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Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (Album Review)

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Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (Album Review)

For quite a while I’ve been wondering if I should pick up the Deluxe Box Set of Kill ‘Em All, but as with the other deluxe releases in Metallica’s back catalogue, I haven’t found a compelling reason to do so. That isn’t to say that the box sets aren’t magnificent. They’re certainly worth the money for the most dedicated of fans and while I’ve always thought of myself in that regard, I am starting to question my dedication to the band that helped get me through the tumultuous teenage years. The 90s, not the 80s. Yes, I came to be a fan of Metallica following their 1991 Self-Titled Black Album and while I also enjoy the Load and Reload era, I respect that a divide exists between fans. That said, I find myself thoroughly enjoying both Metallica’s early thrash albums and their mainstream 90s style that makes so many fans accuse the band of selling out. Hence, I don’t really have a favourite album, they’re all great. Well, maybe not that LuLu collaboration with Lou Reed, but I’m sure we can forgive Metallica for that deviation, can’t we? 

What I would like to see, however, is a box set encompassing all the studio albums, with a lovely hardcovered book detailing Metallica’s career. See, I’m an album guy and while some of the additional content, in the Deluxe Box Sets are interesting, I find that when it comes down to it, I just want to listen to the album as it was originally released rather than listening to everything that was ever recorded. I’ve stayed away from the recent Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction Super Deluxe Edition for that same reason. That said, I would love that 5.1 surround sound High Fidelity Blu-Ray Audio disc to be released separately. I’d buy it in a second. Of course, that isn’t the way the music business wants consumers to consume. They will re-issue Ad nauseam, encouraging us to get the latest edition because it has a new demo that has never been heard before. Look, I’m the first to fall for these gimmicks and truth be told I thoroughly enjoy them, but there’s no denying that being a music lover and a collector is one very expensive hobby. Thankfully, I don’t go to concerts so the money that would have otherwise be allocated to that experience can be repurposed for every new re-issue that I simply must have. Yes, dear reader, it is an addiction. 

While I haven’t made a final decision about the Kill ‘Em All Deluxe Box Set, I’ll probably pick up the 2016 vinyl re-issue as the 2014 Blackened vinyl pressing I own is far from the greatest pressing and is sonically lacklustre. Basically, it just doesn’t sound right. One may wonder what turntable and needle I’m using and if that could be a factor. Well, I can assure you it isn’t. My Pro-ject Debut Carbon is fitted with an Ortofon OM20 needle that otherwise sounds marvellous. Unfortunately, not all vinyl is created equal and this release reminds me of my copy of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. The music may be there, but the emotive energy isn’t. I swear terrestrial radio would have more life in it than these two pressings. 

What I find even more disappointing is that these were released via Metallica’s own record label and I seriously question how they got the sound so wrong. The sound is so concealed that it sounds as though thick sheets are covering the speakers. Even if you pump the volume, the entire soundstage is lost and the elemental aspects of the recording, that are present on the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream, are sadly absent from this pressing. That all said, reviews of the 2016 remastering sounds promising, hence my thought of upgrading the edition I own.  

The visual presentation of the 2014 re-issue is a little more appealing, however, but the record is housed in the lousiest rice paper sleeve that could ever be used. I had a similar complaint when I reviewed …And Justice For All. Yes, they are both from the same re-issue era, but it is infuriating to love an album and a band this much and be disappointed by what they are prepared to issue to the fans. Sadly, they’re not the first to allow substandard products to be released and they certainly will not be the last. 

All my quibbles aside, the music is of paramount importance and subsequently as my vinyl edition is flawed, I’ll be basing the rest of the review on the TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) streams as both sound incredibly good. Yes, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream sounds more dynamic with greater midrange and bass definition in comparison to the Apple Music stream, but both are significantly better than the 2014 vinyl counterpart. 

SIDE 1

Hit The Lights has that wonderful live feel to it and is the perfect song to open the album with. The revolving drum beat is spacious, and the soundstage is impressive and thoroughly enjoyable. The intensity of the thrashing guitars never lets up and Hetfield’s vocal cords must have been bleeding following this performance. Exceptional!

The Four Horsemen has an incredibly good grinding guitar rhythm that I’ve always enjoyed. While the song is exceptional, I really wish it was an instrumental-only track as I feel Hetfield’s vocal, while superb, gets in the way of the musicality and is too forward in the mix, thereby masking elements of the soundstage that captivate me when his vocal isn’t present. Regardless, The Four Horsemen is one of my all-time favourite Metallica songs and that mid-song tempo shift is masterfully done with a beautiful bass track and a guitar solo that just sings. Spectacular!

