Review Summary: Though this may not have been the earliest or the best Thrash Metal album, it certainly comes close in both regards. Absolutely everything is worth a listen on this.
The diversity of Heavy Metal is what makes the genre so legendary. Throughout the umbrella of Heavy Metal, you can find everything from melodic to crushing to varying combinations of the two. One of the defining albums of Thrash Metal, one of the most popular came out in 1986: Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying. This album contains much of the aggression that could possibly be found in Heavy Metal while pushing on technical, melodic, and aggressive fronts. Though the short 36 minutes may end quickly, it is an important and fantastic listen that will impress listeners after many, many listens.
Dave Mustaine and Chris Poland, both legendary guitarists, are the two men that really define the quality of the album. All 8 songs contain incredible performances throughout the peaceful, (Good Mourning’s introduction) medium-paced riffs (Wake Up Dead’s bridge, I Ain’t Superstitious), and the very fast (everything else). The performances perfectly work with the lyrics of political and religious animosity, satanic possession, and even something like Russian Roulette. Though these lyrics fit the frantic and chaotic paces of the riffs, the truly astounding part of the album is how well they fit with Mustaine’s vocals. Though his singing wasn’t remarkable on the debut, he has gone a long way to this album. Much like Kai Hansen, his singing has remarkably improved while not sounding entirely different; becoming a better fit for the genre as a whole while the instrumentals just get better and better. His howls in “Wake Up Dead” are spine-chilling, and much like his intense virile shouts in “Good Mourning/Black Friday,” are some of the best of his career. Also not to be overlooked is his panicked, exhilarated singing at the end of “My Last Words,” perfectly depicting a man with a gambling addiction who unwillingly ends his life after one wrong game of Russian Roulette.
Gar Samuelson and Dave Ellefson do not fail to impress either, as both complete mind-boggling achievements in backing instrumentals. Gar Samuelson is proficient on his drum set, hammering out beats at hypersonic tempos, and finding a way to match-up with even Dave and Chris in technicality. Though he may have had a “bad omen” with his crippling drug addiction, the song of the same name shows that he was an unbelievable drummer by creating a nightmarish and crazed pattern to emphasize the growing mayhem in both the lyrics (where Satan would rise and strike down his own followers) and the maniacal guitar solo. On leisurely tempos, Samuelson isn’t quite as remarkable, (such as in the titular song) though he still creates an effective mood for Mustaine’s howls and screams from the microphone and guitar. Dave Ellefson may be the last member of the band I will mention, yet his own technicality is certainly not something to ignore. His bass playing is matched by few, as judged by his performances on “Devil’s Island” and “The Conjuring.” His galloping bass lines are incredible, though it is not the only thing he can play; which can be judged by the beautiful cacophony of his, and the band’s, outright insanity on “Black Friday” and “Bad Omen.” He may seem like the least remarkable member, but his playing matches up to the shredding of Poland and Mustaine; leaving little to be desired in the skeleton of the album.
Outside of technicality, the album is abundant with creativity. No single idea is used too much; from the varying riffs in “Wake Up Dead” and “The Conjuring” to the immense build-ups of “Peace Sells,” “Bad Omen,” and especially “Good Mourning/Black Friday.” The latter track features one of the first moments in the band’s history to try out a true progressive song start-to-finish, and is one of the band’s longest songs of their career at a runtime of 6:39. “My Last Words” is yet another outstanding, though underrated, Megadeth track. Though it may initially seem underwhelming, the extremely fast tempo will knock you off of your seat and leads to an incredible bridge, solo, and outro. The last few minutes of the song are unrivaled by Megadeth’s very high standards; with melodies and brutality that will leave no one hungry for more.
Of course, this is to be expected by one of the strongest Thrash Metal bands of all time. So far and so good, Megadeth is setting them on a path that will lead to good business and critical success worldwide. By avoiding a second album slump, they have created one of the cornerstones of Thrash Metal that will only be surpassed by their own “Rust in Peace” and Testament’s “The New Order;” and helped strengthen a fledging genre into a dominant force throughout the 80s. The guitars, the bass, the drumming, and the vocals and lyrical combinations have made this into a meager spanned, yet colossal, experience that all surely will enjoy.
“You….next victim! You…next to die!” – My Last Words