A Top 20 Album: Kill ‘Em All by Metallica

Kill em All

With move-in last Thursday and Leadershape keeping me away from my laptop this upcoming week, I have and will be breaking my consistency of having a Wild Card Wednesday and Throwback Thursday every week. Fortunately, I saw it as a perfect time to start a series of posts that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now: My personal top 20 albums of all time. These are albums that are great song by song and that I have no problem listening to at length. Combined, they could essentially create the ultimate Mackens playlist. As I list my favorite albums over such a series of posts, I do have a few caveats to how I make my decisions. I have to have listened to the whole album and I have to personally own the album for it to be considered. I know of a lot of albums that are indisputably timeless (Led Zeppelin IV, The Chronic, etc.) but with the sheer amount of music out there, I just haven’t listened to it all or never bothered getting my hands on it. My apologies in advance. Any rage induced by an album missing at the end of this series can be channeled into sharing your favorite albums in the comments! In addition, I will only do one album per artist for the sake of variety.

Many may already know that Metallica has always been my favorite band. In the same way most younger fans probably discovered the thrash metal group, I started out listening to the band through their self-titled work, otherwise known as The Black Album. Changing to a sound that was better received by the general population, The Black Album has been critically acclaimed (One of Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time) and certified platinum 16 times over. Its popularity is also exemplified by the fact that you will hear “Enter Sandman” at practically every sporting event you ever attend. Needless to say, The Black Album is the gateway drug to all things Metallica. Eventually, my initial interest in Metallica’s sound and their music being in the upcoming (at the time) Guitar Hero III drove middle school me and middle school Tyler Turgeon to go in on an Ebay purchase of the band’s entire music library to (that middle school) date. From there I started listening to Metallica’s earlier work, and the rest is history.

But back to Kill ‘Em All. Because of my undying fandom, I could confidently put this album in my top five. I love this album so much that I bought a copy of the CD just so I could have a hard copy. I haven’t even opened that copy yet because I already had the files from the CDs previously purchased. I’ll never regret the purchase.

My earliest memory of Kill ‘Em All was realizing how young James Hetfield sounded, to the point where I just assumed he hadn’t hit puberty by the time of the album’s recording. It’s ironic how Hetfield’s deepened, matured voice is a big part of what pulled me into the band’s sound, but on my favorite album of theirs, he sounds completely different.

Metallica’s youth is ultimately what drives this, their debut album. Released in 1983, Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, bassist Cliff Burton, and drummer Lars ulrich were all either 19 or 20 years old at this album’s release, and even younger at the first conceptions and performances of these songs. Experiencing such cohesive works by such raw talent is the real treasure here.

Track for track on Kill ‘Em All,  young Metallica is an unstoppable force. From the very beginning of the album with the crescendo of heavy strumming power chords, you know you’re going to be in for a wild, headbanging ride.  Even songs that slow down the album’s pace like “Seek and Destroy” have sections that pick up. That’s without mentioning Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos, which are not only complex and appropriately placed after the bridges of songs, but also serve as the perfect segues in between chorus and verse.

While Metallica’s later works are arguably more nuanced and technical than the hectic, traditional thrashing obvious on Kill ‘Em All, the talent of Cliff Burton (R.I.P.) brings a complexity to the album that without mention may otherwise go unnoticed.  There’s no doubt the bass guitar is an underrated instrument, and Burton’s work on this album may be equally underrated.

Between the tandem guitar and bass rhythms, Hammett’s solos, and Hetfield’s surprisingly high voice, Ulrich’s drums almost get lost among the highlights of the album. But make no mistake: It’s his frenetic pace that drives the metal. The most notable fills of his that come to mind are from “Motorbreath”. Lyrically, if you are looking for something meaningful, don’t look here. From lyrics I can discern through straight listening, themes involve basic metal culture and teen-angst. References to leather and apocalyptic destruction, going out and F-ingSU, the usual.

Overall, Kill ‘Em All provides all the metal some may ever need and more. 10 tracks and 51 minutes results in the album leaving you satisfied It never overstays its welcome. If you’re interested in the slightest in distorted guitars and fast paced drums, it’s more than worth the listen. Although each song is great on its own, individual songs I would recommend include “The Four Horsemen”, “(Anaesthesia) Pulling Teeth” {posted earlier}, and “Whiplash”.

I understand this is got lengthy, but because of my fandom for Metallica, I thought I’d give it some extra attention. I’ll try to keep the other top album showcases shorter. Hope you enjoyed it!

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