(Thrash/Speed Metal) Metallica – Kill ‘em All
James Hetfield – Rhythm Guitars, Lyrics
Kirk Hammett – Lead Guitars
Cliff Burton (RIP) – Bass
Lars Ulrich - Drums
1. Hit the Lights (Hetfield, Ulrich)
2. The Four Horsemen (Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine)
3. Motorbreath (Hetfield)
4. Jump in the Fire (Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine)
5. (Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth (Instrumental) (Burton)
6. Whiplash (Hetfield, Ulrich)
7. Phantom Lord (Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine)
8. No Remorse (Hetfield, Ulrich)
9. Seek & Destroy (Hetfield, Ulrich)
10. Metal Militia (Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine)
If you do not know much background about Metallica, you may find yourself wondering, “who is Mustaine?” Well, Dave Mustaine was originally the lead guitarist of Metallica, but was kicked out (Metallica said his self-destructive ways were hampering the band, i.e. Alcoholism and drugs) and replaced by Kirk Hammett. Mustaine went on to make another band, Megadeth, also a thrash band.
This is the album that started it all. Metallica’s very first album. This album is one of thrash metal’s first albums, possibly the first, along with maybe Slayer’s ‘Show No Mercy’. Kill ‘em All is a very good album, and in my opinion, their best. It features some of the finest players of the time, with Hetfield easily being one of the best rhythm guitarists ever, effortlessly keeping time even when pounding out machine-gun fast riffs and yelling out lyrics, Hammett one of the best soloists of the 80’s (heh), and Burton probably the greatest bassist in thrash. He also had a classical background. Ulrich is very competent, but lacks the quality and the insane fills of other Bay Area drummers. He masterfully uses the double bass, probably his finest attribute, and has an uncanny ability to keep time, even during the fastest songs and challenging drum patterns. Hetfield’s vocals are almost unrecognisable in this album, compared to their next album ‘Ride the Lightning’. It is much more raw and strained, whilst on later albums he refined that quality, furthering his claim to be the best rhythm guitarist around.
Listeners who first heard their later stuff like ‘Master of Puppets’ or ‘Ride the Lightning’ will be somewhat disappointed with how repetitive the riffs are. But if you like the machine-gun pace of songs such as ‘Battery’ and ‘Dyers Eve’ you will love this album.
Hit the Lights (4:17)
If you didn’t know better, you would think this was a live album, the way it starts. It begins with that thing bands do, they play a certain note many times and the drummer abuses the crash and the bass drum. The Hetfield begins one of multiple insanely fast riffs on the album, and Hit the Lights is one of the better ones. After a short passage of lyrics, we hear Hammett solo number 1. And what a stunner it is. The intense, rapid-fire solo which makes you appreciate the greatness of Hammett, at only 20 years of age. Although it is quite short (the solo) it is amazing and fits in quite brilliantly with the song. Kirk gets a chance to solo for an extended period of time later on in the song, a stunning one minute + thrash-infested assault on his six string, built up very well with staccatoed chords. Unfortunately, Hetfield, being such a young lad, his voice hasn’t reached its full potential yet, and his voice breaks when trying to hit the hit notes, especially during the second verse. But an excellent track nonetheless, and a great way to open the account.
The Four Horsemen (7:13)
This is another great song. Maybe the best on the album. It begins with a distortion-saturated intro by Hetfield, then explodes into the verse, with a very high tempo (210+ BPM) using triplets to great effect. It continues like this, until about the two minute mark, where both the tempo and style changes, it slows down quite a bit and goes to straight eights instead of the triplets. Hammett’s solo isn’t as eye opening as the first, it is pretty slower and he taps rarely in it, instead going for the pick. In all, it is probably a better solo. The second solo is like the first, a tapping solo, it is much thrashier. This song is full of a number high paced riffs, and excellent solos.
After the initial drum roll intro, another blistering paced riff is produced by Hetfield. This song sounds remarkably like a punk song, drenched in distortion. At least the verse anyway. This song is even quicker than its predecessor, featuring two searing solos by Hammett, and rapid fire riffs by the rest of the band. A very cool song, but it is over before you know it.
