Any metal fan that grew up in the 80s and 90s probably remembers the first time they heard Metallica. Sabbath, Venom, Motorhead and several others had established the blueprint of the metal/punk/blues soup that would eventually be called thrash metal, but Metallica defined it.
Metallica Vinyl Reissues
They were able to take the best of all those influences, turn it up to 11 and churn out some of the finest albums the genre has ever seen. Even 30 years after “Kill ‘Em All” was released, it still holds up today against anything out there.
I bought both the “Kill ‘Em All” and “Ride the Lightning” reissues on vinyl (which also included a digital download) for my personal collection. After wearing the oxide of the tape versions and the abused CD versions I have had over the years, I was really excited to hear these on new vinyl. It was a good choice; both sound excellent.
‘Kill ‘Em All’ Kills It
I started at the beginning with “Kill ‘Em All” and dropped the needle on the first track “Hit the Lights.” Right from the familiar fade in, it sounded very clean to me. To be honest, after listening to the whole album several times, I feel the first track is a little on the bright side and a little brittle compared to the warmth the rest of the album seems to have. But aside from that, it sounds great from top to bottom.
There is no doubt this is James’ and Lars’ band but Cliff’s bass stands out and really provides a nice looseness to counterpoint James’ and Lars’ super tight aggressive riffing. Cliff’s solo “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” sounds so good it almost brings a tear to your eye that such a talented person was taken so young.
Kirk gets his due as well; all the solos sound great and glide above that churning metal machine. This album definitely has a different sound than the releases that follow. James never really sang quite like this again. The punk influence is more dominant on this album as well. Lars is terrific and the sound of the drum kit is one of his best, in my opinion, and I love James’ buzz saw guitar sound. One helluva debut and this remaster really sounds great.
‘Ride the Lighting’ is a Departure with Detail
“Ride the Lightning” is next and in many ways it’s a departure from “Kill ‘Em All.” It has a darker feel to it both lyrically and sonically. The boys also stretch out a little further into the progressive side of things and even have a ballad with acoustic guitars on it!!!
I have listened to this record hundreds of times in my life and I always felt that the guitars were a little bit muddy and I didn’t dig the sound as much as “Kill ‘Em All” and “Master of Puppets.” So I threw this on the platter and gave it a whirl.
Once “Fight Fire with Fire” kicks in, I could hear detail in the guitars that I couldn’t before. With good stereo separation or headphones, you can really hear all the guitar tracks cleanly. Once again, there is no doubt that James and Lars run the machine, but Kirk’s solos sit perfect and this is one where I think the remasters really helps the bass.
The legend of Cliff Burton stands on its own and of course any real fan knows his signature bass solo on “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a defining moment of the album. But the two parts I noticed real sonic improvement are on “Fade to Black,” which always sounded terrific but now just sings (listen to Cliff’s parts on the verses).
Obviously it’s an outlier compared to the rest of the album with the acoustic guitar and sort of ballad arrangement, but it really stands out to me anyway. I didn’t remember hearing the bass in the same way as I do now. The other one is in “The Call of Ktulu.” Fans know of Cliff’s love for the bass wah but now you can really hear his genius on this tune. He is a master at keeping a loose edge to the watch like precision of the rest of the band. This song showcases it perfectly; listen for yourself.
The Remasters are a Better Mix
After listening to these remasters several times, I do think they are very good. I think the improvements on “Kill ‘Em All” are less noticeable than “Ride the Lightning,” but are still very much there.
The overall mix is better and the separation of the instruments is improved. “Ride the Lightning” seemed to benefit a great deal from the remasters. What I have always felt were a bit muddy guitars have been cleaned up and the bass has been enhanced. Lars’ drums sound great and are up in the mix but not overboard.
If you are a Metallica fan and haven’t updated the collection in awhile, this may be for you. These are the best versions of the two albums I have owned. Rumor has it that a remastered “Master of Puppets” has already been completed and hopefully will be released once sales of “Hardwired” start to slow. A remaster of “And Justice for All” is in the works too. Being a bass player I can’t wait to hear that one … will there be bass??
In the meantime, please let me know your thoughts on these remasters. We have them for sale here: