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Album Review: Metallica's "Kill Em All" One of the Best Heavy Metal Albums of All Time

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

The Release of the Album "Kill Em All" is What Helped Metallica Start Their Career With Such Excellence

US heavy metal band Metallica has had a career spanning four decades. The question that some may be asking is how did the band’s career get off to such an amazing start? One of the reasons is the release of their debut album called Kill em All. The album was released in 1983 and it represents a lot of staccato style riffs, heavy music, and a type of aggression that will leave you amazed and impressed. Metallica is credited with starting the thrash metal movement.

The original lineup had members Dave Mustaine and Ron Mcgovney. Mustaine would form the band Megadeth after Metallica kicked him out of the band. I feel that Mustaine harmed himself with his erratic behavior and drug and alcohol use. He blamed Kirk Hammett for stealing his job. Many will say that Master of Puppets is the finest work of Metallica's career. This first album features the bass guitar playing of Cliff Burton (1962-1986). His skill and artistry is shown in the instrumental song called "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)." The song consists entirely of bass guitar with some drumming mixed in. Metallica early on in their career had the upper hand on Megadeth and I’m sure most fans of the metal genre would agree with me.

Analysis of the Songs Hit the Lights, The Four Horsemen and Motorbreath

Let’s take a little bit of a different look at an album that can be considered genre defining. The album is heavy, hard hitting and very technical in nature. "The Four Horsemen" is similar to the song "Mechanix" which Dave Mustaine wrote for Megadeth’s debut album. It is one of the best songs in the history of Metallica and features some of the best guitar playing you will hear particularly near the end of the song. The opening song called "Hit the Lights" is fast and heavy and it is a great way to open up a terrific album. "Motorbreath" is another excellent fast song. The message in the song is that whatever you want to accomplish in your life, you should do it even if there are people who say that you should not take chances. Those people will miss what life is about. Life is so valuable and precious, why would you not take the chance to do the things that you enjoy? Not only is this album about speed but as James Hetfield says in “Hit the Lights” the band is ready to kick some butt. Metallica had been formed in 1981 just two years before the release of this album and my goodness! They got off to one of the best starts for a band in the history of the genre.

"The Four Horsemen"

Analysis of the Songs "Jump in the Fire" Through "No Remorse"

One song that we did not even mention is the song called "Jump In the Fire" which is very much just a mid-tempo heavy metal song and the song is a humorous attempt at jumping in the fire. There really isn’t a literal way that the song should be interpreted as such. For the most part in Kill ‘Em All, this album is about speed.

"Jump in the Fire" and "Seek and Destroy" are probably the only two songs in this album other than Anesthesia to not start in a fast way. The general belief or consensus among most Metallica fans will be that the band’s first three or four albums are their best. This debut by Metallica solidified the thrash metal genre in its early days but Metallica has so many good albums that it is hard to definitively say which album is their finest.

"Whiplash" represents a point in the career of Metallica that shows how skilled these guys really are. The song has been a favorite at live concerts and former bassist Jason Newsted even sang this song live before. This one is a song that I would listen to a lot as a teenager while I was on vacation. Whiplash is one of those songs that can give you the chills up your spine because it is just so intense! The song slowly builds up into one of those fast Metallica thrash metal classics. "No Remorse" has an excellent fast solo in the beginning until it builds up into a catchy mid-tempo song. At the end when James Hetfield utters the word “attack” the song really speeds up.

"Phantom Lord" has an excellent guitar part that is really catchy. It is in the two and a half minute mark as the brilliance of James Hetfield as he shows why he is one of the best guitarists in the music business.

The greatness of the album Kill Em All

Rate Metallica's debut album

"Metal Militia"

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Final Thoughts About Metallica's Amazing Debut Album As of 2016

There is not even one song on the album that is bad. This album represents Metallica’s finest hour and even though they had just started their career, this was their peak even at that juncture. The strongest songs in the album are The Four Horsemen, Motorbreath, Whiplash, Phantom Lord, No Remorse, and the lightning fast Metal Militia. The other songs in this album are good too. The album gets a 95 out of 100 from this writer. It is not good enough to get a perfect score but it comes pretty close to it.

Is This Still Metallica's Best Album?

Note: it is now 2022 and even though in 2016 when this review was first written, Kill ‘Em All would have been this band’s finest work. But as time has passed, I have to give the upper hand to 1988’s ...And Justice for All album. You really can’t pick against these first four Metallica albums as they are all superb! If we had a list of the Top 10 thrash metal albums of all time, this one would have to be on that list. The message and motivation for this album was very clear: James Hetfield and the rest of the guys were ready to play some raw, FAST, aggressive thrash metal at the time and this is an album that musically worked out VERY well!

If one of these first four albums of Metallica is the best in your opinion, you are certainly not wrong because any of these first four albums could be considered their best by most Metallica fans.


Favorite Song On the Album Kill Em All

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Ara Vahanian


Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on March 24, 2020:

Thanks Emmanuel! And also, is this your favorite Metallica album? For the longest time, Kill Em All was my favorite album from these guys but now it is still a great album even in 2020.

Emmanuel Dal Canto from Italy on March 24, 2020:

Great post Ara, I invite you to see my last post! Cheers

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