No Life ’til Leather and the resurrection of cassettes

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On Record Store Day 2015, I along with thousands of other buyers did the unthinkable. We bought cassettes in 2015!! The very select few like myself have always bought cassettes, but many may have bought their first cassette, or their first cassette in decades. The reason for this of course was Metallica was re-releasing the No Life ‘Til Leather demo for the first time since 1982. Many people have never heard these early recordings, especially on this rare early demo, so the temptation was too great. The release was actually the best selling item on this day. Who knew. A cassette could be a huge hit on the day devoted to records. I searched on Discogs for this release, and copies are going for ridiculous money. I spent a few seconds debating about whether to save it in the sealed condition. But music is meant to be played and heard.

The cassette itself is great early Metallica. Ron McGovney plays bass on this demo, and he does a great job(He quit the band shortly after, to be replaced by Cliff Burton). James Hetfield’s voice sounds more melodic, with much less growl, and hardly any ‘yeah’. The first 3 songs, Hit The Lights, The Mechanix, and Motorbreath sound like they could be on a 70’s hard rock band album, rather than a thrash metal album. Then Seek x Destroy kicks in and from there on, the final 4 songs are thrash mixed with NWOBHM-like sounds blasting from the speakers.

Hit the lights – Drum solo to begin with, combining with wailing guitars. The singing is very articulate and crisp. If the uninformed did not know this was Metallica, they would never guess this was James Hetfield.

The Mechanix – More drums and guitars to start the song off. Then Rob Halford circa 1974 kicks in with the vocals. Wait. The cover says this is Metallica, so it has to be Hetfield. It can`t be. The vocals are crisp and into the higher notes. No growling at all. Great guitar work. The song has a 70`s hard rock/metal feel to it.

Motorbreath – The song sounds to me like what might have became if Rush and Judas Priest had worked on a song together in 1975. It has bit of the prog, mixed with a lot of early metal goodness. All rolled up into a non stop pounding drum beat, and guitar wail.

Seek x destroy- Any Metallica fan knows this song. James is starting to sound a little more like his later self, but he is still in a little higher range. The guitar in this song is a little more subdued than on Kill Em All.

Metal Militia – I never noticed before, but the start of (You Gotta)Fight for your Right ( To Party!) sounds like it sampled the guitar riff that starts this song. That is where the similarities end though. Metallica’s version of a party is an all out metal guitar assault. I still hear the Rob Halford influence, but I do detect the slightest growl added on for good effect. It is a nice contrast between high pitched screaming and deeper snarls. Ever present drumming and speed riffing hold this song together. There is even a groovy deep down bass groove half way through the song that lets people know who Ron McGovney was, and that he wasn’t leaving the band until he made his mark.

Jump in the fire – The bass seems to be a little louder on this song. It may have taken Ron a while to warm up, or perhaps he was told how to play, and had no control over the first 4 songs. The drumming and guitar work are great. Dave Mustaine even has a little riff that almost has a blues flavour to it. It doesn’t last for more than a second though. This is metal after all. Or is it? The song also has a little 70’s hard rock feel, but the metal definitely takes over. James is mainly James, with a little you know who mixed in for good measure.

Phantom Lord – The guitar work has a bit of an Ace of Spades-like sound to it, but yet seems original. The drum work as usual on this demo is frenetic and non-stop. I would suggest all of the Lars haters to listen to his early work on this release. Dave Mustaine does a sweet job of driving the strings into the upper echelon of mandatory metal guitar work. Some more Halford like wails, and a bit of a scream end the song.

Overall I would rate this release as an absolute must have. Casual Metallica fans will note the difference between this and all of the following releases by the band. Metallica die-hards will enjoy this as well. Even if they already own an original copy of this demo, and the Kill Em All album in which these songs eventually end up, the production quality on this release is night and day better than either of those releases.

I would rate this release as a 9.5/10 and suggest for anyone that is interested to buy it, and listen to it. Don’t store it on a shelf collecting dust.

For those of you that would be on the fence because you don’t even own a cassette player, fear not, I will be doing some more articles about cassettes, cassette players, what to look for, and how to look after them. I have you covered, and even if only one of you decide to take the cassette plunge, I’ll be a happy man.


45 thoughts on “No Life ’til Leather and the resurrection of cassettes

    • Speaking of Metallica. The fan club is brand new and free to join. Below is a short clip featuring Lars and a tiny snippet of the recording of the new album.

