When Metallica wrote this song and released it on their No Life 'Til Leather
demo, the band was still in its original configuration, with Dave Mustaine on lead guitar and Ron McGovney on bass. Mustaine wrote the song along with lead singer James Hetfield.
Before releasing Kill 'Em All
, both Mustaine and McGovney were booted from the band, McGovney because they really wanted Cliff Burton on bass, Mustaine because Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich found him too volatile and pugnacious. All of Mustaine's parts that were put to tape for the album were replaced by their new guitarist, Kirk Hammett, but Mustaine was still entitled to his songwriting credits, which remained a source of friction decades later and kept the No Life 'Til Leather
demo from ever being officially released. On Kill 'Em All
, Ulrich was added to the writer credits, which peeved Mustaine to no end, especially since he felt Ulrich led the charge to fire him.
Speaking with Songfacts in 2022, Mustaine said
: "James and I wrote 'Metal Militia
' and 'Phantom Lord' - every note. And somehow, on the record it says Lars gets 10%."
He also said he had been in discussions with Hetfield to release the demo version officially, but talks broke down.
"I thought to myself, you know what? When you guys did that to me before, it was not cool," he explained. "I said, 'Don't use my stuff,' and you did it, and then didn't give me my fair share. So why would I want to willingly enter into something like that? I wouldn't."
He fired another shot at Ulrich as well:
"I would love to work with James. I'd like to work with Lars again, too, but I think the real talent in Metallica has always been around the guitar - everybody makes fun of the drums."