Diamond Head, 'Lightning to the Nations' (1980)
If you're gonna say, "Name one record that's the blueprint for Metallica's sound," this is it. I've said that a thousand times; I've said it 10,000 times.
I ended up spending the summer of 1981 with the singer and the guitar player, Sean [Harris] and Brian [Tatler], living in their living room, sleeping on the couch and hanging out with them. I went back to California and wanted to start a band. They were the ones that took the more traditional hard-rock approaches: They were huge fans of Led Zeppelin, and they took the songs as a journey, as an exploration, as an experience, then they fused it with pure guitar riff-based energy. It's great songs that are groovy with simple drumming.
And at one point or another, Metallica have played all these songs. We obviously released "Am I Evil." We released "It's Electric,""Helpless," "The Prince"; we used to play "Sucking My Love" back in the day. We've obviously jammed on "Sweet and Innocent." We've jammed on "Lightning to the Nations." We have a very, very close relationship with every one of these songs.
At our first concert, I think we played four Diamond Head songs. We started out as a cover band and we sort of were in that grey area. We just went up and played the songs. We didn't tell anybody that they were cover songs – but we also didn't tell anybody that they were our songs. We just played the songs. I think it was the second or third show we played where we got a gig opening for Saxon, and their sound guy, Paul, came up and asked if we'd ever heard of a band called Diamond Head. I went, "Of course, we cover four of their songs." But yeah, we basically started out as a Diamond Head cover band.