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Metallica Brought the Thrash on the Groundbreaking Kill ’Em All

The band's landmark debut helped usher in American thrash metal

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Metallica, photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images

    “Bang that head that doesn’t bang.” – R. Burch ‘83

    Thus reads the quote on the back sleeve of Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All, which was released on July 25th, 1983. It stands as one of the earliest documents of thrash metal, a pivotal album that explored artistic extremes and set the foundational archetypes of thrash as a sound, image, and lifestyle. At a time in heavy music when record labels were starting to embrace super-produced glam-metal bands that would go on to dominate radio and MTV for the remainder of the decade, Metallica literally said: “Metal up your ass.”

    Ironically, that was meant to be the original title for the album, but the label execs decided it was too profane for the sensitive tastes of American consumers and suggested the band change it. So Metallica picked the arguably more aggressive title of Kill ‘Em All, ostensibly in reference to those very consumers. That is metal. And there are so many moments on the album that warrant that remark. You listen to it and you throw up the horns reflexively at various moments: the chorus of “Jump in the Fire”, the intro chugs on “No Remorse”, the opening riff of “Seek & Destroy” — just to name a few.

    Suddenly metal had the punk attitude, the drunken joy of rock ‘n roll, and the poeticism of the ‘70s prog masters. Freaks, drunks, stoners, and outcasts had a new set of anthems and a band that was speaking directly to them: “On through the mist and the madness/ We are trying to get the message to you/ Metal militia!”

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