Review Summary: Anger is a gift.
Like the fallen angel Lucifer, Dave Mustaine was ousted from Heaven. No, that may be a bit too exaggerative. Depends on how you feel about Metallica. But the story goes, he woke up one hungover morning in Old Bridge, New Jersey. James and Lars were standing over his bed, bags in hand. "You're out of the band", they said. And from that moment in history on, Dave Mustaine was a changed man.
Eternally in competition with his former friends, and band mates. Eternally in a race to the victorious throne of who's faster, who's better, who's more metal than the other. With searing rage in his head, drugs in his system, and a guitar in his hand, Mustaine went back to California, lived as a drug addict, formed Megadeth, and the rest is history as they say. As are many music legends, Dave Mustaine is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum, smothered in a paradox. Arguably one of the greatest guitarists of all time, his often times controversial words and actions have led his public relations to be at a certain low point as of late, but this doesn't deter me or most from fully appreciating the incredible music he released as an angry, angry young man. "Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!" was the beginning of the storied tale of Megadeth, and beginnings are good!
Supported by a classically trained guitarist, Chris Poland, and a former jazz drummer, Gar Samuelson, the musicianship on this album is far beyond a large majority of other releases around that time. The opening track "Last Rites" is an odd and twisted piano and guitar duel, with it twisting and turning, weaving into an ominous passage of darkness. The guitar work is masterful, with each riff as fast yet technically proficient as the last. A riff doesn't need to be technical to be great, but Dave and Chris found a middle ground in playing excessively fast, yet coherently skillful. Tracks such as "Rattlehead", "Looking Down The Cross", and "Mechanix" are simply masterfully laid out on the guitar, not a single weak riff in them. The drumming is full of nifty double bass work, especially the little bit at the end of "Chosen Ones". Gar Samuelson was such an underrated drummer, who unfortunately died later about 14 years after this record was released. There's some fantastic drumming on here, especially considering he was keeping up with Mustaine and Poland. David Ellefson is up in the mix, mainly. With his smooth delivery and rhythmic rock like playing, he keeps a steady backbeat to allow these songs to breathe and expand, as any great bassist should. None more apparent is this than on, "Mechanix", where a steady thumping bassline allows the guitars to riff like mad and drums to explode, without losing time or intensity.
As a whole, the songwriting remains on par and where it should be for a debut album throughout. Lyrically, the themes are kind of hard to decipher, except for "Mechanix". Which, if you didn't know, is about a mechanic having sex in his auto shop. Dave Mustaine wrote songs for Metallica's "Kill 'Em All", but after his eventual booting, he retooled some and used them as his own in Megadeth. There are some moments where, if you were keeping up with the lyric booklet, you would not hear the same as you are reading. Dave Mustaine suffers from the same issue as what Eddie Vedder does. Mumbling some lyrics, and singing others. It works great, as metal as is not solely for the vocally gifted. But it also adds a bit of humor to the album, where you will stop and think, "What did he just say?".
As it goes, this album is really, truly underrated when compared to the rest of Megadeth's classic catalogue. You have a whole selection of angry, aggressive, pissed off thrash metal songs. What else do people want? Is this their best work? No. But for what it's worth, it's really, really, good. And that's all matters sometimes. At the core of these songs are a drunk, stoned, red haired guitar god, and a serious desire to wring the necks of his former bandmates with his bare hands. There's just something to be said about music so ferocious and unapologetic, and how it makes a person feel. There is happiness in anger and rage, and that happiness is a sick riff from Dave Mustaine.