guitar sound that is everywhere in metal now.
I can’t close the review without mentioning Burton’s bass solo: “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth.” It was recorded live in the studio. Burton plays the bass more like it’s a guitar than a bass, so it certainly has a unique sound. (Click here to listen to (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth)
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