Metallica was founded in 1981 when drummer Lars Ulrich put out an ad in Los Angeles’ music newspaper, The Recycler. The ad was answered by 3 people who would become the founders: James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, and Ron McGovney. The band’s name came when Ulrich heard his friend Ron Quintana brainstorming names for a fanzine, and was deciding between either MetalMania or Metallica. They released several demos, with No Life Till Leather being the one that attracted their first deal. But by this time, the roster had changed. Ron McGovney had often clashed with Ulrich and Mustaine, as he felt he was not respected. He left the band and was replaced by Cliff Burton, who had left a band called Trauma because he felt they were “too commercial” . Burton’s agreement to join the band came with a relocation from Los Angeles to El Cerrito, a town near his native San Francisco, which initially didn’t sit well with Hetfield.
In 1983, the band arrived in Rochester, NY to record their first album together, Metal Up Your Ass. However, the remaining members had ejected Mustaine from the band, citing his erratic behavior and alcohol abuse. He was replaced by Kirk Hammett of Exodus. Mustaine would eventually form Megadeth, leading to a rivalry between the bands. Mustaine felt ripped off, as Hammett had stolen his leads. They had even reworked his song “Mechanix” into a song called “The Four Horsemen”. When distributors refused to release the debut because of its name, Burton was livid, exclaiming “Those record company f —-s … kill ’em all!”, inspiring the new name.
James Hetfield: vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett: lead guitar
Cliff Burton: bass
Lars Ulrich: drums
Producers: Jon Zazula and Paul Curcio
I want to say that I have actually listened to No Life Till Leather as well as this album. There is a huge difference between the styles of both Hammett and Mustaine. Mustaine’s style is rougher and faster than Hammett. I’m not really sure which I like better, and that may be because I’ve only heard one Megadeth album. I have put Megadeth on my to-do list, for the curious.
- “Hit the Lights”: This is based on an unfinished song Hetfield had written with Hugh Tanner, a bandmate in his previous band, Leather Charm. This version has some clean riffs, but Mustaine’s sounded slightly better.
- ” The Four Horsemen “: Mustaine’s solo is one of the high points of the demo, and Hammett seems more focused on polish.
- ” Motorbreath “: Burton’s bass line sounds like it it’s running a race. Ulrich’s drumming is excellent.
- ” Jump in the Fire”: Mustaine sounded faster and rougher on this, and it was one of my favorite songs on the demo. Hammett was good, but Mustaine’s was more sinister.
- “(Anaesthesia)-Pulling Teeth”: This is a bass solo, showing off Burton’s unique talents. The distortion is great on this.
- ” Whiplash “: This was the band’s first single, and it reminds me of a monster lashing at a victim. Hammett is pretty good on this.
- ” Phantom Lord”: Mustaine was excellent on his version. Hammett sounds good.
- “No Remorse”: One of my favorite songs. Ulrich’s drumming is great.
- ” Seek And Destroy”: This is actually about the urge to kill and not doing it. The wrestler Sting used this as his theme song in his times in WWE and TNA. Mustaine ‘s performance is worlds different from Hammett ‘s. Hammett is a good player, though. Clear Channel banned this song after the 9/11 attacks.
- “Metal Militia”: Hammet’s version sounds like an actual army. The only time this version sounds like a march is when the troopers come in at the end. I like how fast this version is, though.
Final Verdict: I like both versions of this debut. No Life Till Leather, however, almost makes me wonder how the band might have been if Mustaine hadn’t been ejected. They sound like two different bands!
Grade: No Life Till Leather gets an A-. Kill Em All, while still a good debut, gets a B+. Kirk sounds like he can play fast, but I think there’s more to metal than that.