Jump in the Fire (4:41)
This song probably has the best riff on the album. It starts with an annoyingly addictive arpeggiated intro on by Hetfield, backed up solidly by Burton. This continues until Hammett ends it with a very cool two bar fill. And then... the verse riff. It is so good. That said, I don’t really rate this song much. That arpeggiated riff is repeated too many time, and it is quite annoying IMO, and the solo is one of Hammett’s weaker ones off the album. But that riff... and the solo that fades out at the end, is quite brilliant, one of Hammet’s better ones. So I listen to it.
(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth (4:14)
Hmm. What’s going on here, Hammett not soloing? This song is basically a huge bass solo by Burton, and has nothing but bass except for drums near the end of the song, to give it head banging rights. Whilst it is no Jaco solo, this is one awesome solo. The sound has been distorted and a wah pedal has been used to great effect. The solo focuses on the C major scale throughout, for instance the triplet bit at the start uses no accidentals, and is basically arpeggiating major chords. To this day, I am still not sure though why this song was put on the album, it just sounds like Burton got bored one day it just improvised the whole thing, and it sounded cool so they put it on the CD.
A simple intro? I don’t believe it. A drum roll by Ulrich is accompanied by chords. We are saved from inevitable boredom of a slow song by a signature Hetfield shred-a-thon. I feel this is another highlight from the album. Both Hetfield and Ulrich give their best performance on this song. Surprisingly, we don’t hear from Hammett for a fair while, until about the three minute mark. The wait is well worth it, though, as he emits another killer solo. The lead up to the bit where Hetfield yells out ‘Whiplash!’ is masterful.
Phantom Lord (5:02)
Wow, this is an EXCELLENT song. My favourite on the album by far. Another pretty simple intro compared to the rest of the album, and a slower riff. It is a good riff though, and is carried most of the way through the song. Hetfield’s vocals are superb, probably the best on the album. We are given the first taste of Hammett’s greatness early on, with a little descending 2-bar solo. Another solo at the two minute mark is a 30 second gem. A little bridge is followed by the best bit on the CD for me. A great lead up, Kirk and the rest of the band does a thing common in jazz: the call and response system. The band plays the riff, and Hammett pulls off several amazing 2-bar solos. Listen to this song and love it.
No Remorse (6:26)
No Remorse is another excellent song. This time, instead of waiting about 3 minutes for a solo, we only have to wait about 10 seconds, which is good, where Kirk plays a marvelous 30 second solo. Again, this song has a killer, but slower, riff, but it is excellent. Burton really shines through in this song. I haven’t mentioned him much in this review (shame on me :upset: ) but he is an excellent bassist, and since the bass is extraordinarily loud (good thing) you can easily hear his greatness.
The good thing about this song is the lengthy instrumental session in the middle. It starts with a fairly staticy sound, which I don’t have any idea how they produced. A classic Hetfield riff is followed by a cool Hammett solo. Not one of his most impressive, but still awesome. It is a fairly repetitive song (i.e. verse then chorus about 5 times). The other good part is the ending, how the riff goes double time, and the band carries on like nothing has happened. Amazing.
Seek and Destroy (6:55)
**** it Metallica. We were going for a perfect album!! This is still a good song, but compared to the rest of the album. The riff is painfully repetitive and slow. Hetfield really shouldn’t have tried to sing those long notes (:lol: ) on “searchin... seek and destroy!” It does get quite good at about the 3:20 bit, the riff speeds up, and it does the ‘call and response bit’ and Hammett is quite amazing (as always). But that is really the only good bit in the song. The end riff is pretty good too. But the letdown of the album.
Metal Militia (5:11)
This is more like it! This wonderfully titled track begins with an amazingly fast riff, the fastest on the CD by far. A cool little riff is played in the lead up and during the verse, with Burton doing his own crazy little thing in the background. Hetfield’s vocals are good as well, even while going for the high notes, it sounds very thrashy, whilst before it just sounded bad. And the Hammett solo is one of the best (I’ve said that about 40 times) on the album. The bit at about 3:20 (the bass solo bit) is probably the most technical on the album (?) it sounds a tad progressive (?!). The ending is quite cool, yet repetitive, and does that riff and yells out ‘Metal Militia!” about 15 times. It ends with about 10 seconds of war sounds.
Well there you go. Unfortunately, Metallica changed their style a bit on their next album ‘Ride the Lightning’ opting for a thrashier sound, and leaving the speed metal behind.
Rating: 5/5 – the best speed metal you are going to find.
p.s. I am aware my times for the songs is different from the booklet, but most of the times on the booklet are wrong!!!