In May 1983, Metallica traveled to Rochester, New York to record its debut album, Metal Up Your Ass, with production duties handled by Paul Curcio. Band members decided to kick Mustaine out of the band due to drug and alcohol abuse and violent behavior just prior to the sessions on April 11, 1983. Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett flew in to replace Mustaine the same afternoon.
Mustaine, who went on to found Megadeth, has expressed his dislike for Hammett in interviews. He said Hammett "stole my job." Mustaine was "pissed off" because he believes Hammett became popular by playing the guitar leads that Mustaine wrote. In a 1985 interview with Metal Forces, Mustaine slammed Hammett saying, "it's real funny how Kirk Hammett ripped off every lead break I'd played on that No Life 'til Leather tape and got voted No. 1 guitarist in your magazine." On Megadeth's debut album Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! (1985), Mustaine included the song "Mechanix", which Metallica reworked and retitled "The Four Horsemen" on Kill 'Em All. Mustaine said he did this to "straighten Metallica up", as Metallica referred to Mustaine as a drunk and said he could not play guitar. Metallica's first live performance with Hammett was on April 16, 1983 at the nightclub The Showplace in Dover, New Jersey.
The band's debut studio album was initially going to be titled Metal Up Your Ass. Due to conflicts with its record label and the distributors' refusal to release an album with that name, it was renamed Kill 'Em All. Released on Megaforce Records in the United States and Music for Nations in Europe, the album peaked at number 120 on the Billboard 200 in 1988, and although the album was not initially a financial success, it earned Metallica a growing fan base in the underground metal scene. The band embarked on the Kill 'Em All for One tour with Raven to support the release. In February 1984, Metallica supported Venom on the Seven Dates of Hell tour, where the band performed in front of 7,000 people at the Aardschok Festival in Zwolle, Netherlands.
Metallica recorded its second studio album, Ride the Lightning, at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. Released in August 1984, the album reached number 100 on the Billboard 200. A French printing press mistakenly printed green covers for the album, which are now considered collectors' items. Other songs on the album include "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Fade to Black", "Creeping Death" (which tells the biblical story of the Hebrews' exodus from slavery in Egypt, focusing on the final plague that was visited on the Egyptians), and the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu". Mustaine received writing credit for "Ride the Lightning" and "The Call of Ktulu".
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