Motorbreath isn’t a bad song but I’d class it as a B-side as it lacks rhythmic impact. Yes, it is a quintessential thrash song, but it feels more like a demo and less evolved than many of the other songs on Kill ‘Em All

Jump In The Fire is another favourite of mine. Grab your air guitar if you haven’t already, you’re going to need it. Interestingly, I often mistakenly associate Jump In The Fire with Ride The Lightning. Perhaps there is an underlying correlation between this song and those which appear on Ride the Lightning, but I’ve always found this connection fascinating as this incongruity doesn’t happen with any other Metallica tracks.  

(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth is a solid tune but one that I wouldn’t generally listen to outside of the album format. I think, in many respects, this song has had more relevance to fans following Cliff Burton’s passing. That isn’t to diminish the song itself, but if I’m to be completely honest, (Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth doesn’t add any intrinsic value to Kill ‘Em All. If anything, it acts as an intermission that may have been better suited as the final track on Side One or the opening song on Side Two.

Whiplash is a killer song. That drum beat and bass tracking are superbly deep and the perfect accompaniment to the higher pitched vocal and guitar tuning. While I don’t intend to harp on about the 2014 vinyl re-issue, the aforementioned praise is sadly missing from that release. Thankfully, the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality stream more than adequately makes up for the absence of depth and dynamics.  

SIDE 2

Phantom Lord is sensational. From the very first note, you know you’re in for something special. From my perspective, Phantom Lord has a Motörhead vibe that I truly appreciate. Whether intentional or not, it works extremely well and is one of the most memorable songs on Kill ‘Em All. Plus, that mid-song slowdown is remarkably appealing, as is the guitar solo and hook. What a great song!

No Remorse is a rhythmic powerhouse. I love it! BTW: Am I the only one that hears the influence of Iron Maiden? Think Killers.  

Seek & Destroy is one of the greatest thrash metal songs of all time. Enough said! 

Metal Militia is a solid speed metal song to conclude the album with, but I think I would have preferred it if Seek & Destroy was the final song on the album as Metal Militia plays like a B-side by comparison and while it leaves me wanting more, it just isn’t as good as Seek & Destroy.  

Overall, Kill ‘Em All is a must-own album, just not the 2014 vinyl reissue. The 2016 reissues, however, are well reviewed and if the TIDAL Hi-Fi CD-quality edition is anything to go by, they’re likely the ones to own. Kill ‘Em All, as an album, is non-compromising and rhythmically perfect thrash metal. As far as debuts go, this one Kills ‘Em All! 

Kill ‘Em Allis available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, Kill ‘Em All is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music

The Deluxe Editions are also available via all the aforementioned formats. 

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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Metallica – ...And Justice For All (Album Review)

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Metallica – ...And Justice For All (Album Review)

Metallica's ...And Justice For All has been marred with controversy since its release in 1988. While I wouldn’t experience the album until I became captivated by Metallica, following their self-titled (black album) and Load-era releases, I found an instant liking for the raw production of …And Justice For All

Yes, there are those who dislike the album, often due to the minuscule bass element with the new bassist, at the time, Jason Newsted following Cliff Burton's death. However, while I acknowledge the bass is lacking, I look at the album from a different perspective whereby one could suggest the lack of bass emphasis was a fitting tribute to Burton. Subsequently, I don't subscribe to the ...And Justice For Jason memes. While anything is possible, and the release of a super deluxe edition box set may yet reveal the lost bass tracking, I’ll also be content if it is never released. In some way, I feel it wouldn't be the same album. There is an undeniable sonic signature to the album, similar to the rawness of St. Anger, that I admire. Change the mix and you risk changing the magic that is ...And Justice For All.

For this review, I have been listening to the 2014 Blackened Recordings Reissue (BLCKND007-1).

As you would expect, Stephen Gorman's artwork is exquisite on the larger canvas. Although, the green lettering hasn't aged well in my opinion. It always reminds me of Mötley Crüe’s Dr Feelgood cover art as the green tonality is so similar.

While I’d love to say the artwork has been faithfully reproduced, the liner notes in this pressing are available as an extra slip-in sheet, versus being used as vinyl inner sleeves. Instead, we get the most god-awful rice paper sleeves that scuff the vinyl. Seriously, I know these sleeves are cheap to produce, but if you release a premium product, commanding a premium price, you would be best advised to invest a little more in the manufacturing. Perhaps most disappointing is that this is released on the artists' own record label. Metallica has full control over Blackened Recordings, so this cheapness amazes me and is an insult to fans.

