Review Summary: Time to put Rust in Peace away for a minute, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? puts up a great fight against Reign in Blood and Master of Puppets. An often forgotten album, Peace Sells... is an excellent example of what 80's metal ought to sound like.Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
The year is 1986… and metal fans around the world have yet to know what is about to hit them, for they are in a year that would eventually hail the release of three of the most debated, recognized, and influential albums that the world has ever seen. Three albums that flooded the airwaves with a new sound of heavy metal that dropped the jaws of millions of fans across the world. 1986 was a holy year indeed, and I’m sure you know of the three albums I speak of: Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Slayer’s Reign in Blood,
and this… Megadeth’s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth have each had their fair share of boasts and flamings alike, from dedicated fanboys to outright haters of the band. Now, I feel this album is the least debated of the bunch, and I think it’s about time people stopped comparing Master of Puppets
with Reign in Blood
or either of those two with Rust in Peace
. In fact, I think Peace Sells…
is better than Rust in Peace,
so for now I’m putting Rust in Peace
back in the closet to let Peace Sells…
do the talking. Here we have Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood,
and Peace Sells…
all in the ring all together, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. This is my version of a debate that we all owe to the three titans of the 80’s (with, of course, Peace Sells…
being the main focus).
Now, I don’t care what you think of this album when compared to metal today. The truth is, back in ’86, this was metal.
Many bands today envy the vintage sound of 80’s thrash metal, and when attempting to mimic the sound they fail, leaving behind nothing more than a laughable attempt and the obvious influence of an 80’s masterpiece that they tried to recreate for their own (Trivium anyone?). Peace Sells…
is one of those influential masterpieces. Everything about this album is nearly perfect, and in many ways Mustaine & Co. managed to make the absolute best out of metal.
Thrash is known mainly for three elements that differentiate itself from other types of music: Solos, Riffs,
If Megadeth excels in one aspect of songwriting, then it’s the solos. You’d have to be Helen Keller to not recognize Megadeth’s reign over the guitar solo. Dave Mustaine and Chris Poland will melt your ears on nearly every track. The best example of Megadeth’s prowess in solos is found in the opening track Wake Up Dead,
an absolute shred fest featuring two of thrash’s best guitarists. The solos triumph in Peace Sells…
because they are found in a comfortable medium when compared to the solos of Kirk Hammett and Kerry King. While Kirk plays a safer, more melodic and well thought out solo, Kerry decides not to hold back and hits as many notes as humanly possible. This is where Megadeth comes in. While you can have issues with both Kirk and Kerry, you can hardly complain about Dave and Chris’s performance on this album. Fast, melodic, catchy, uncontrollable and yet strictly managed all at the same time, Dave and Chris deliver a performance that can hardly be matched.
The riffs on this album are just flat out awesome. The dynamics are great, and there is honestly never a riff that gets repeated to the point of disgust. When done right, repetition is often a key element to thrash, and Megadeth really do hit the nail on the head. Anger-fueled riffs in the song Peace Sells
are excellent and standard on this album, while Good Mourning/Black Friday
features one of the finest mixes of clean and distorted guitars in the intro. This is a triumph that Mustaine can share with James Hetfield, who put in a similar effort in his writing on Master of Puppets.
At the same time, in essence, they can both look down and laugh at Kerry King’s abuse of repetition and use of diversity, or lack thereof, which is a key element and weakness found in Slayer’s unique sound.
History lesson for those who don’t know – Dave Mustaine wrote almost all the songs on Metallica’s debut Kill Em All
. His goal with Megadeth was to completely outdo the efforts he did with those good-for-nothing back-stabbing pricks in Metallica, right? Well, he did so. He expanded on the Kill Em All
sound, but it is undeniable that he is still caught in the raw sound of his rival’s debut. In essence, this album fixes everything that Metallica did wrong in Kill Em All, but hardly expands out of the same sound. That is where this album falls behind.
The sound on Peace Sells…
has already been done on Kill Em All.
But better? Yes, definitely. But besides the riffs being more complex, there isn’t too much progression off of Kill Em All.
Metallica left that sound in the dust and matured in their songwriting to produce Master of Puppets,
and that change of sound is the main distinguishing factor between Peace Sells…
and Master of Puppets.
Slayer, once again, is found on the far side of the spectrum, fulfilling the craziest metal head’s fantasy of head banging to the fastest and most intense riffs ever heard in metal history, all compiled into the shred-tacular Reign in Blood
. The three differences are evident between the three albums, and it quite honestly comes down to preference. Slayer chugs ahead like a freight train on a crash-course with your ears; Metallica diversifies and expands the definition of “thrash,” and both leave behind the Black Sabbath-like sound that Megadeth is captured in.
The vocals aren’t special, though they deserve some criticism. There’s nothing negative about the vocals, just nothing drastically as positive as seen in the other aspects that this album has to offer. Largely outweighed by the guitars, the vocals play a minimal role in the deliverance on this album. Not to say that there aren’t good vocal melodies, however. Peace Sells
offers Dave’s best vocal performance, and is actually one of the only sing-along parts of this album. However, other vocal melodies like that are very rare. In short, you’re better off playing air guitar to Megadeth rather than singing to them.
The vocals are definitely the weakest part of the album, but as mentioned before, they are greatly made up for by the riffs. Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
contains epic intros and breakdowns, with sudden shifts in pace that will raise the hairs on your neck and make you shiver. And when there’s a shift in pace, you can be sure another mind-twisting solo will follow, only adding more to the delivery of the song. Peace Sells…
is a well rounded package with lots of punch to keep your ears satisfied.
That’s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
for you, Megadeth’s effort in the Holy ’86 Trio. So, is this the best of the pack? Does it beat out Master of Puppets
and Reign in Blood?
It honestly comes down to preference. Maybe some of you have realized my bias with Reign in Blood
– although it defines thrash better than any of these albums it just doesn’t offer anything close to what Peace Sells…
does. No matter where you go, you will find dedicated fans behind all three albums that will defend their position to death. I don’t think this album is an absolute classic, because I believe Megadeth was impossibly outdone by Metallica with Master of Puppets
. But that’s a call that is nearly impossible to make, so why not make the call for yourself? Go on, give this a listen. This ranks among the greatest metal albums ever released, and does not look out of place when placed in the likes of Master of Puppets
and Reign in Blood
. It’s drastically different than both those albums, which give you more reason to make sure you own all three of them. You won’t hear the same thing twice, I promise. Megadeth gave a tremendous effort with Peace Sells…
, and it stands out among other metal albums as an impressive work of music.