Kill 'Em All

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For other uses, see Kill 'Em All (disambiguation).
Kill 'Em All
Studio album by Metallica
Released July 25, 1983 (1983-07-25)
Recorded May 10–27, 1983 at Music America Studios in Rochester, New York
Genre Thrash metal
Length 51:15
Label Megaforce[1]
Producer Paul Curcio
Metallica chronology
Kill 'Em All
Ride the Lightning
Singles from Kill 'Em All
  1. "Whiplash"
    Released: August 8, 1983 (1983-08-08)[2]
  2. "Jump in the Fire"
    Released: January 20, 1984 (1984-01-20)[3]

Kill 'Em All is the debut studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on July 25, 1983, through independent record label Megaforce Records. Since its release, it has been certified 3× platinum by the RIAA, having sold over three million copies in the United States.


Metallica's original line-up featured James Hetfield (guitar/vocals), Lars Ulrich (drums), Ron McGovney (bass), and Dave Mustaine (lead guitar). Because of tensions with Mustaine, McGovney left the band. Castro Valley-born bassist Cliff Burton was recruited as his replacement. Mustaine was fired in April 1983 for his drug and alcohol problems, overly aggressive behavior and clashes with bandmates.[4] After Mustaine's departure, Metallica recruited Kirk Hammett, who previously played for Exodus and was a one-time student of Joe Satriani. The band started recording the album with Hammett, whose guitar solos on the album were partially based on Mustaine's original solos (the first four bars of most solos were written by Mustaine), barely a month later.[5] Mustaine then formed the band Megadeth, which also achieved multi-million selling success.

Despite their differences, Mustaine's contributions to the early years of Metallica were still acknowledged; he received co-writing credits on four of the songs on Kill 'Em All. The songs "The Four Horsemen" (originally titled "The Mechanix"), "Jump in the Fire", "Phantom Lord" and "Metal Militia" were primarily written by Mustaine, most of "The Four Horsemen" was written by Dave Mustaine when he was in his previous band Panic.[6] "The Mechanix" was performed at many early Metallica shows, but following Mustaine's exit, the band added a mid-paced, melodic middle section. Hetfield also wrote new lyrics for both "The Mechanix" and "Jump in the Fire" (a song originally about teenage sexual frustration), and retitled "The Mechanix" as "The Four Horsemen".

Album title[edit]

The band initially intended to title the album Metal Up Your Ass with the cover featuring a toilet bowl with a hand clutching a dagger emerging from it. However, Megaforce urged them to change this, and they agreed, switching to Kill 'Em All.[7] This time the cover featured the shadow of a hand letting go of a bloodied hammer. Burton is credited with coming up with the name Kill 'Em All (referring to timid record distributors, saying "why don't we just kill 'em all?") as a response to the whole situation. Even though the original title was unused, the band did later release a "Metal Up Your Ass" T-shirt with the proposed artwork. A live bootleg recording of a 1982 performance is in existence, titled Metal Up Your Ass (Live), and includes the originally intended cover artwork.

Original pressings of the album came with an inner sleeve that included pictures and lyrics as well as a silver label on the vinyl. Subsequent pressings had a blank white sleeve and standard album label. The 1988 re-release re-introduced the lyrics and photos. The original release can be distinguished by the words "Bang That Head That Doesn't Bang" at the top of the back cover. This was dropped from the re-release.


"Hit the Lights"[edit]

Early versions of the song can be heard on the compilation album Metal Massacre, as well as its subsequent re-issue and the band's first demo, No Life 'Til Leather. The demo's title comes from the first line of the song. Hetfield had brought the majority of the song to Ulrich from his old band, Leather Charm, and the two worked out different arrangements. It was one of only a handful of songs that were performed live with Mustaine as the lead guitarist. The song was also featured on Guitar Hero: Metallica along with "Whiplash" and "Seek and Destroy".

"The Four Horsemen"[edit]

The lyrics, as the title suggests, are about the end of the world and the apocalypse, referring to the Biblical text about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. However, some believe the song is about Metallica themselves as the "horsemen". The lyrics refer to the horsemen as Time, Famine, Pestilence and Death. This is a revision upon an already non-canonical interpretation of the Biblical passages. In the Bible, the four horsemen are actually: Conquest, War, Famine and Death. In other popular culture they are known as Pestilence, War, Famine and Death.

The song is a reworking of the Mustaine penned "The Mechanix". "The Mechanix" had different lyrics, symbolically referring to sexual themes and was written by Mustaine during the time when he was in his previous band Panic.[8] After Mustaine was ejected from Metallica, he included it on Megadeth's debut album, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!, with the title slightly shortened to just "Mechanix", with the original lyrics and at a much faster tempo. After Mustaine's departure, Hetfield rewrote the lyrics,[8] and the band added a new, melodic guitar solo in the middle of the song. This section is rarely played when Metallica performs the song live. Mustaine has claimed that the song's bridge is inspired by the main riff in Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "Sweet Home Alabama".[9]

"Jump in the Fire"[edit]

The music and original lyrics of "Jump in the Fire" were written by Mustaine. The lyrics Hetfield wrote for the album were written from Satan's point of view.[8][10] It describes how the Devil watches the people who are killing each other, and so he is sure that they will all go to hell for their actions as they, allegorically, "jump in the fire". The original lyrics, featured on the No Life 'til Leather demo, were written by Mustaine. It is known for its guitar outro at 3:46.

