Metallica - Kill 'Em All

2009-02-18 09:00
 
Kill 'Em All
 

Loud, noisy, and endearingly immature, Metallica’s first album is a winner, but why is it a classic? Why even mention it when Master of Puppets, ...And Justice For All and (for some) Black were such mind-numbingly good records? Why indeed.

The obvious answer is that it is the beginning, not just of Metallica, but of thrash metal as a distinct, powerful flavour in rock music. Thanks to Aerosmith and Van Halen, the story of hard rock in America, circa 1983, was covered in spandex and eye shadow. Metallica wanted to offer an alternative, a cure for glam rock hangover.

Straddling both punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Kill ‘Em All is about two things: speed & attitude.



Originally titled Metal Up Your Ass, with a cover depicting a dagger being thrust into the air from inside a toilet bowl*, Metallica’s debut typifies the “us versus them” so integral to heavy metal culture, even today. That culture, and all of its obsessions with death, violence and leather jackets, found a gritty home on tracks like “Hit The Lights”, “Metal Militia” and  “Phantom Lord”. Unlike later albums, Kill ‘Em All is littered with self-references and nods to the scene of the time, warning that as “Sound is ripping through your ears / The deafening sound of metal nears”.

Before Metallica, Iron Maiden and Diamond Head had started to push the frontiers of metal towards heavier and more exciting territory. But classy Americans that they are, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich’s troop upped the ante by a factor of one hundred, by embracing raw aggression like very few before them.

Bang your head against the stage / Like you never did before / Make it ring, make it bleed / Make it really sore”, Hetfield sings on the mosh anthem “Whiplash”. Violent, visceral lyrics, yes, but what really impresses is the pace his band is setting. It is one many listeners would not care to keep up with. But what if you were young, what if you were angry? What if you didn’t care if you banged your head against that stage? Like a race, Kill ‘Em All is meant for the quick and the strong.  It is elitism among rock fans.

And even today it is a classic, classic album.

* The record company requested that the title and cover be changed and Metallica complied. They weren’t happy to do so, however, and decided that Kill ‘Em All, supposedly meaning Kill All Record Executives, was a good alternative.


Some albums are only ‘classic’ after midnight. Others only after a painful break-up. And then some albums, some albums like Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, are classics… with the volume turned up to 11.

Mal 2009/02/18 8:36 AM
Heck yes, agree with this completely, Kill Em All, was and is still a master piece, and Metallica is still getting it right to this day!
jammin 2009/02/18 10:46 AM
Big Metallica fan, but they're last album was shocking. Brilliant guitars and sound, maybe one of the best ever, but shocking focals. It was done like an after thought.
sidney 2009/02/18 10:58 AM
absolute brilliant album!! four horseman best track EVER.
Piet Metal! 2009/02/18 11:00 AM
This is the best shyt ever! Nothing pumps you up like this CD, not even redbull!
Sevendust 2009/02/18 11:49 AM
Not a big fan of Kill 'em all.. Ride the Lightning was/is still the best Metallica album. The opening guitar melody of Fight Fire with Fire which then bludgeons your brains... Oooh shivers.. I didn't even bother with St. Anger or Death Magnetic. They've shown their age with these 2 records
Robot 2009/02/18 12:11 PM
@ Sevendust: Ride The Lightning has some of the band's best tracks... Fade To Black, For Whom The Bell Tolls... but it also has Escape - bleh. Also, James screechy vox really get on my nerves
Mike 2009/02/18 12:16 PM
Think of how young they were.....and then this album becomes even more of a masterpiece. It was the album that defined thrash metal and moulded a generation of metal militia. For me it is Metallica in its rawest form. Fast, furious, heavy yet still melodic, the only thing to come close to this was Megadeth's "Peace sells......but who's buying?"
Moz 2009/02/18 1:25 PM
My first and in my opinion the best Metallica album. Burton on bass and songs co written by Dave Mustaine
Niel 2009/02/18 2:16 PM
@ Mike: Agreed, Peace Sells was something special. Different, but special.
Linda 2009/02/18 2:16 PM
I was introduced to Metallica when I first heard the "Black" Album. I was so impressed that I wanted to hear more of this "unknown" band. Little did I know what a phenonom they were, and how brilliant the albums were before "Black" album, I can still remember my sister and I head banging in our room while listening to this cd - her cd player was a cheap crappy one with terrible sound but somehow Lars's drums and Kirk's guitar still sounded awesome, long live Metallica!!!
Linda 2009/02/18 2:17 PM
I was introduced to Metallica when I first heard the "Black" Album. I was so impressed that I wanted to hear more of this "unknown" band. Little did I know what a phenonom they were, and how brilliant the albums were before "Black" album, I can still remember my sister and I head banging in our room while listening to this cd - her cd player was a cheap crappy one with terrible sound but somehow Lars's drums and Kirk's guitar still sounded awesome, long live Metallica!!!
Kay 2009/02/18 5:07 PM
I agree with the comment of Four Horsemen. Absolutely tripping song. Anyone know the controversy between Metallica and Megadeth over this exact song? Well, turns out they each laid claim to it, becoming a Hetfield versus Mustaine thing, and so both put it on their albums. And who stood the test of time- Metallica. Metal up your ass!
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