"No Life 'Til Leather", Metallica's first demo-tape, represents a very different band to even the one which released early works like Ride the Lightning and Kill 'Em All, a band still searching for the style which it wanted to play. This demo shows Metallica in it's embryonic stages, but try to imagine, if you will, the excitement of someone who listened to this for the first time, back in 1982, and heard something new and thrilling.
All of the songs on the demo would eventually appear on "Kill 'Em All", however, they exist here with an audibly distinct character - Dave Mustain played lead at this time, and, in addition to that difference, the band seemed to be aiming in a distinctly different direction to where they would later go. James' vocals are higher, in part, no doubt, to his youth, but I also am of the persuasion that he was aiming towards a much more NWOBHM styled vocal style in those days, which, although apparent in "Kill 'Em All", later faded out. He was, perhaps, assuming a vocal style before thrash metal became an entity in it's own right. His rhythm guitar work also sound different, no doubt due, in part, to him having only recently assumed the role, previously only being the singer. The bass, provided by Ron McGovney is consistent, albeit fairly standard issue, never really standing out as exceptional bass, but also never dampening any of the songs. On drums, Lars provides an adequate performance, although he exhibits a great tendency to just flap away intrusively with very simplistic beats, which keep time and rhythm, but don't always compliment the music - lacking severely in flare and decoration. Dave Mustaine's lead guitar is impressive, in that it is easily equal to what Kirk did in the album, if not better - I find the tone somewhat more agreeable, and the sound rougher and more energetic.
The production, while not great, is quite good for the time it was recorded, especially among the early thrash movement. Significantly, however, it really captures the spirit of the times, the exciting, raw and organic state of thrash at the time, before thrash even existed in a conventional sense. Upon listening to the demo, you can see through the mists of time, and sample a little of the excitement and awe which the demo must have caused, and it ranks quite highly on my list of favourite Metallica releases.
All in all, listening to No Life Til' Leather is like looking at a piece of history. It's interesting to listen to, and I would recommend listening to it as a part of a full and thorough musical education. It's a significant work, and should be regarded as such.
I give the demo 10/10, for it's sheer momentousness.
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