Another change that defies explanation is the removal of the album artwork from the centre of the records. We now get a black background with green text. While it doesn't look bad, it doesn't look nearly as good as early pressings in my opinion. Nevertheless, it is all about the music, so let’s check it out.

Side One

Blackened in symphonic metal heaven, as much of Metallica's music is. It’s heavy, raw, and distorted to hell and back, but turn that volume to 11 as it’s really the best way to enjoy this exceptional album starter.

...And Justice For All has a gorgeous acoustic introduction before the metal elements take control. Such a wonderful composition. Despite its length, l’ve never felt the song is self-indulgent and every note is thoroughly appreciated. Plus, that Hammett guitar solo is what air guitar dreams are made of.

Side Two

Eye Of The Beholder has a slow burn to begin with but once the volume hits its peak, and that riff kicks in, it's fantastic. Well, that is until Hetfield starts singing. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the vocal presentation on this song and its overly processed nature. That said, the rhythmic chorus is thoroughly addictive and it’s the perfect attitude-fuelled song to listen to when you're pissed off!

One is exceptional!

Side Three

The Shortest Straw is the perfect song, with the perfect tempo, to follow on from One. It’s head-banging gold. You have to love that chorus, one of Hetfield’s best in my opinion.

Harvester Of Sorrow has a killer rhythm, but I have always felt the introduction for the song is just too long. As the first single off the album, it was an interesting choice, especially considering the intro wasn't edited. While I love this song, it simply isn’t single material in my opinion.

The Frayed Ends Of Sanity is demonic. I love it!

Side Four

To Live Is To Die, again, has that gorgeous acoustic element to it. Part of me just wants it to continue every time I listen to the song, but as a fan of Metallica's epic instrumental tracks, I know only too well that they must come to an end. If it wasn’t vinyl, I’d probably put it on repeat. Of course, that isn’t what the artist had in mind when compiling the album.

Dyers Eve is my song. I live for it. It identifies me. It may not be the strongest song on the album, but just as it is a homage to Hetfield's parents, so too is it to mine. There is literally no other song, by any artist, in any genre, that I identify with more. Dyers Eve is textbook thrash metal and while I may have a biased viewpoint, I think it’s fair to declare this as one of Metallica’s best songs and one of their last true thrash masterpieces.

Overall, there isn't a bad song to be found on ...And Justice For All. If you can get past the bass controversy, you're going to find an album that is arguably more riff-driven than any other in history.

Sonically, I would class the vinyl record as adequate. I actually prefer the mastering of the album found on TIDAL Hi-Fi. That doesn't happen often, but despite having a solid soundstage and excellent uncompressed dynamic range, it just isn't as powerful as the digital master. Perhaps my liking for the digital master is due to originally owning the album on CD. Or, perhaps, this vinyl release is just a poor pressing. Regardless, the viewpoint of which edition or format is better is truly subjective. That said, I am looking forward to an upcoming remaster.

...And Justice For All is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC) and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, ...And Justice For All is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Metallica - Garage Inc. (Album Review)

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Metallica - Garage Inc. (Album Review)

Most would agree that Metallica has had an incredible career. However, there are many that would also argue their shifting musicality has not seen the same success. Personally, I really enjoy Metallica's entire catalogue. That said, I don't class Lulu as a Metallica album per se, but I do recognise and appreciate their willingness to experiment.

During the 90s, Metallica exploded as a mainstream act that left all other Thrash Metal bands wondering if they took a wrong turn with their own musical trajectory. Yes, I know some of you will claim Metallica sold out and weren't true to their fans. However, I know of no artist that purposely limits themselves just to please the fans. I'm sorry to tell you this, but we are not important. Sure, they say how great we are in every city they visit, but once they fly out, they issue the same platitudes to the next city of fans; Spinal Tap’s Simpsons cameo anyone? Truthfully, this isn’t a bad thing but it does prove all musicians, not just Metallica, owe us nothing. Otherwise, The Beatles would have never left Liverpool, Aerosmith would never have ventured past Boston, and AC/DC would only be recording and touring in Australia. We, the music fans, would need to gravitate to them – Woodstock style. Admittedly, music festivals handle this alternate reality in a quasi-way that ensures the journey of the music lover is equal to the music itself. Hence, it is my belief that an artist owes us fans nothing and that we should relish the albums that speak to us, and disregard those that fall short. That is certainly how I deal with Lulu. After all, we don’t need to own everything Metallica releases, do we?