      Thanks for the praise. The No Life ’til Leather only had 7 originally, and the same on this re-release. It would be cool if the cd and vinyl had one side of rejected songs, or other extras.

      Listening to this in great depth was the first time I had heard that side of James’ voice, and it was a nice change. Kind of like a puppy learning to bark, it takes a while for the deep growl to set in.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Fantastic post!

    I bought this cassette! I believe I ranted about it on the KMA, worrying whether I’d get a copy. And I did get one! Happy day!

    Man, cassettes are not on a comeback for me – they’ve never left. I still play tapes in my main stereo deck, and I bought a walkman recently too (because I couldn’t find my old one). They’re just one more way to get music into my ears. I’ve got a ton of them here. My happiest days involve people finding out I still play tapes and (while laughing at me) saying ‘here, take this box of my old tapes. Good riddance to ’em!’ And I say thank you very much! The AAAA always accepts donations!

    I’ve kept my cassette in the wrapper (so far). If I remember what Mike said about the Metallica re-releases correctly. this should also see release on CD, so I’d buy that and rip it to my iTunes and preserve the tape! You’re right, of course, music is for the playing, but if I know another copy may be coming along eventually, I’ll wait and see!

    Nice work, sir. Nice work indeed! I look forward to your cassette deck posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the prices will come down. Even though it was limited, they sold a bunch of them, so once the hoppla dies down, the price will go back to about what you paid. Then you can carve into it and givvvver.


      • I just checked on Discogs. Sealed copy, in Canada, $20 plus shipping. Not much more than original RSD price.

        I dunno, I think it’s fun to keep one and forget about it. Pack it away somewhere and let my kids find it when I’m dead. 🙂


    • I opened mine with razor knife and you can’t tell by looking at it that it is not sealed.

      Besides I am not in this music collecting game to get rich. When we die, our loved ones will have a garage sale and sell our treasues for 10 cents each. 😦


      • No touching.

        I have not even watched one minute of Arrested Development. I know. I must have been living under a rock. Or listening to too much rawk.

        I guess it doesn’t matter what happens when we are gone, but I can’t see my wife giving a rat’s ass about my records once I’m gone.
        If I knew the end was near I would document every piece with a detailed description and a comparable price attached, to make it easier on her. Or maybe give a bunch to family that can enjoy them.


      • Of course I’m gonna totally recommend AD. Oh man. OH MAN. Seriously. Do not even pass Go or collect $200. Just get all of it and watch and revel in the genius. It is So. Good.

        As for the collection, if I go first, my lovely wife knows to find someone knowledgeable to go through it and give her a fair price.

        I suppose the WOM over on the KMA is a way of doing it (though it hasn’t got pricing attached). But at least (eventually) there’ll be a final list all in one place! Unless I kick off before I get it done. Which would suck!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. J. says:

    Excellent post, sir. Was actually chatting about Metallica earlier. I’m discovering that I like old Metallica stuffs a lot, so this appeals loads.

    I no longer have many cassettes, but our car has a tape player. My favourite record haunt sells cheap cassettes. Coincidence?

    Oh, where did the “yeahs” come from?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the praise. Maybe your band can do a cassette release. I will buy one. That can help finance the North American tour.

      Get the cassettes. On Discogs they actually go for good money, and they are usually dirt cheap or free.

      Maybe I can even convince you to buy a deck. They are also cheap, and sound great if you buy the right one.

      He is now making up for lost “yeahs” he didn’t do on the early stuff. Now he replaces all nouns with “Yeah”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. J. says:

    Good money, eh? Who’d have thunk it? I’ll need to get in about the tapes and then get my retirement pot topped up!

    I could be convinced to buy a deck, I reckon … quite obvious that it’s an investment, isn’t it? Investing in my kids future or something, right?

    He sure made up for the lost time. Yeah. I also like that he says “ah” a helluva lot too. Like “respect-ah”. Go, James.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Retirement pot?? Glaucoma??


      The decks are really reasonable. If you know what to look for you can get audiophile quality sound for under £100($200), and entry level audiophile for under £50($100).
      No way you can do that with a turntable unless you get real lucky.

      If you haven’t watched it, check out the Metallica (James Hetfield) Yeah Compilations on Youtube.

      Yeahhhhh. Yeah. Yeah. Ohhhh Yeahhhh.


      Liked by 1 person

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