The song was released as Metallica's second single, accompanied by fake live performances of "Phantom Lord" and "Seek & Destroy", which were alternate studio recordings with sounds of a crowd overdubbed in. According to Ulrich in an interview in 1991, "Jump in the Fire" was inspired by the Iron Maiden song "Run to the Hills", which was #1 on the charts as Kill 'Em All was in the process of being written. The cover of the "Jump in the Fire" single features an oil painting entitled The Devils of D-Day that the artist Les Edwards created in 1978.[11]

"(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth"[edit]

"(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth" is a bass solo by Burton, with some accompaniment on drums by Ulrich. The song features Burton's distinctive "lead-bass" style of playing, incorporating heavy distortion, use of the wah-wah pedal and tapping. At the beginning of the track, Hetfield says, "Bass solo, take one", likely to inform listeners that the song is played in one take. It was also the bass solo that Burton was playing when Hetfield and Ulrich first saw him at a gig. Hetfield stated, "We heard this wild solo going on and thought, 'I don't see any guitar player up there.' We were both counting the strings and I finally turned to Lars and said, 'Dude, that's a bass!' Cliff was up there on stage with his band Trauma with a wah-wah pedal and his huge mop of red hair. He didn't care whether people were there. He was looking down at his bass, playing." The song along with "Motorbreath" were both featured in the 2011 indie film Hesher.


"Whiplash" was the first single released from the album, and is credited to Hetfield and Ulrich. It is mostly about the feeling one gets from headbanging. "Bang your head against the stage like you never did before", "Make it ring, make it bleed, make it really sore" and "You're thrashing all around, acting like a maniac" are examples of this.

Often in concerts, Hetfield changes the original lyric from "But we'll never stop, we'll never quit, 'cause we're Metallica" to "But you'll never stop, you'll never quit 'cause you're Metallica" emphasizing that it is the fans who've made Metallica what they are. In live performances, Jason Newsted often sang for part or all of the song, notably in Live Shit: Binge & Purge in San Diego, California. He also sang it without Hetfield on the stage July 7, 2000 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, July 8, 2000 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY and July 9, 2000 at Texas Stadium in Irving, TX. Hetfield was icing down a recently injured back while Hammett, Newsted and Ulrich performed.

A number of covers of the song have been performed. In 2005, Motörhead won their first Grammy Award for the cover of the song on a Metallica tribute album. It was also covered by Billy Milano and Scott Ian and Phil Soussan and Vinny Appice for Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica, while Pantera, using the joke name "Panterica", performed the song live with Newsted on bass and members Dimebag Darrell (guitar) and Philip Anselmo (vocals) switching instruments.

"Phantom Lord"[edit]

Music written by Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.Anthrax recorded a cover of the song as a B-side to its 1998 album, Volume 8: The Threat Is Real. It can be found on the import-single for the song "Inside Out" and on the compilation album ECW: Extreme Music.

"No Remorse"[edit]

"No Remorse" contains a variety of tempo changes and guitar riffs. It is popular in gaming circles for being the inspiration behind the first song of the first Doom game. The song is about not feeling any remorse or repent during battle in war. The song was covered by death metal band Cannibal Corpse on its album Gore Obsessed (2002) and its extended play Worm Infested (2003). Beatallica recorded a lyrical mashup of the song and the Beatles' "No Reply" called "No Remorseful Reply", on their first extended play A Garage Dayz Nite (2001).

"Seek & Destroy"[edit]

"Seek & Destroy" has been frequently played in concerts over the years since its live debut in 1982 and has been Metallica's closing song since the Madly in Anger with the World Tour. During the documentary film about Metallica, Some Kind of Monster, the song is used when footage of the band is shown highlighting the progression in the band's appearance and sound over time. In the book Metallica: This Monster Lives one of the film's directors said how initially they wanted to alter the footage so it flowed smoothly but soon noticed the value of showing the alteration in the band in each piece of footage.

It was also the theme song of former WCW and TNA wrestler Sting and AAA wrestler Cibernético. In Sting's case, the song was a live recording from Woodstock 1999 which would be included on the 1999 compilation WCW Mayhem: The Music. Former New York Mets pitcher John Maine took the mound to "Seek & Destroy". Also, the San Jose Sharks and the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League use the song as their entrance theme during home games.

"Seek & Destroy" was covered by Chuck Billy and Jake E. Lee and Jimmy Bain and Aynsley Dunbar for the album Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica. The song has also been covered by thrash metal band Testament, Bludvera and Acid Drinkers and instrumentally by Freaklabel as part of a tribute medley. Malaysian death metal band Sil Khannaz also cover this song on their tribute album The Best of Sil Khannaz. Apocalyptica, and Pantera, the latter with Jason Newsted, covered it live.


