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Metallica - Kill 'Em All CD (album) cover




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3.39 | 435 ratings

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4 stars Oh my, did I ever underappreciate this album once upon a time. My initial assessment was that this is a bunch of primitive thrash crap that might have been hugely important back in the early 80's but that doesn't have any overall staying power. Well, many years later, all I can say to the previous me is "screw you." The most important thing to do when listening to this is to try and not compare it to what would come later; a difficult task, yes, but one well worth the effort. Yes, the band hasn't yet matured lyrically; except for "The Four Horsemen," the band's lyrical shtick about apocalyptic death, destruction, depression, insanity and anger hasn't yet taken root, and the songs tend to be about, well, kicking ass. Yes, James is in serious need of singing lessons on this album; combined with the lyrical matter, he kinda ends up sounding like what I'd expect Beavis to sound like at age 20 fronting a metal band, except without any AC/DC-style juvenile sexuality (not that I mind AC/DC's juvenile sexuality, but that's for neither here nor now). And yes, the production is thinner than the polished death-and-destruction sound that would come on the next two albums.

So yeah, it's well established what this album does poorly. On the other hand, let's look at what it does well. The riffs range from good to great. The band is insanely tight. The songs chug and thrash mercilessly. The solos are fast and at least mildly interesting. And, a couple of times, we get a clear glimpse at the more "sophisticated" future of the band, particularly in the aforementioned epic "The Four Horsemen," which cycles through a number of terrific riffs and instrumental passages. The descending riff in the "chorus," in particular, could stay in my head for hours and I wouldn't get sick of it. Of course, that riff was apparently written by Dave Mustaine, a former bandmate (and lead guitarist prior to Hammett) who went on to form Megadeth, but who am I to complain? Coming close in "epic" power, though, is "Seek and Destroy," a solid mid-tempo seven minute chugger that would be routinely stretched to 20-minute lengths in concert, and which is a great listen here as well.

Elsewhere, the one track that significantly sticks out is a decently distorted bass-driven (solo for the first half, with drums coming in during the second half) instrumental, "Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)" where Cliff mixes arpeggios with shredding his sound something fierce; I might be slightly overrating it, but it's just as fun to listen to as, say, "The Fish," even if for somewhat different reasons ("The Fish" had more arranging talent involved, what with the six layers of bass piling on top of each other). Otherwise, though, the album consists of a mix of mid-tempo thrash ("Jump in the Fire," which has an AWESOME set of riffs, is the highlight of these) and breakneck-tempo thrash (like the opening "Hit the Lights," which shows from the beginning that Metallica had showmanship down to a tee; what an over-the-top great introduction), which all simmers at a pretty solid level. No, I don't consider "Hit the Lights," "Whiplash," "Motorbreath," "Phantom Lord," "No Remorse" or the closing "Metal Militia" to be on par with the band's very greatest accomplishments, but as the years have gone by, I've come to get my headbanging kicks from all of them. No, they're not really sophisticated; the solos, cool as they may be, are more or less tacked on, and the band isn't reinventing jack with these tracks (they're just putting an American gritty slant on European metal). But unlike the younger me, I don't absolutely require "artsiness" in my metal for it to be enjoyable, as long as the more basic elements are effective.

In short, then, this is a really fun, really enjoyable debut, which is a perspective totally unlike my older one. Maybe you'll agree with my previous assessment more than my current one, and I can certainly understand this ... but if that's the case, I can't help but think you need to lighten up a bit. This is one of the best "lightweight" thrash-related albums I've ever heard, and that's enough for me.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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