Kill 'Em All and the Origins of Thrash

Twenty-nine years ago today, Metallica released their debut album on Megaforce Records, Kill 'Em All. It wasn't a smash success initially--Mötley Crüe were the reigning kings of metal on the West Coast in 1983, and Kill 'Em All wouldn't go gold for another six years. By that time, of course, Metallica had proven to be just as influential as the glam godfathers in the Crüe, spearheading a worldwide metal movement known as thrash or speed metal.

Kill 'Em All was basically the first thrash album that everyone agrees is a thrash album. Songs like "Whiplash" and "Phantom Lord" featured hyperspeed riffs and solos that blew people's hair back, inspiring an entire subgenre of copycats. Bands like Exodus, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax were soon pulling the Kill 'Em All formula in all directions, leading to a competitive atmosphere that produced some of the decade's best music.

That's not to say Kill 'Em All was totally revolutionary, however. It was merely the culmination of a trend toward increasingly extreme explorations of volume and fury in underground rock. In fact, the roots of thrash date back much further, to 1974.

To celebrate the birth of the headbanging-est strain of heavy metal, Rocks Off has prepared a look back at the tunes that inspired a bunch of addled California teenagers to pick up a guitar and shred. None of these songs are thrash, exactly --They're more like the first mutant fish to grow legs and crawl out of the ocean and into the mosh pit. The influence of each can be heard on Kill 'Em All and the early thrash records to follow.

Bass drum-roll, please...

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith