In the summer of 1983, metal was in a state of flux. The year prior, English titans Judas Priest had released “Screaming for Vengeance” and broke into the top 20 of the Billboard with a slick, commercial hard rock sound that broke through the gates watched by Men at Work and the Human League. Quiet Riot had dropped “Metal Health” in first-quarter 1983, which, along with Def Leppard’s “Pyromania,” signaled that metal’s mainstream popularity was on the rise. But choices for the average American male teen rock fan remained limited. British new wave acts like Duran Duran and Adam Ant still owned the charts. Punk rock had evolved into hardcore, music that was fast and aggressive with lyrics that chiefly concentrated on either politics or positivity. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal that was on the rise in the late ’70s hadn’t connected with the mainstream in the States. It did, however, make an impact on the underground and the members of a certain California rock band.
James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett might have looked like a group of vapid, lank-haired kids, but they would change the face of music forever with “Kill ‘Em All,” its Megaforce debut, which was released 30 years ago this week in July of 1983. (Metallica had originally planned to call it “Metal Up Your Ass,” but the record company balked.)