Review Summary: We'll never stop cause we're Metallica!
In the highly popular world of the metal genre today, where we are graced with bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Metallica seems to be one of the kings at the top. It seems that, in just a couple of years, they went from being a band of 18-year-old first-timers with little or no experience to making an album, to becoming a platinum-selling metal group with an everrising group of fans. But before The Black Album (Metallica) hit stores and completely blew the public away, before Master of Puppets was deemed the greatest thrash metal of all time by some, there was Kill 'Em All, their first experiment back in '83.
Let's get this out of the way first: it's really bloody good. In the early 90's, when thrash metal was just rising, Metallica came in. Comprising of young Kirk Hammet, Cliff Burton, Lars Ulrich, and James Hetfield, the album was recorded in a rush with a budget of less than $2,000, a feat nowadays that seems virtually impossible. But the impact Kill 'Em All is virtually nonidentical. It completely exploded into the underground scene, earning Metallica a reputation that would skyrocket them to making their second albums. And the critics raved for it: it was an influential thrash metal LP that would leave high impressions decades later.
Here's the obvious high spot to Kill 'Em All: for their age, the work put into this album for such a short time is outstanding. Hetfield's voice literally thuds into your skull, with a memorable pitch and voice tweak that could be easily identified by any metalhead. Hammet's melodic, cataclysmic lashing on the electric guitar and Burton's chugging, echoing bass work during the tempos are surprisingly effective. Lars is beyond thrash: Ulrich smashes drums and pounds off in every song in a great amount of spastic energy. But Kill 'em All is indefinitely thrash metal at its peek: take the drum clashing and high vocal capacity in "Hit the Lights", or the crushing riffs and harrowing mini-solos in "No Remorse".
Kill 'Em All is also an album to listen to if you're a Mustaine fan. Given the influencial power of this album: Dave Mustaine's, who later formed Megadeth and left Metallica due to problems with other members, work in the album is strong in the melodies and tempos. The galloping (pun intended) riffs in "The Four Horsemen", the now-famous tempo in "Phantom Lord", or the exploding drums in "Hit the Lights", Mustaine had quite a lot to do with the album: such as writing, guitar work, bass work.
A couple of problems present with the album: the production's rather outdated. There's distortion and muffled audio. Some exceedingly neutral guitar and bass work will pop up here and there, but due to the rushed time date (two weeks) and thin budget ($1,500) this is somewhat understandable. The vocals also tend to come across as outdated compared to James's other work. Some random high pitches and random inflections will come across, as it comes across as somewhat irritating in songs like "Metal Militia" and "Whiplash". I'm far from criticizing the legendary James Hetfield, oh no, but he wasn't as lashing as he was in later albums like Master of Puppets or ...And Justice For All. (Though Motorbreath is top-notch)
As I have mentioned, Kill 'Em All is one of THE thrash albums that made metal history. It brought blazing solos, grinding bass work, and drum shrieks that would help bring Metallica back up. Not only is it one of the most critically acclaimed thrash metals of all time, it's one of the most unique. It touches a various number of subjects: The Four Horsemen's rocketing guitar melody over an invasion of the Four Horsemen of Time, Famine, Pestilence, and Death; Motorbreath's thumping guitar shredding alongside peaceful lyrics about life; Whiplash's haunting drum beat over a crushing guitar sound, ranting about headbanging. And the echoing bass instrumental in the amazing Cliff Burton solo Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth), a good example of why Burton is so influential among bass players.
Kill 'Em All is not perfect. It's far from perfect. It lacks a sense of power and intensity found in later albums. But it is a great album that is sure to please all Metallica fans. The band's first five albums were absolutely amazing, and Kill 'Em All has to be the best attempt out of the five, because it got the riveting band on the road to worldwide popularity. But the ever-consuming question that all individuals ask has finally come: is this 10-track LP worth it? It nowadays, overshadowed by the outstanding success of The Black Album and Master of Puppets, is indefinitely a superior album over the two, because it is so underrated in the music community, but the quality of the content in Kill 'Em All is sublime and beyond comparison to other albums. And that is why Kill 'Em All is so great: is not because it's a really good thrash metal, but because it's Metallica at their peak.
The Four Horsemen - Ah, The Four Horsemen. It took a while for this song to grow on me, because James's
voice becomes distorted and the guitars seemed completely average. But this song has become a staple for me: the cataclysmic solos and invasion-style lyrical content was actually quite superior: and I kept that thought in mind as I saw them perform live. A truly different song.
Phantom Lord - It's almost ironic, in a way. People that I know who hate this album seem to enjoy this song. With an outstanding riff from the Mustaine era, Phantom Lord grinds for a good five minutes keeping an entertaining focus on the lyrics: which, oddly, seem to be about war battles against two heavy metal monsters. Yeah, this song was probably written by a 20-year-old junkie Mustaine for sure. Accepting it as the straight on straight though is easy, it's a sick song.
Am I Evil? (On the Elektra 1988 Reissue) - I'll be honest: It takes a few listens to get into this Diamond Head cover. Metallica fans have completely added it onto their list, and it bumped up another shining point for Diamond Head's career (doubling that once Metallica covered The Prince for Garage, Inc.), but Am I Evil? could be one of the greatest metal songs of all time. With an eerie riff over Hetfield wailing, "AM I EVIL? YES I AM!", with an epic solo that slides onto different notes and chords each time, with a chugging bass line in the back. Yeah, it's a great song. It just took me a while, personally.
Also Listen To
Metallica - Creeping Death / Jump In The Fire EP
Metallica - No Life 'Til Leather
Jump In The Fire