Metal Up Yr Ass, Pt. 1 A Five-Part Review Series on Metallica’s Earliest Albums

By Garrick Hoffman and
Patrick Doyle
Liberal Arts & Liberal Arts –
English Majors
Album of the Issue:
Kill ‘Em All
Here’s some trivia for you: what band is the only band to have five No. 1 albums on The Billboard 200, defeating that of U2, the Dave Matthews Band, and The Beatles? The answer: Metallica.
Composed of rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, drummer Lars Ulrich, and bassist Robert Trujillo, Metallica launched their career with Kill ‘Em All, released in 1983, and it has now been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA.
In this series, we will be reviewing the first five ‘Tallica albums, beginning with Kill ‘Em All, and ending with their self-titled album, Metallica, or as it’s widely regarded, The Black Album.
KEA is potentially Metallica’s most technically impressive album. The locomotion of shredding is ceaseless. Hammett’s solos are absolutely dizzying. Ulrich’s drumming is underwhelming, per usual, but it at least met the pace of the tempo and got the job done. (His most impressive drumming is arguably on Battery, from Master of Puppets.)
Further, Hetfield’s screaming is absolutely wild. He was probably so drunk all the time that he’d probably just stagger into the recording studio, beer in hand, and let loose. Now that he has his shit together and actually has to perform before tens of thousands of people instead of a posse of metalheads in some seedy venue, there’s no room for that clumsy inebriation. Still, his screaming on the album sounds raw, galvanizing, and just plain badass.
Although KEA isn’t my favorite of the ‘Tallica discography, I relish its technical, righteously thrash, instrumental content. The riffs are so infectious – between “Jump In The Fire”, “The Four Horsemen”, and “Whiplash”, I challenge anyone not to whip out their air guitars and start to play along, even in public. “The Four Horsemen” was actually written by Dave Mustaine, the Megadeth leadman who started his musical career in Metallica before he was fired for alcoholism, drug abuse, and erratic behavior. It was originally titled “The Mechanix.” “No Remorse” is also a standout track for me. As soon as that chugging riff at the 2:23 mark hits, I’m headbanging in delight.
This is arguably the most solo-ridden album of theirs, at times relentlessly soloing. Just when you think it’ll end, it just keeps on driving. Although impressive, they’re a little overbearing to me, but in the context of the era I understand why they were employed so often.
The lyrics were a bit underdeveloped and immature, especially compared to later albums. The themes are often dark and quite explicitly promote moshing at one’s peril, such as in “Whiplash” (“Bang your head against the stage like you never did before / Make it ring, make it bleed, make it really sore”). Real poetic, huh? I can’t hold it against Hetfield, however; he was just a 20 year old chap, manic for metal in the midst of the thrash/heavy metal era, and the lyrics were fitting enough.
Ultimately, although this is not my go-to Metallica album, KEA is indisputably one of the most salient thrash albums since metal took flight. Between the constant roll-out of gritty and heavy riffs (“The Four Horsemen”), the inexorable guitar solos (Hit the Lights), the screaming and shouting and lyrics about moshing and headbanging (“Whiplash”), and the fast, unfragmented tempos blended with moments of easy head bouncing rather than headbanging (“Seek and DeCD01stroy”), Kill Em All is the embodiment of thrash – after all, it was Metallica who were one of the earliest pioneers of the movement to begin with.
I started listening to Kill ‘Em All by Metallica, released in 1983, at 10:32PM on a weeknight. I just finished work two hours earlier. Everyone was buying Powerball tickets. This may have affected this listen of Kill ‘Em All. The last time I listened to Kill ‘Em All I was somewhere between 13 and 14. Same with Ride The Lightning, which I also have fond recollections of.
These are thoughts/things I wrote down while listening, done completely “in the moment.”
“Hit The Lights” just echo’d in and it’s doing the thing where people hold notes, stop, drummer does crazy things and eventually a thrash metal guitar riff starts and then James Hetfield presumably goes “YAY-UH.”
I’d like to drive a monster truck or do a lot of push-ups in a hardware store or ride a ten speed at night to this music I think.
Metallica really like the words “Die,” “Died,” and “Dead.” Probably “Death” too. They really like saying “Yeah.”
Hell yeah I just heard the words “crush your face.”
Oh they just said “death” again.
A lot of scales & I ain’t talkin’ about fish.
I really like the title of the song “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”. It starts out with a bass solo where parts of it sound almost like a synthesizer being played in a garage recorded on a laptop with classical arrangements. This sounds like Metallica at their most “psychedelic.” This is the song I can get behind most so far. It’s instrumental, I like thrash metal a lot instrumentally I think.
There are bits of drenched feedback overtones & noise.
I crashed a car recently so “Whiplash” is funny to listen to.
I don’t think it has anything to do with a car accident though.
The beginning of “Phantom Lord” literally sounds just like the lengthy synth beginning of “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls. Then it isn’t that song and goes bonkers.
Definite filler vibes with tracks like “No Remorse.” It sounds like the rest of the album is just less interesting. This album is a really good definition of early thrash, along with Slayer’s Hell Awaits and Sodom’s In the Sign of Evil.
Up until “No Remorse” (“Metal Militia” follows it, which is playing currently) I was enjoying the album because it has that part of earlier thrash where it shows a clear hardcore punk influence (DRI [dirty rotten imbeciles] perfected this sound) amidst all the metalz. Always love when metal self-addresses itself metaphysically.
The last song just started which is a really good “thrash anthem” that features bits
of that aforementioned hardcore influence. It’s called “Seek and Destroy.”
Henry Rollins has a tat that says “Search and Destroy”
This song is great though. The chorus is cool. I’d like to scream this with Garrick Hoffman. So much riffage.
This was a good idea for the closer because it saves the last three songs from being complete shit (“No Remorse” and “Metal Militia” being excruciating, especially “Remorse,” clocking in over six minutes).
Welp, Kill ‘Em All just ended. I think overall this was a very fun listen. The rest of the night I’m gonna listen to thrash albums because after a lot of barraging metalz thrown at me, the silence ringing through the headphones feels mad claustrophobic.
I’m enamored with having these isolated listens continuing with the first five Metallica albums.
Highlights: “The Four Horsemen,” “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth),” “Seek and Destroy”
Next Up:
Ride The Lightning


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