Regardless, throughout the 90s, Bob Rock was a key driving force behind Metallica’s mainstream success. It was a radio friendly, welcoming sound, that would make the band a household name. Going back to their roots, momentarily, Metallica and Rock would collaborate on the exceptional covers album Garage Inc.. Although the producer’s role was still relevant, I absolutely love the statement in the liner notes that the album was ‘Somewhat produced’. Personally, I would say that it just wasn't over produced and it most likely appealed to these who disliked the production elements of the Self-Titled Black Album and Load/ReLoad albums. However, despite including covers that were closer to Metallica’s original ethos, some of the newer recordings are a little less Thrash driven and that may deter some listeners. That said, the selected songs, both new and old, merge into a compilation that has become one of my favourite Metallica albums as it has a little bit of everything. 

Following the release of the album in November of 1998, the double CD went everywhere with me. It seemed that my Discman (really a Philips CD walkman requiring 4 AA batteries), was destined to run out of juice just as I was rocking away in my own world, traversing the suburbs of Sydney. Nothing was more infuriating than boarding a train only to find the battery died five minutes into the hour long journey. Needless to say, I ended up carrying spare batteries. Fast forward to the modern era and I can be thankful that my Oppo HA-2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier not only provides an exceptional sound quality that the iPhone can’t even dream of matching, but it doubles as a charger for the aforementioned iDevice. Nevertheless, I look back with fondness, rather than regret, as it was all about the music. While the portable CD player probably sounded horrid, my teenage ears knew no better and I simply enjoyed the music. Sometimes I wish to go back to that era when specifications, who mastered the album, and which source was used was seemingly irrelevant.

Unfortunately, Garage Inc. would become another victim in the MP3 era as I digitised and sold this masterpiece. To say I was a bloody idiot is a major understatement. I guess my only saving grace is that the MP3 buried in my past and I once again own this record, on vinyl, and I couldn't be happier. Anyway, enough of my incessant rambling, find a comfortable seat and join me for the next couple of hours as we enjoy Metallica’s album Garage, Inc..

DISC 1 / Side One (New Recordings '98)

Free Speech For The Dumb is a fat Thrash-infused song that encourages you to turn the volume up. It isn't my favourite song on the album, but it gets the album off to an incredible start.

It's Electric is an excellent song that is perfectly suited to Hetfield's vocal style and the overall musicality of the band. It is mastered with a little too much focus on the treble region, but that is a minor quibble.

Sabbra Cadabra has a gorgeous guitar intro. The groove is so compelling that you will be toe tapping and head bopping subconsciously. The overall sonic signature of Sabbra Cadabra is cemented in blues rock and roll and I absolutely love it!

Turn The Page was an exceptional song when originally performed by Bob Seger, but Metallica has made it their own and has taken the song to another level. It is one of Metallica’s greatest recordings and is one of their songs I play regularly.

DISC 1 / Side Two (New Recordings '98)

Die, Die My Darling is a killer rock track. I love it!

Loverman may initially sound like a strange pick as one wouldn't normally associate Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds with Metallica, but Metallica certainly recorded an excellent rendition that is worthy of the musicality heard on the original recording. Both versions are excellent, but I find that I gravitate to Metallica’s interpretation as I feel it is the more polished of the two. 

Mercyful Fate is an exceptional song that commands you to turn the volume knob to the right. Yes, your neighbours will likely call the boys and girls in blue, but it will be worth it! Seriously, listening at lower volumes destroys the musicality and energy of this song. It is expertly recorded and mixed while being nothing short of a rock and roll symphony. King Diamond and Hank Shermann would be proud!

DISC 2 / Side One (New Recordings '98)

Astronomy has always been a favourite of mine. The incredible Blue Öyster Cult may have recorded the original epic, but the first time I ever heard Astronomy was when Metallica covered it for Garage Inc.. Hence, as excellent as the original is, I will always hold Metallica’s rendition near and dear to my heart. Interestingly, it would be this song, along with Don’t Fear The Reaper, that would push me to become a dedicated fan of Blue Öyster Cult. Therefore, one can conclude that while some cover albums aren’t worth listening to, there are others, such as Garage Inc., that are done with so much respect to the original, you feel compelled to track down the original recordings.

Whisky In The Jar is an awesome groove-filled track. It is another song that compels me to sing-a-long as my body moves to the rhythm of the music. I probably look like I’ve lost control of myself, when in public, but I don’t care, Whisky In The Jar is that good!

Tuesday's Gone is perhaps the only song on the album that I don't like. It isn't a bad song on its own, it just isn't well suited to the album. Plus, every time I listen to it, I think of Bob Geldof. I also feel Metallica sounds too much like Bon Jovi on this track. I love Bon Jovi, but this is a Metallica record. As I think about it more, perhaps it is the nasal grind of the Geldof/Bon Jovi duet, I Don’t Like Mondays, that reminds me of Metallica’s rendition of Tuesday’s Gone. That all said, I much prefer Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original as it is less monotonous. I guess we can be thankful that Metallica didn’t try to interpret Free Bird as some songs should never be covered.

