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Metal Blade Records’ ‘Metal Massacre’ Featuring Metallica’s ‘Hit the Lights’ – 30 Years Later

Metallica 'Metal Massacre'
Metal Blade Records

On June 14, 1982, Metal Blade Records, a brand new record label founded by Brian Slagel, released its first compilation known simply as ‘Metal Massacre.’ Featured on the first pressing of this compilation were bands like Steeler, Ratt, Malice and a little known, unsigned metal band called Metallica.

Rounding out the compilation, Metallica – spelled incorrectly as Mettallica – recorded ‘Hit the Lights.’ On this version were James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Lloyd Grant and Dave Mustaine. Hetfield played rhythm guitar and bass while also handling singing duties, and Grant and Mustaine both focused on lead guitar. Two years later, Metal Blade released the second pressing of ‘Metal Massacre,’ this time with a newly recorded version of ‘Hit the Lights’ (still featured as the final track on the compilation). With Ulrich still behind the drum kit, Hetfield focused on rhythm guitar and vocals while Mustaine handled lead guitar duties and Ron McGovney took care of the bass. This second version was 13 seconds shorter than the version on the first pressing. Also, on the second pressing, Metal Blade corrected the spelling of Metallica’s name with only one ‘t.’

‘Metal Massacre’ was produced by Slagel and John Komarens and was mastered by Joe Borja at The Bijou in Hollywood, Calif. It marked the first of 13 ‘Metal Massacre’ compilations. Metallica would not be on any other ‘Metal Massacre,’ although later in 1982 when ‘Metal Massacre II’ was released, the late bassist Cliff Burton recorded ‘Such a Shame’ with his band ‘Trauma.’

30 years later and it’s easy to see the impact Metal Blade had on Metallica’s success. Without ‘Metal Massacre,’ who knows how long it would’ve taken for Metallica to break out. According to Metal Blade’s official website, Hetfield gives the label credit for shedding light on Metallica. “How important is Metal Blade to our career? They’re only the reason we are enjoying the worldwide success we have today,” the frontman says.

Imagine if Slagel received the demo of ‘Hit the Lights’ from Metallica and said, “Eh, I think I’ll pass.” Sure, Metallica were a good enough band at the time that they would’ve made a big splash somewhere, but without Metal Blade, the band would have never hooked up with Johny Zazula at Megaforce Records to record ‘Kill ‘Em All,’ released 13 months after ‘Metal Massacre’ dropped. Metallica’s first studio album included ‘Hit the Lights’ as the opening track.

Thanks to the success of ‘Metal Massacre,’ Slagel was able to build a heavy metal record label juggernaut. Thirty years later, he celebrated the significant milestone on Sept. 25, 2012, in New York City at Santos Party House with As I Lay Dying and Battlecross, partying with fans and industry professionals who were all there to show their support for Metal Blade.

June 14, 1982 is a day that will forever be etched in the rock ‘n’ roll history books. Every Metallica fan owes a big thanks to Slagel and Metal Blade for giving a group of – as Hetfield puts it – “raunchy teens with a crap sounding cassette tape” a chance.

‘Metal Massacre’ Track Listing (First pressing)

1. ‘Cold Day in Hell’ – Steeler
2. ‘Live for the Whip’ – Bitch
3. ‘Captive of Light’ – Malice
4. ‘Tell the World’ – Ratt
5. ‘Octave’ – Avatar
6. ‘Death of the Sun’ – Cirith Ungol
7. ‘Dead of the Night’ – Demon Flight
8. ‘Fighting Backwards’ – Pandemonium
9. ‘Kick You Down’ – Malice
10. ‘Hit the Lights’ – Metallica (Spelled incorrectly as Mettallica)

‘Metal Massacre’ Track Listing (Second pressing)

1. ‘Chains Around Heaven’ – Black ‘n Blue
2. ‘Live for the Whip’ – Bitch
3. ‘Captive of Light’ – Malice
4. ‘Octave’ – Avatar
5. ‘Death of the Sun’ – Cirith Ungol
6. ‘Dead of the Night’ – Demon Flight
7. ‘Fighting Backwards’ – Pandemonium
8. ‘Kick You Down’ – Malice
9. ‘Hit the Lights’ – Metallica (Spelled correctly)

Listen to the First Pressing of Metallica’s ‘Hit the Lights’ from ‘Metal Massacre’

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