Thursday, July 25, 2013

Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Today (July 25th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Kill 'Em All, the full-length debut album from California-based heavy metal rockers Metallica. Recorded in Rochester NY (my old college stomping grounds) a few months earlier in 1983, it eventually went on to achieve multi-Platinum sales status. Chart-wise, it went to number 246 in Japan, number 129 in Austria, number 120 on the US Billboard Hot 200 (in 1988), number 66 in Ireland, number 65 in Switzerland, number 55 in Australia, number 28 in Sweden and number 12 in Finland (in 2007).

The band's line-up for this record was James Hetfield (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Cliff Burton (bass and backing vocals), Kirk Hammett (lead guitar) and Lars Ulrich (drums).

In 1989, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album at number 35 on its list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the '80s. Kerrang! magazine ranked it at number 29 on its list of the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.

Side one charges out of the gate with "Hit the Lights", a tune Hetfield first performed with his earlier band Leather Charm under a different musical arrangement. Just listening to these speeding, thrashing guitar licks, one could tell they were in for something which (back in 1983) was still relatively new and fresh.

"The Four Horsemen" first appeared on the band's demo record No Life 'Til Leather in 1982 under the title of "The Mechanix". When Dave Mustaine left the group, the remaining members revised the lyrics and added new musical elements over the existing melody section. The new lyrics refer to the end of the world, ushered in by the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I like the interesting rhythmic change-ups that happen through out the seven-plus minute long song.

"Motorbreath" really shows the punk influence in the band’s metal sound; it is fast and in your face. They pack a lot of power and rock in just over three minutes.

As the second single, "Jump in the Fire" charted at number 30 in New Zealand. Also reworked from that original demo record, this version tells a tale from Satan's point of view and how he insures that sinners will receive their place in the fiery pits of Hell.

The instrumental "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" is next, performed mostly by Burton on bass. Ulrich does join in about halfway through to put some back beat behind the axe grinding.

"Whiplash", the lead single from the album, celebrates the headbanging motion that metal music fans adopted to show their enjoyment of the genre. I definitely got a Motörhead vibe off of this one as it reminds me quite a bit of “Ace of Spades”.

Side two marches in with the arrival of "Phantom Lord".

"No Remorse" deals with a cold, spiritual isolation that one can feel when placed in a situation like war.

The next track, "Seek & Destroy", encapsulates the feelings that come with an overpowering urge to kill.

"Metal Militia" closes out the record with a rallying cry to the fans.

I can see why Metallica is so revered in the metal industry and how they came to inspire a generation of musicians after them. There is no denying the talent that they demonstrated right here on their first record.

Back in 1983, Metallica was definitely not part of my music listening sphere though I did have friends from high school who definitely were into this genre. Even today, I doubt I would enjoy a steady diet of the songs from Kill ‘Em All, but the right mood would hit me every now and then that I would be up for throwing a few of them on. Sometimes you just have to crank up the stereo and rock out for a bit, and this album certainly can fill that bill.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Funny you should mention Motörhead in reference to "Whiplash" as the band went on to cover it and won a Grammy for their performance.

The best thing about Metallica is their music and this is where it all started. The recording sounds very punkish and DIY nowadays.

The worst thing about Metallica is the almost complete lack of women at their shows. Have seen them 4 times early on in their career and the dude to girl ratio was always like 100 to 1. Worst ratio ever.