No, this album title is not about mass murder. It is actually about record company executives who don’t know a thing about music, making decisions on behalf of musicians themselves. Therefore, Kill ‘Em All makes perfect logic as an album title. Ironic that Metallica was seen in a negative light in the Napster case many years later, they were completely different in mindset here.
That aside, the music here is rather basic. It is the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sped up and made into Thrash Metal. Metallica were not the only people doing this at the time, yet they were the best of their contemporaries making such music. They were considered one of the “big four” of Thrash Metal in the USA, and their influence is far and wide.
The band consisted at the time of James Hetfield (singer and rhythm guitar), Kirk Hammett (lead guitar), Cliff Burton (bass guitar) and Lars Ulrich (drums). These four were on a mission to dominate the world of music, and very nearly did so.
That aside, how does it sound? Let’s take a listen to this album.
Hit The Lights fades into a chaotic and loud Thrash Metal sound, before kicking into a fast and well-played piece. James Hetfield doesn’t sound at all like the later rock star he turned out to be, but still, it kicks ass. A great way to begin this album. It is really very good. There is a brilliant midsection here as well, indicating that these guys knew their music theory.
The Four Horsemen is definitely referring to apocalyptic events here, with a nod to Black Sabbath. It’s a lot slower this song, but still rocks hard and kicks ass. The lyrics are great here, referring to the Biblical events discussed regarding the matter. The change in tempo and riffs are just fantastic. Metallica was the greatest metal band of the 1980s, period. The midsection and solo are worth listening to here as well.
The next cut Motorbreath is faster and more metal sounding. It may be referencing Motorhead, the main band that Metallica was inspired by at this stage. It’s still fast, has great metal riffs and good melodies too. A good listen. Listen to the guitar solos by Kirk Hammett, they are expert and brilliant. The whole band does well here, good job guys.
Afterwards, we have Jump In The Fire and it’s more poppy, but still sounds like early Metallica. Metallica at the time had many great and specific ideas about their future. This early song is now a fan favourite. The only issue? Length. This song could have been trimmed a little, but was not. Still, it rocks hard.
(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth is a pretty cool bass guitar solo by Cliff Burton. It sounds just like an electric guitar here. This is about as different as it gets on this record, much more variety would occur on later records. Still, this is a great example of the genius of Cliff Burton, he was the driving music force behind Metallica’s best early material and does well here. Interesting. Sounds like a kookaburra at the end.
Whiplash is next. A lot faster than you’d think, it has some brilliant palm-muted guitar playing, tight rhythm and pacing drum work here. It’s top-notch here, and one of the best cuts from the album. Is it about mosh pit behaviour? Perhaps, it is a really good listen though. “Adrenaline starts to flow, you’re thrashing all around, acting like a maniac…Whiplash!” Brilliant lyrics.
The next piece Phantom Lord may be about the devil. But still, it’s another fast and fairly recent Thrash Metal piece. It talks about war and pestilence at hand, among heavy metal riffage. A good way to tell such a story to music, it’s a good listen. The solos and breakdown are both quite good, keep your ear out for both.
After that, we have No Remorse. It starts off with some basic riffs and great lead guitar work by Kirk Hammett. James’s voice sounds rather pitchy here, he noticed and requested that the band get a proper singer, which was rejected. He sounds completely different to the singer he evolved into in the 1990s. This shows anyone can sing, and become better at it over time. Good tune here, too. It launches into a very fast part near the end, awesome stuff.
Seek & Destroy is a very slow tune, perhaps a little too slow. Doesn’t mean that it is bad, it just means it is not perfect. It’s about going out on a rampage, which is interesting. The chorus is a singalong one as well. Not a bad tune, even if the length of it lets it down. The midsection improves the song slightly, however.
Metal Militia is the last track on this album. It’s hard and fast, a good way to end this basic but consistent listen. For fans of Metallica, you should hear this if you have not done so already. It’s very uplifting. The album concludes with the sound of soldiers marching.
The verdict? This is definitely not Metallica’s best album, but it is one of their better ones. It is not as good as Ride The Lightning, Master Of Puppets or …And Justice For All, but it is okay listening. A good historical note in music, for the most part though.