There’s no reason for me to write about Kill ‘Em All. It’s not like anyone reading this has never heard of Metallica, and I certainly don’t have any secrets or amazing insights about the album to share with you. But last Friday I took a day off of work to drive down to Tacoma and hit up the 10th anniversary sale at Hi-Voltage Records, and with everything in the store marked down 20% I picked up all kinds of stuff, including this vinyl re-release of Kill ‘Em All. Somewhere along the way I lost or got rid of my CD copy without ever having ripped it, so I haven’t heard the album in forever.
I wish I could tell you how insightful I was, and how I was way into Metallica when this record came out in 1983. But that would be a lie – I didn’t discover Metallica until sometime right after Master of Puppets. In 1983 I was buying copies of Shout at the Devil and Metal Health, plus the tape copy of Duran Duran’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger that I felt compelled to hide so none of my metal loving fans would know that I secretly liked “The Reflex.” Being young and trying to live up to some kind of image is hard.
But I suspect that somewhere along the way I probably at least flipped past Kill ‘Em All at the mall record store, nestled between Madness and Mötley Crüe (or, as I once wrote it inside my three-ring binder (remember those?), “Motley Crew,” which ensured I was roundly mocked by my friends). Did I see the cover, with its sledgehammer and pool of blood? Did it freak me out? Maybe, but not enough for me to remember.
You also don’t need me to tell you what an insanely bad-ass song “Seek & Destroy” is, because you’ve almost certainly heard it yourself in all of it’s perfectly formed awesomeness. It’s like a road map to how to make a metal song. Metallica later got faster and harder (then less fast and less hard…), but “Seek & Destroy” begs you to throw up the horns and sing the chorus along with James Hetfield.
I’m not one of those people who think Metallica “sold out.” Sure, I prefer some of their earlier stuff – my favorite albums are Master of Puppets and …And Justice for All. After all, don’t music fans often find themselves particularly fond of the band’s sound from when the person first “discovered” them? I know that’s true for me. But I also really, really like Death Magnetic and even think there are some gems on St. Anger (mostly “St. Anger” and “Shoot Me Again”), a comment bound to get me some strange looks and have at least a few people threaten to take my computer keyboard away so I can’t embarrass myself further with my complete lack of musical taste. No, I don’t think Metallica sold out. Instead I prefer to think that the rest of the music world “bought in.” The mainstream moved toward Metallica just as much, if not more, than Metallica moved toward it. If they’d just kept rehashing Kill ‘Em All they’d be little more than a musical footnote. Instead it was the long fuse that brought metal a wider audience.
So good work, Metallica. Kill ’em all.