  • "Jump in the Fire" was released as a single in the UK in February 1984 to promote a UK tour with Venom. The single would feature "Phantom Lord" and "Seek & Destroy" as live tracks, although they are actually studio recordings with fake crowd noise dubbed over them.
  • "Whiplash" was released as a 12" single in the US, featuring the same tracks as the UK "Jump in the Fire" single but also featuring a "special Neckbrace remix" of "Whiplash". However, Ulrich stated that there is no difference between the remix of "Whiplash" and the original version, except of course that it is a different mix of the song, it has added reverb which is very noticeable. It has the same instrumental tracks but with a different mix.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[12]
Billboard 95/100[13]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[15]
Metal Forces 10/10[16]
Q 4/5 stars[17]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[18]

Kill 'Em All has received mostly positive reviews. Allmusic reviewer Steve Huey gave the album a rating of five stars and called it "the true birth of thrash". He praised Hetfield's highly technical rhythm guitar style and said that the band was "playing with tightly controlled fury even at the most ridiculously fast tempos".[12] The Rolling Stone Album Guide credited the album for consolidating punk rock and heavy metal, but felt that apart from "Seek & Destroy" and "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth", most of the album had the band "trying to look tough" over enthusiastic, but unfinished riff-based songs.[18]

The album peaked at number 155 on the Billboard 200 in 1986,[19] following Metallica's commercial success with their third studio album Master of Puppets. The 1988 re-issue on Elektra Records also charted on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 120.[19] It was certified 3× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1999, for shipping three million copies in the United States.[20] Kill 'Em All was ranked at number 35 on Rolling Stone's list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the '80s.[21] Additionally, the album was placed at number 54 on "The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time", a list compiled by the same magazine.[22] Kerrang! listed the album at number 29 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[23]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by James Hetfield, except where noted. 

No. Title Music Length
1. "Hit the Lights"   Hetfield, Lars Ulrich 4:16
2. "The Four Horsemen"   Dave Mustaine, Hetfield, Ulrich 7:13
3. "Motorbreath"   Hetfield 3:08
4. "Jump in the Fire" (lyrics by Hetfield, Mustaine) Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine 4:41
5. "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth" (instrumental) Cliff Burton 4:15
6. "Whiplash"   Hetfield, Ulrich 4:10
7. "Phantom Lord"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine 5:02
8. "No Remorse"   Hetfield, Ulrich 6:26
9. "Seek & Destroy"   Hetfield, Ulrich 6:55
10. "Metal Militia"   Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine 5:09
Total length:


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[25]



Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Peak position
1986 US Billboard 200 155
1988 US Billboard 200 120
2007 Finnish Albums Chart[26] 12


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[27] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[28] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Gold 100,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Kill 'Em All". Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Whiplash". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Jump in the Fire". Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ Gulla, Bob (2009). Guitar Gods: The 25 Players who Made Rock History. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0-313-35806-0. 
  5. ^ Uhelszki, Jaan. "Metallica Week: Kirk Hammett interview". Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  6. ^ Hart, Josh. "Dave Mustaine on Early Days With Metallica: "I Had Always Called Us the 'Four Horsemen'"". Guitar World. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Encyclopedia Metallica - Complete history". September 3, 1983. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Curtis, Bob. "No Life 'Til Leather (Demo Tape)". Retrieved December 4, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Dave Mustaine: The Story Behind Metallica's 'The Four Horsemen'". 
  10. ^ Lee, Cosmo. "Metallica: The First Four Albums – "Jump in the Fire"". Invisible Oranges. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Les Edwards Fantasy Art: Gallery". Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Metallica: Kill 'Em All". AllMusic. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  13. ^ Stingley, Mick (July 25, 2013). "Metallica's 'Kill 'Em All' at 30: Track-By-Track". Billboard. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  14. ^ Kot, Greg (December 1, 1991). "A Guide to Metallica's Recordings". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 28, 2013. 
  15. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5 (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 725. ISBN 0-19-531373-9. 
  16. ^ Doe, Bernard. "Metallica - Kill 'Em All (1983)". Metal Forces. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Metallica - Kill 'Em All CD Album Japan". CD Universe. Muze. Retrieved July 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Metallica: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 17, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel. Top Pop Albums (2001): 578
  20. ^ "American album certifications – Kill 'Em All". Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  21. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Eighties: Metallica, 'Kill 'Em All'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 28, 2013. 
  22. ^ "100 Best Debut Albums of All Time: Metallica, 'Kill 'Em All'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  23. ^ Russell, Xavier (January 21, 1989). "Metallica 'Kill 'Em All'". Kerrang! 222. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd. 
  24. ^ Kaufman, Gil (2006-06-26). "Metallica Put Catalog On iTunes — Quietly". MTV. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  25. ^ Kill 'Em All booklet. Megaforce Records. 1983. 
  26. ^ Finnish Album Chart - Search. Retrieved on July 8, 2009.
  27. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Metallica – Kill 'Em All". Music Canada. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  28. ^ "American album certifications – Metallica – Kill 'Em All". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 28, 2014.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  29. ^ "British album certifications – Metallica – Kill 'Em All". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved March 28, 2014.  Enter Kill 'Em All in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]