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Metallica's Kill 'Em All 30 Years Later

Updated on November 17, 2017

Kill 'Em All is Still My Favorite Metallica Album

Metallica's Kill 'Em All released on July 25, 1983 is still my favorite Metallica album, the bare bones punk and speed metal riffs with serious blues overtones are irresistible.

The blues scale is used here more than any of the other albums of the first 5, for both rhythm and lead guitar. Some of the solos by Kirk Hammett still to this day get my juices flowing, the speed and original blues drenched sound, but wholly his own style, still wows me 33 years later.

You have to give them credit for being so creative with such an early limited style, they of course went on to create albums almost wholly original like Master of Puppets and the ultra progressive ...And Justice for All, the latter being so complex the band could barely repeat the performance in concert.

Some of Lead Guitarist Kirk Hammett's solos on Kill 'Em All are really mind-boggling, the speed combined with the blues based ideas he comes up with using that most basic of scales.

It must be noted that Hammett was the replacement for Megadeth's Dave Mustaine when he was ousted from the band after his drinking, drug use, and clashing with other members of the band. Though it is obvious in retrospect that none of the band members were easy to get along with all the time.

The studio production on Kill 'Em All is of course absolutely horrid, but the less than perfect sound adds to its stripped down assault.

The utter rawness of the album, James Hetfield's Vocals, his fast rhythm guitars, the gritty sandpaper sound, they all work together to offer a brutal punishing album of pure aggression.

I feel Kill em' All displays the greatest Motorhead influence as well:

As the years and albums went on, that, and this style became harder to locate until Death Magnetic. A welcome return to a heavier stripped down sound, loudness wars not withstanding, though again that poor production almost adds to the dynamic, I doubt that was intentional, but it did work in much the same way.

A lot of the riffs on Kill Em' All when slowed down have a basic blues vibe, "Jump in the Fire's" riff is a stroke of genius in its simplicity, but played at the ultra fast tempo it works very well and seem more complex.

Mustaine gets co writing credits on 4 tracks, "The Four Horseman", "Jump in the Fire", "Phantom Lord," and "Metal Militia". "With Jump in the Fire" and "The Four Horseman" being my favorite tracks, Mustaine can not be ignored. I feel like Megadeth's best work expanded on this early Metallica style.

Though Kirk Hammett's blistering solos throughout are such that I doubt Dave would have equaled them at that time, we will never know, Mustaine had actually composed many of the beginnings of each solo before Hammett took over.

Listening to albums like Peace Sells But Who's Buying from Megadeth, one is left feeling that Mustaine has become underrated, I do feel Mustaine is all over Kill 'Em All.

The original title for Kill 'em All was Metal up Your Ass, but Megaforce Records asked them to change the name. Bassist, the late Cliff Burton reportedly came up with the new name in response to the timid record producer reaction to Metal Up Your Ass.

Bassist Burton's "Anesthesia Pulling Teeth", just may be the most famous track from the album. The track has a cult following, not too many bassists were running through distortion and wah wah pedals then, certainly they didn't usually play with the dexterity of a lead guitarist.

James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich Mentioned: "The first time we saw Cliff, he was playing Anesthesia live, and we were looking around for a guitarist, we were counting the strings, and said, that's a bass!".

"No Remorse"

A Link to Classic Blues?

I hear a clear link to track's like "Jump in the Fire" and "No Remorse", with blues standards like Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" for instance.

Please understand I am talking about the guitar riffs similarity, many times all you have to do is play that classic riff at double or triple time to completely change the sound and style. When you slow down these riffs on Kill 'Em All you can really hear that blues base.

Honestly, Tony Iommi was doing this in the late 60's and early 70's, most of Black Sabbaths early works were just blues riffs slowed down with a minor key sinister sound sometimes added that really gave you that feeling of trepidation.

When You had distortion and effects like delay and echo, you could come up with some wild stuff, amazing how those first basic blues licks from Robert Johnson and his contemporaries seem to always produce the best music years after their deaths.

Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Metallica, Guns N Roses and others, built entire legacies based on reworking the blues to fit their style.

Metallica definitely got away from this basic blues blues riff, until ironically the over produced and ultimately way too commercial Load and Reload came out in the mid 90's.

I liked those albums well enough... "mostly," but they just didn't seem true to the Metallica legacy. St Anger, I can't even describe how big a disappointment that was. Death Magnetic was a nice return to form for sure, Kill 'Em All was the beginning, and for my money still the best Metallica album.

"Jump in the Fire"

"The Four Horseman"


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