Review Summary: Truly deserving its spot in the top 10 metal albums of all time, Rust in Peace contains everything you might want out of a thrash album, while containing every bit of the political criticism leveled by the album cover. This is true intelligence.
Megadeth. The name brings up endless comparisons with archrivals Metallica
, and the issue of "which band is better?" is probably the most controversial question to ask of a Metallica fan, aside from "Is the Black Album a sellout?"
While that album was good, but not great, Rust in Peace marked a huge step forward for Megadeth, with the sober Dave Mustaine and two new musicians, Nick Menza and Marty Friedman, delivering a highly intricate performance that is only enhanced by the production job. Rust in Peace truly sounds like it was recorded inside the room depicted on the album's cover, which takes the political edge of Rust in Peace to a completely new dimension, perhaps unequaled except by ...And Justice For All. The difference is that Rust in Peace is more accessible and less long-winded, without sacrificing an ounce of complexity. It may seem less complex, but it isn't.
The five world leaders on the cover of Rust in Peace were all in power at the time of its release; they are John Major (Britain), Toshiki Kaifu (Japan), Richard von Weizsäcker (Germany), Mikhail Gorbachev (USSR/Russia), and George H.W. Bush (U.S). You can expect the lyrical matter to be influenced by politics, of course; I'll explain the themes.
Rust in Peace has three distinct sections of lyrical matter, with a more fantasy section in the middle and increasingly serious topics at the five bookends of the album. Holy Wars was written about the Northern Ireland conflict, but can apply to any religious war, in the vein of Dream Theater
's In the Name of God. Hangar 18, of course, is about Area 51 and the coverup, and is one of the highlights. Take No Prisoners is fundamentally about prisoners of war, but also criticizes the world for said prisoners' baseless treatment. Moving to the fantasy side, Five Magics is written on "Goreblade: Warrior King of the Universe", a film not many of us know, but the song is another highlight for its contrasting intensities. Poison Was The Cure is an obligatory Mustaine-relationship song, and is so fast you often can't hear Mustaine! Lucretia is an aside, possibly an anecdote, that is about Dave's search for some old woman named Lucretia, with no specific reason given. The answer is likely up to the listener, as the second half is completely instrumental. This mysterious vibe starts to bring the album back to reality as Tornado of Souls starts, and it sounds slightly commercial, but this may be because it's a stab at the music industry beneath its apparent cloak of another bad relationship song. With no guitars at all, Dawn Patrol trudges along at a constant tempo with the same old bass riff, and Mustaine croaks out quick lyrics about the ignorance of the public on the issue of global warming. Finally, the straight-ahead Rust in Peace...Polaris comments on the still-prevalent possibility of nuclear Armageddon, and criticizes the futility of it all once it's started. The album ends with machine-gun riffing and repeated stabs on the low E string, which suggests the world cities being wiped out by the ICBMs, and ends with the famous lyrics "Eradication of Earth's population loves...Polaris!"
Now, let's move to the music. Rust in Peace, as a Megadeth album, is different from a Metallica album by its guitar tone and style. There is a less overly heavy, more thoughtful tone to the guitar, and on this album specifically, it sounds very modern yet very vintage, taking you back to 1990 while still making just as much sense in 2009. Mustaine and Friedman use their talents so effectively that the simplest sounds take you to new places, and their intricate style results in many highly technical but yet familiar passages. Particularly notable is the guitar trade-off that takes up pretty much the second half of Hangar 18, which brings out the thoughts of the extraterrestrials described in the song; the introduction and ending of Five Magics which start and stop instantly...such are the powers of magic that we see in the movies; and the continual assault of the guitars in Rust in Peace...Polaris, which ends the album on a bleak, but not overly serious, note.
What Megadeth did with Rust in Peace is almost like time travel: they made a highly political album, with the right balance of subject matter, and created a backdrop and a lyric sheet that would fit in any time period. This combination not only makes for great music, but contains politically aware commentary that deserves to be recognized alongside the great minds of the United States. And when someone takes music out of its self-imposed boundaries into the real world, they make a masterwork.
Perfect score, Megadeth. May all our Britney Spears records rust in peace.