Kill 'Em All (Remastered)

Kill 'Em All (Remastered)

Metallica’s 1983 debut changed everything. Giving a stiff middle finger to LA’s spandex ’n’ hairspray flash-metal scene, guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich took their love of Motörhead, Judas Priest and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and turned the aggression up to 11. After poaching Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett and Trauma bassist Cliff Burton from their respective bands, Metallica had the prime-time personnel to carve off thrash metal’s first—and most ferocious—album. Hetfield kicks off opener “Hit the Lights” with a throat-scraping shriek before delivering a howling tribute to heavy metal itself. Based on an unfinished song from his previous band, Leather Charm, the track threatens to careen off the rails at any moment—much like most of the album. Next up, “The Four Horsemen” is perhaps the most famous A/B comparison case in heavy metal history. Originally written by former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine—who went on to form Megadeth—Metallica’s version features Hetfield’s lyrics about the mythical horsemen of the apocalypse. Mustaine’s version, “Mechanix”, lyrics bulging with sexual innuendo, appears on Megadeth’s 1985 debut, Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good! Forty years on, the song remains a source of much debate. Meanwhile, high-velocity singles “Whiplash” and “Jump in the Fire” deal with heavy metal casualties and eternal damnation, respectively. Nesting between them like a coiled serpent, Burton’s indelible one-take bass solo, “(Anesthesia)—Pulling Teeth”, remains a marvel of the form. “Seek & Destroy”, the first song Metallica ever wrote, was inspired by Diamond Head’s “Dead Reckoning”. (Metallica covered several Diamond Head songs, including “Am I Evil?”, which appears as a bonus track on later versions of Kill ’Em All.) Introduced by Ulrich’s unforgettable drum salvo, “Motorbreath” distils touring life into a three-minute blitzkrieg of gas-huffing intensity. It’s easily one of the band’s most effective and underappreciated songs. “Phantom Lord” starts with an ominous, Carpenter-esque synth drone before kicking into an amped-up NWOBHM riff and a clean-guitar bridge that foreshadows compositions on the next two Metallica albums, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. All told, Kill ’Em All is the record that launched a thousand thrash bands while setting Metallica on their inexorable path toward superstardom. While it might have little in common with the radio-ruling songs of the Black Album—or anything they’ve released in the last 30 years—Kill ’Em All is Metallica in their purest form: savage and stripped down, angry and awe-inspiring.

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