Thirty years on, Metallica’s incendiary debut continues to occupy a crucial place in metal history
Originally released: 25th July 1983
2013 sees two anniversaries from Metallica’s back catalogue; probably the one fans, critics and even Metallica would want to forget is the tenth anniversary of St Anger’s release. The happier milestone is surely the marking of thirty years since their first full-length, Kill ‘Em All.
Given a choice, most people would say 1986’s Master of Puppets or 1991’s Metallica (more commonly known as The Black Album) is the band’s magnum opus, and has been their definitive thrash metal record. However, many forget about Kill ‘Em All, which includes some of their best songs, including ‘Seek and Destroy’ and ‘Hit the Lights’.
Where might the band have ended up without this record? Would Dave Mustaine (now frontman of Megadeth) been kicked out of the band and replaced by Kirk Hammett? Would the late Cliff Burton still be the inspiration to bassists that he is today? More importantly, would Metallica, along with Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, be part of the Big Four of Thrash?
While Hetfield and Ulrich were on good terms during the recording of Kill ‘Em All, bigger problems came from Dave Mustaine through drink and drugs, which peaked when he almost killed bassist Ron McGovney by pouring beer in his bass pickups and electrocuting him. Mustaine did help write ‘The Four Horsemen’, ‘Jump in the Fire’, ‘Phantom Lord’ and ‘Metal Militia’, but was fired before the recording sessions. ‘The Four Horsemen’ was lyrically rewritten by Hetfield and the original version can be heard on Megadeth’s debut album Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good.
The album saw the birth, in Hetfield and Ulrich, of one of the best writing partnerships in the history of rock music, standing alongside Jagger and Richards or Lennon and McCartney. ‘Seek and Destroy’ and ‘Hit the Lights’ are easily the record’s best-known tracks, but ‘Anesthesia – Pulling Teeth’, written by the late Cliff Burton, is a bass solo that unusually utilised a wah-wah pedal, immediately drawing Hetfield’s attention to his talent, leading to his recruitment for the band.
While Kill ‘Em All may never be as well-known as Master of Puppets or as critically revered as The Black Album, without this record, heavy metal and thrash metal would definitely not be what it is today. Many fans, critics and other bands have Metallica and Kill ‘Em All to thank for laying the genre’s foundations.