The More I See wraps up the '98 recordings in style with a harder hitting song than Tuesday's Gone. It also displaces the ridiculous outro Metallica recorded as part of Tuesday's Gone. The More I See may be meat and potatoes rock and roll, but Metallica’s added gravy ensures the song sounds fantastic.

DISC 2 / Side Two (Garage Days Re-Revisited '87)

Helpless has an incredible rhythm and riff-centric sound. The soundstage, while dynamic, does border on the limits of audible compression, but manages to stay away from the mess that came with Death Magnetic. Basically, Helpless is recorded, mixed, and mastered well for the style of music and if Death Magnetic had been mastered with this approach, I dare say there would have been less opposition to an otherwise exceptional album.

The Small Hours is musical perfection as it terrifies me and simultaneously excites me. That haunting introduction and beat would be the perfect musical accompaniment for any horror film set in an insane asylum. It is pure brilliance from start to finish and in some ways reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper.

The Wait has incredible energy, but I feel Hetfield’s distorted vocal lets the song down as he sounds lost in the soundstage. While it certainly isn't a bad song, it also doesn't feel polished. Although, I guess that is the point of a 'Garage' style album, isn’t it?

Crash Course In Brain Surgery features the bass that Newsted was deprived of on ...And Justice For All. Overall, it is a solid cover and worthy of inclusion.

Last Caress/Green Hell is one of the greatest covers/recordings Metallica has ever made. It is punk rock with a little thrash thrown in for good measure. I love it!

DISC 3 / Side One (Garage Days Re-visited '84 + B-Sides & One-Offs '88-'91 )

Am I Evil? YES, I AM!...I always get a little carried away with this song. It is bloody brilliant and if Satan has a playlist, this would most certainly be on it.

Blitzkrieg is as thrashy as you can get. Get that air guitar out and enjoy!

Breadfan has a killer riff but, beyond that, I don't feel drawn to the song. Hence, for me, this is a filler track.

The Prince is somewhat similar to breadfan as I don't connect with the song on an emotional level. That said, I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy elements of each song. I can certainly point to aspects that I adore, but if it doesn’t come together cohesively, then those elements remain highlights in an otherwise pedestrian performance.

Stone Cold Crazy is a great song. I love the original as it is one of Queen's best, but Metallica, yet again, takes the song to another level of excellence.

DISC 3 / Side Two (B-Sides & One-Offs '88-'91 + Motorheadache ‘95)

So What is a great way to start the sixth side of the vinyl release. It’s rude and crude, but it’s such a fun song! If you can look past the overt profanity, you will thoroughly enjoy this epic rock song. So What reminds me of Steel Panther's style in that regard.

Killing Time is a solid cover song that I neither like or dislike. It is a filler track and is perfectly suited for that purpose.

Overkill raises mixed emotions as I believe that some music just shouldn’t be covered. Perhaps it is just me, but covering Motorhead is akin to Avenged Sevenfold covering Metallica. It works, really well, but I'm not sure it should be done.

Damage Case is a great song, with a great groove.

Stone Dead Forever is an excellent song, but I feel Hetfield is imitating Kilmister, rather than making the song his own. This is, of course, the danger of cover songs versus recording someone else’s unpublished song. Yes, imitation is a form of flattery, but I have always had reservations about it when listening to cover songs.

Too Late Too Late is a perfect song to close this epic release on. While it encourages me to listen to the album again, and stay within Metallica's catalogue, Garage Inc. is a lengthy release and I seldom follow it up with anything else as I want to savour the experience.

Metallica's Garage Inc. is an incredible covers album. There really isn't a bad song on the album and while I may not connect with a few of the songs, they certainly work well with the overall style of the compilation. It is quite clear that if Metallica ran out of song ideas and got bored playing their classics, they could make it as one of the greatest cover bands in history.

For this review, I listened to the 2014 Blackened pressing (cat: BLCKND013-1). The mastering was superb and at no time did I long for more musicality from the album or my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable (fitted with the Ortofon OM20 needle). I have also listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and while the core mastering is the same, I truly enjoy the vinyl tonality just that little bit more. Without a doubt, the vinyl edition is a prized possession in my collection. Besides sounding incredible, the vinyl layout and design, while mimicking the original CD, is full featured and offers a valued added proposition for fans and collectors alike.

Metallica's Garage Inc. is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered For iTunes). If you prefer streaming, Garage Inc.. is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Metallica reviews by Subjective Sounds.  

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