Review Summary: While showing some really high points, Kill 'Em All isn't exactly "Ride the Lightning".#35 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest 80's albums
#1 Underground Album by Hit Parader
NOTE: Most of the review is edited!
Let's get one thing across: unless you've lived in a cave your whole life, you've pretty much heard of Metallica by now. They're arguably one of the biggest metal bands of all time. Their later albums like Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All have become cult classic, outright definitions of the metal genre. And yet, before all their Grammys, before they became one of the best-selling music groups of all time, before the multi-platinum selling albums, there was Kill 'Em All.
Kill 'Em All feels more like a scientific experiment in the genre than an actual album. I mean, every popular band and musician nowadays always had to suffer through the infamous first release. Kill 'Em All feels very professional for the quick, rather rushed nature of the album, being only recorded in two weeks in mid-May to late May. The album definitely made an impact, though. However, I will let this out: Kill 'Em All is both the most important album Metallica has ever done, and also their weakest, in a number of ways.
There's also a lot of history beyond the album. The previous lead guitarist, Dave Mustaine, who would go on to form Megadeth, was kicked out because of being an alcohol abuser and usual tensions between the band. In fact, the bassist, Ron McGovney, left due to Mustaine always getting in the face. (Not intending to be an accusation). Respectively, Kirk Hammet and Cliff Burton (rest in peace, Cliff, we miss you), had to replace them before their first album even came out. So the original members only stayed for a couple of extended plays and demos before being kicked out before the big first LP.
As I recounted in my previous review for the album, I noted that the production was actually quite good for something only made in 2 weeks.
Kill 'Em All, though, is actually repetitive at times. Let's be honest: the band does have some REALLY good potential. The guitar tempo, the bass melody, the definitely thrashing vocalist, and the crashing of the drums, Kill 'Em All does show the band's potential much better than it would it albums like St. Anger and Load. It does feel rushed, though, as I said before. I'm not going to BS and said "well, Master of Puppets was the greatest god damn album ever made, so this sucks!", but it feels on later albums that their work is more expressed. But you can't blame them! In every band's timeline, there's the infamous first album.
That's not to say this album isn't terrible. Kirk Hammet and Cliff Burton are just as good as you'd expect. Burton does show some great talent in songs like the single Anethesia (Pulling Teeth) with great bass chords. The songs do feel different, like the heavy riffing in "Whiplash", and the slightly less slower "Seek and Destroy". There's also usually a good change of notes, tuning, and the album rarely does feel dry.
Take the 7-minute mini-epic "The Four Horsemen", for example. It sings about (obliviously) The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (If I'm correct, it's Death, War, Famine, and Conquest), and "Whiplash" sings about intense headbanging. "Jump Into The Fire" sings about the devil and hell, whilst "No Remorse" sings about war and not feeling any relent or repent. (Not trying to ryhme, folks!) So, the songs do vary, both lyrically and tonally.
There's still a few problems present in the album. For example, the mixing and mastering of some of the songs isn't too hot. "Phantom Lord" sounds a little too loud than what I expected. The band itself can also suffer. This album may be awesome at times, and it left a massive impact, they weren't EXACTLY at their highest at the time. (Although I do think that Master of Puppets is highly overrated)
And some of the tracks on here I'd rather listen to than "Damage, Inc." anyday. The bass instrumental, Anethesia (Pulling Teeth) features some good whammy and wah-wah pedal use, with awesome chord rhythm. "Am I Evil" could go down as one of the greatest covers of all time. It helped earn Diamond Head (the original artist of Am I Evil?) some more popularity. "The Four Horsemen" features some really good moments, including the guitar solo. "Motorbreath" and "Seek and Destroy", in my opinions, are in my Top 10 favorites list. The intro to the latter is one of the best I've ever heard, with some good downpicking and riffs in "Motorbreath".
Overall, Kill 'Em All is a really good album, and it helped set up the future that Metallica would soon get. There's just a couple of problems present with the album that make it a little far away from near-perfection.
Seek and Destroy
The Four Horsemen
: Dave Mustaine was kicked out from the band, but the faster, more speedy version of "Four Horsemen" would turn out to be the Megadeth single "The Mechanix". Am I Evil? and Blitzkrieg would soon show up on the cover compliation "Garage, Inc."