This is the coronation of a new era in Heavy Metal, spiked with the bloodshed of fire-breathing bass chords, thumping and smashed-in-your-face guitar vapor, and angry and dizzy drum heads that explode with commanding and refulgent sound. Metallica was transformed, instantly, into a maddening orchestra of destructive acoustics and rebellious, albeit confident lyrics that reintroduced chaos and speed as a splendid and maniacal act of music. This is a rhapsody of the ages, the Metal age of pupilage, attitude, assertion, hard guitar playing and expansion of electric, hard drinking animation theatre. When this album was ushered into the waves of radio and magazine promoting, its sound and magnitude was virgin and largely an unexplored enclave. That was to change.
With obstinate examples of musical arrangements of character such as the song ‘(Anesthesia)Pulling Teeth/Whiplash’, bassist Cliff Burton reinvented the purpose and possibilities of the Bass Guitar being equally effective as a guitar. The clashing cymbals and energetic drum peddling by drummer Lars Ulrich would also introduce drummers to a flashy and sovereign makeover that would raise the drummer to the pedestal it had lost since the Bonham/Moon era.
The general theme of this album was bleeding ears and panic with power. The oversized guitar riffs that were contributed by former band member Dave Mustaine would immortalize the band’s sound into the coming years with later works such as Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. However, the credit would get bequeathed to new guitarist Kirk Hammet, who would perform and record the sleazy chords and dangerous solos that would mark his undisputed territory in the band. The raw energy and violent authority of this work offer little to a sensitive listener or a mundane musician. On the contrary, it does attract the vibrancy of a proficient guitarist, athletic drummer, and a gothic lyricist. Somehow, astonishingly, the band created the most electric chemistry on a Heavy Metal ever recorded. Metal bands owe much to the existence of whammy bar base, superhero scales and harmonics and James Hetfield’s serious authoritarian singing style.
In more extreme examples of energy and intensity, one must listen to “Seek and Destroy”, “The Four Horsemen”, and “Phantom Lord”; however, the most splendid surprise on the album is actually in the opening with “Hit the Lights”. This song becomes the theme of the entire album. It commences of a fading on into grizzled guitar, choppy bass notes, and then unleashes itself into a frenzy of an algorithm, venomous speed blasts of drums and frantic vocals charged by volcanic bass acoustics in an unprecedented display of toxic chaos. The album will then be delivered its climax with ‘Metal Militia.’ This cosmic synthesis of lyricism and macabre seal Metallica’s sepulchral definition that Heavy Metal is the New Order, that leather, chains, spikes and metal cast a forged crown onto the brains of a new wave of rebellious fans and clamorous renegades of musicians and composers that will induct authority and brevity on its new patrons.
Kill’Em All will celebrate the mutinous of an angry but clever youth. It will dress its listeners with originality and confidence that lacked in previous genres of music. It will dispose of the pretty face in exchange for the supernatural and mischievous. This is the era will Metal is the New Gold; this is the time when the rancid sound of vomiting guitars collide with roaring drums and deafening bass licks that will make mundane Rock Music capitulate into the abyss of rejection and disapproval. Power and Authority are Gods to the allegiance of worshippers and prophets of Loudness and Chaos. Their ride through time will be tameless and regaling, their shows dramatic, and their fans estranged. Metallica’s magnitude and creativity, ironically, will reinstate the seriousness of musicianship and music recording. The test of time is the burden of the critic.