Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Hit the Lights"

How incredible would it be to hear "Hit the Lights" back in 1982? The first ever Metal Massacre album, a sampler of unknown bands compiled by Metal Blade records, featured Steeler, Pandemonium, Mallice, then-unknown Ratt and several other long-forgotten bands that strove to stand out in the dawn of American metal's breakthrough. As with most record label promo compilations, it's a pretty boring album that could barely qualify as a free handout. Until a smattering of heavily distorted picking introduced the album's last song.

The drummer struggled keep time, the singers were too intimidated by the NWOBHM to try sounding like anything else, and it all sounded like it was recorded in a closet that was caving in on the band. It was as raw as anything the Stooges ever released, faster than any Motörhead and heavier than anything by Iron Maiden. World, meet Metallica.

Long before they had a worldly and introspective view, Metallica wrote about what they knew best--playing faster and louder than anyone else. "We're going to kick some ass tonight," barks James Hetfield in the first verse, introducing his band with perhaps the most understated comment ever on a Metallica record. Barely through their teens, Metallica sounded like they would self-destruct by the end of the tape. They almost did--a violent altercation between guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney led to McGovney's exit, and Mustaine's alcoholism led to his firing shortly after "Hit the Lights" was recorded. Overcoming the most drastic lineup change in their career, Metallica recruited Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett and future bass icon Cliff Burton for the version of "Hit the Lights" that would open their first album.

In answer to my first question--it was probably as amazing as it is to hear it today.

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