Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All is a stone-cold classic, a touchstone of thrash metal with clearly traceable influences, including Motorhead, Venom and Mercyful Fate. But what if the Bay Area quartet had taken influence from a band on their side of the pond?
A band like ZZ Top?
Musician and content creator Denis Pauna has brought that hypothetical scenario to life with a recent performance of Kill ‘Em All played in its entirety in the style of that little ol’ band from Texas. You can listen to his creation, lovingly dubbed Top ‘Em Allbelow. It’s also available on streaming services.
Pauna posted the full-album performance on July 31, six days after the 40th anniversary of Kill ‘Em All. It follows his well-received, Southern-fried rendition of “Seek & Destroy.”
Inexplicably, the whole album works terrifically as a bluesy, Southern-rock romp. Songs like “The Four Horsemen” and “Whiplash” become greasy, midtempo jams, with Pauna nailing the laidback pocket grooves of Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, as well as Billy Gibbons’ spicy blues licks and grizzled vocals.
Released on July 25, 1983, Kill ‘Em All helped usher the burgeoning thrash metal subgenre into the mainstream and began Metallica’s path to world domination in earnest. Its full-speed-or-nothing approach wasn’t a concerted effort on the band’s part, but something that happened naturally.
“It was something that we were just doing together,” drummer Lars Ulrich told Metal Hammer in 2022. “I don’t sit here and go, ‘I did this, he did that.’ We all just ended up living together, being on top of each other 24/7. We drank the same beer, ate the same shitty food, listened to the same music, like you do when you’re 18 or 19 years old. I don’t think one person was more responsible for this than any other guy was. It was more us just trying to make it heavier and faster and more over-the-top.”
Metallica Albums Ranked
There are moments of indecision when compiling this list. After all, we really could have had – for the first time ever – a three-way tie for first.