Greatest Album Debuts: Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (1983).

( I’d opted to explore other debut albums from bands of varying importance and genres before finally getting to Metallica’s 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All. When I first listened to this album in 2006 and read about its importance to thrash metal and U.S metal at the time, I couldn’t see how considering what else was out at that time in 1983-1984.

Of course, that was me being newly enthralled with heavy metal and leaning towards the new wave of thrash and speed metal. It was also taking the word and experience of older metalheads or ones who had been listening to this genre longer and had time to appreciate the album.

Greatest Album Debuts: Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (1983).

Since 2006, I’ve listened to Kill ‘Em All multiple times and it has a spot as my favorite Metallica album. For one thing, it’s similar to Slayer’s Show No Mercy in that while it is a thrash album, it’s not too removed from the speed metal roots of thrash. That wouldn’t come until Ride the Lightning a year later. The other thing is that I’m generally more impressed with the earlier releases of a band than what they release after a decade or recently.

Let’s look at the A and B sides of this album and see why it ranks as my personal favorite and as one of the “Greatest Album Debuts”.

Side A of Metallica – Kill ‘Em All

I’d say this is a pretty strong A-side but not the strongest I’ve seen from Metallica—that honor goes to Ride the Lightning and its quartet of bangers. However, for the raw energy and pacing of this A-side, I dig it! It has some stank on it that makes it a fun listen and if you have it on while doing something else, you find yourself in the B-side before you know it.

That’s just how briefly this album moves along. It’s not Show No Mercy, Obsessed by Cruelty, or Seven Churches but this A-side has a little a bite and gives this album it’s motor. While I’ve never been a big fan of lengthy instrumentals, “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” is fine and benefits from the “Jump in the Fire”-”Whiplash” sandwich. If anything, the weakest track here is the opening “Hit the Lights”.

Strongest Tracks: The Four Horsemen, Motorbreath, Whiplash


The B-side of Kill ‘Em All is where things can get conflicted. I might listen to an album now and go “Eh, the B-side” is fine and check it out six month later only to go “This is a great B-side”. Now, that isn’t the case with KEA, the swings aren’t that extreme. This has always stayed at being a fine B-side for the most part with nothing I’d consider weak.

The problem here is that Metallica takes their foot off the gas a bit with the longer songs. That isn’t to say these are just slow or mid-tempo tunes, there’s speed to these four tracks but there songs—some I actually believe are some of the strongest on the album—that overstay their welcome.

Honestly, around the 4-minute mark is my wall for thrash unless there’s just an atmosphere to the album as is the case with Slayer, Sodom and Kreator. Hell, I’d even say they were pushing it after we get past the 3:30 run time. Of the songs on the B-side “No Remorse” has a little less stank on it.

Strongest Tracks: Seek & Destroy, Metal Militia

Strength of the Opener: “Hit the Lights”

I wouldn’t call “Hit the Lights” one of my favorite Metallica songs or even a particularly strong opening track. On the A-side, there are 3.5 songs that would be a better opening track—and two on the B-side. If you’re wondering what song is the .5, it’s “Jump in the Fire”, a better song than “Hit the Lights” but not strong enough to be an opener. Then again, it would be a stronger opener.

This opener would be very comfortable on the B-side and could have a place on the A-side but “Seek and Destroy” and “Metal Militia” are more deserving of that A-side spot.

What do you think of Kill ‘Em All as a debut album and as an album in Metallica’s discography? Let us know in the comments.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.