35 Years Ago: Metallica Brings Thrash To The Masses With 'Kill 'Em All'

July 25, 2018

It was a time when Metallica was going through a bit of a transition phase. Guitarist Dave Mustaine was out. Kirk Hammett was in. But before he left, Mustaine told James Hetfield not to use any more of his material.

A request the band did not live up to. It's unknown whether they moved forward with Mustaine's contributions merely out of the raw emotions still lingering around since his firing, or the belief that songs like "Jump in the Fire," "Phantom Lord," "Metal Militia," and "The Four Horsemen" belonged to all of Metallica and not exclusively to Mustaine. But if the band had fulfilled this request, the 1983 album Kill 'Em All would have came out a completely different album altogether.

After their demo No Life Til Leather got them signed to Megaforce records, Metallica released Kill 'Em All on July 25th, 1983, beating all other bands to the punch to introduce the world to the metal sub-genre, "Thrash." 

Along with pressure from the label to make Kill 'Em All a polished version of No Life Til Leather, they were under great time constraints and could not afford to second-guess themselves in order to make their debut album's deadline.

The album wasn't just a first for Metallica, it was also a first for their recording team. In the past, they've worked with artlists like the Doobie Brothers and The Rods, but not with anybody close to Metallica's sound. Before the recording process began, the levels were set to that of an ordinary rock band, unaware of what was going to happen in the next few minutes. Once they started rolling tape, the levels were blasted and distorted. Hoping to compensate, the guitar levels were lowered and the drum levels were raised, only to face complains from Megaforce president Jonny Zazula that the guitar levels were far too low.

With some amount of success, the sound levels in Kill 'Em All were repaired and ready for distrubution. Although the album never got past further than the #120 spot on the Billboard charts, it did pave the way for other metal bands to reach the masses like SlayerExodusAnthraxOverkill, Testament and more. It also created new waves of fans that were attracted to the rapid-fire speed of punk with the strength and power of existing metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.