vinyl wednesdays: kill ’em all.

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Kill ‘Em All.

What can I say about this album other than that it is amazing from front to back. This is one album I just had to have once I started collecting vinyl. Metallica, and Kill ‘Em All specifically, is one of the reasons I started playing guitar. I will always have the image of James Hetfield holding up the record to some crowd and just tossing it into them and they start tearing at each other to get it. Classic. For me, Kill ‘Em All is the best. No doubts about it.

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The cover of this album is probably one of my favorite Metallica designs. It’s simple, juvenile and speaks very loudly as to what will come from the actual music within. The iconic Metallica logo makes an appearance across the top of the cover. At the center of the artwork is a sledgehammer lying in a pool of blood with a shadow of a hand reaching for it. Very ominous, very spooky, very metal. Underneath the main graphic is “Kill ‘Em All” spelled out in a modified Serif Gothic typeface. Sadly, there isn’t a version of this particular cut of Serif Gothic available digitally, I’ve looked… hard. This cover is a definitely a classic in my book (along with the next four album covers of theirs that come along).

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The back cover leaves a lot to be desired, although I’ve come to appreciate it in my own way. It’s pretty standard for a metal album cover from the early ’80’s: photo of the band, simple layout of the song titles, legal mumbo-jumbo and maybe some other small graphic thrown in for good measure. I love the random quote “Bang the head that doesn’t bang” that’s at the top. It just speaks volumes to the immaturity of the band and the members within. To include something like that as they got further into their careers would just be hilarious and seem out of place, yet some for some reason on this first album it fits right in. It’s these kinds of quirky things that draw me to this album.

The band photo is an excellent one as well. It’s not often that Lars Ulrich (the drummer/mastermind behind Metallica) appears to actually fit in with the other members. Well done Lars. It was your one and only time for that.

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The artwork that was housed on the inside of the cover follows the same basic flow of the outside. Simple graphics, standard imagery and the typical typeset-lyrics that are printed on the opposite side of the insert. Nothing fancy here, but really what would you expect from an unknown band and their first album?

The front of the insert is a standard collage of black and white live photos of the band making delightfully goofy faces and standing in various “metal” poses. This is what I love about this period of thrash music. It was still so young and immature that the bands and  their members still felt they had something to prove to the world and things to rebel against. Their age and youth really shines through in these photos but it’s not at all a bad thing. It only helps to draw you in while listening to the music. The photos do a very good job at showcasing what those early Metallica concerts could have been like. The loudness of the instruments, shrieking vocals of a still-unsure James Hetfield, and overall chaotic nature is on prominent display throughout the imagery.

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The back of this insert is the traditional lyric sheet. Nothing fancy here. Just a set of lyrics typed out on the opposite side. I personally love when bands include the lyrics. I don’t always read them when I listen to the music but when I do it seems to make me dive even deeper into the songs and I tend to want to read and listen to it all once I start.

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The label on the actual record is very simple as well. The silver foil is a neat addition to an otherwise bland label. The logo is large, the song titles are easy to read and the info is all represented in a way that is consistent with the rest of the album.

This album is obviously one of my favorites. I could go on and on about this set of music for days. The history leading up to the making of this album is legendary and any fan of heavy metal can probably recite some version of it.

The name of the album comes from  Cliff Burton. The prevailing story that is told says that when they were told that they shouldn’t name the album “Metal Up Your Ass” he said “why don’t we just kill ’em all” in response to the corporate heads having issues with it as well as the whole ordeal in general and it just stuck. Had they got their way in the first place the cover would have featured a toilet with a hand and dagger combination reaching out of the bowl pointing upward. I’d say they made a good call by switching it in the end.

The songs are catchy, youth and angst just pour out from the speakers and the talent is undeniable, all while offering only a glimpse of what was to come from these men later on. “(Anesthesia)–Pulling Teeth” is a beautiful piece of music that would later become much more important to Metallica fans after Cliff Burton would die while on tour in 1986. A lot of the songs from this album are in constant rotation within Metallica’s live show and they continue to end their concerts with “Seek & Destroy” 30 years after it was originally recorded. In short, this is a landmark album for a landmark band.

To me, this is an album that any fan of metal music should have. Hell, even if you don’t like metal go out and find yourself a copy and give it a spin.

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