Review Summary: ...and Business is Good! So is the album. Megadeth's raw debut.
When Dave Mustaine was booted out of Metallica on a bus in '83, he wanted his own band to be the fastest, heaviest band around, way cooler than those lame-os who'd kicked him out. Given the more melodic (though certainly qualifying as thrash, at least for four albums) direction that Megadeth would end up taking, you wouldn't believe it. But with 1985's Killing Is My Business, Megadeth sounded very vicious and hungry.
Megadeth would have many, many lineups throughout their career, and this was true even in their early days. But for two studio albums, Dave'd managed to secure the lineup of himself on vocals and guitar, Chris Poland on guitar, David Ellefson on bass (He'd the member to be on the highest number of albums, other than Mustaine of course), and Gar Samuelson on drums. Gar Samuelson does a stellar job behind the kit for sure. David Ellefson is fairly audible, but obviously, Dave Mustaine is the most vital member. He wrote all the music and lyrics here (That's barring These Boots, obviously, but even then he wrote crass new lyrics), after all. Dave's performance tends to sound fairly different on each album, and here is no different. Mustaine oddly reminds me of Bon Scott at some points for whatever silly reason. He's as harsh on this album as the music itself.
How rough and raw is the music here? Although the first track opens with a rather eloquent piano/guitar intro, Last Rites, a menacing, sharp riff blares, beginning the first "proper" song, Loved to De(a)th. (The title differs between releases; originally, it was Loved to Death, but on the remaster it's Loved to Deth, which I guess is a cheesy connection to the band name.) As absolutely evil as this song is, you wouldn't dare think that MegaDave would go on to be involved with corny dreck like Crush 'Em and I'll Be There. The riffs and lyrics here are too venomous to be made goofy by Dave's performance. He howls, "Your body's empty now/As I hold you! Now you're gone, I miss you/But I told you," overtop riffage that sounds a bit unrefined but is nonetheless suitably wicked. The part with the evil laughter would itself be fodder for laughter, but is saved by Gar Samuelson's punching percussion, David Ellefson's thumping bass, and Mustaine and Poland's slicing guitar work. The title track is a combination of wicked grooves and thrashing mayhem that'll leave you battered. The thrashing really takes effect towards the end as the song closes out wih a memorable repeated shout of the album and song's title. "Ya better believe it!" Skull Beneath the Skin, about the band's skeletal mascot Vic Rattlehead, opens with an ominously evil intro. Then they rev up with some cutting riffage that seems built to mosh to. Seriously, the riff here might be one of Megadeth's best ever riffs, and its introduction is even better with splitting shredding. Then the "main" part of the song comes in. "Mean and infectious!" Sounds like this album. From this point on, the song's alright, until they pick up speed, at which point you really oughta be headbanging.
Going by the original release's track order, These Boots is next. Sadly, this song is neutered by the Remastered edition, which places all these stupid beeps overtop the vocals. Why not just mute the offending lyrics? Better yet, why not make it an instrumental? Or just cut the damned song out if you're not going to release it the right way, which is what they did before the remaster. Anyways, These Boots is a remake of the well-known Nancy Sinatra song "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". Dave added snide, sarcastic lyrics that come across as a parody of the original, and which feature suggestive themes and "naughty" language that apparently offended the original author of the song, Lee Hazlewood. Megadeth's version can't be considered a replacement for the original, but it's fun nonetheless. Even more fun is the next original song, Rattlehead. With that lightning fast riff and shout of "Here I come!", you know you'd better get ready to start headbanging. Hence the name. If speedy mayhem wasn't enough to get you going, the mosh-worthy midsection should be good enough. "Winning, sinning, beginning! Feeding the needing for bleeding!" Well, you can certainly tell this is the first album Dave Mustaine wrote all the lyrics for. Chosen Ones starts out higher tempo, but not quite what you could call "fast". Then they slow down, which is when the song really comes into its own (or as much as one under three minutes can), with a chaotic and fierce solo leading to the last verse. Mustaine and Poland are quite the formidable guitar solo. David Ellefson's bass playing even gets a cool highlight.
Looking Down the Cross' introduction is about a million times more effective in the original version. This brings up something I hadn't thought to mention before; production. Much has been said about how this album (or the original version at least), frankly, sounds like ***. When it comes to the original version, it's certainly a bit muffled, a smidge too quiet, and Mustaine's vocals are drenched in enough reverb to give them a dated feel. However, Ellefson's bass is loud (Just the way I like it!) and adds extra heaviness in addition to highlighting his skills, and it has a big advantage over the remastered version in that it's dynamic. The 2002 remaster certainly is not. It's louder...and as is the norm with loud remasters, there isn't much in the way of dynamic range. This cripples the hell out of Looking Down the Cross. There's the intro, which grates in the remaster but creeps along eerily in the original. And as for the "main" parts of the song (Basically, before it gets fast), something is undoubtedly lost in the louder edition. While some songs, such as Rattlehead, sound vicious with shiny new digital sound, others, like Looking Down the Cross and Skull Beneath the Skin, sound a bit neutered.
Returning to the music itself, Looking Down the Cross is about the crucifixion of Jesus from his perspective, and sports a super ominous (not to mention super badass) introduction. Nice midpaced riffage, and then David Ellefson keeps things going for a bit while Dave Mustaine shows off his vocal chops. Then comes the speed...which actually isn't too effective. What is effective, though, is Dave's shouts afterwards. "Looking down the cross! Speak no evil!
" The final song (again, going by the original order), Mechanix, has a story behind it that pretty much everyone and their dog probably knows about by now. For those that aren't aware, this song, albeit slower and with some new riffs and lyrics, was on Metallica's Kill 'Em All as "The Four Horsemen". It was written during Dave's tenure in the band, and you can find it as "The Mechanix" with the original lyrics (the ones here) on their Power Metal and No Life 'Til Leather demos. Dave was pissed, so he put that song on here as simply "Mechanix", with a bit of extra speed and a cool intro. It's a fun closer, I suppose, although I'd probably classify it as a weaker cut.
Megadeth's first album is a furious slab of pounding thrash metal that I sometimes feel doesn't get its fair dues. Can you really go wrong with tracks like Last Rights/Loved to De(a)th, Skull Beneath the Skin, and Looking Down the Cross? It's not without faults; Mechanix just can't compare with Rattlehead. In addition, it's obvious that the tracks here aren't as developed as their later output. But don't let that convince you that this isn't some damn fine stuff. 4.5/5
RECOMMENDED TRACKS/BEST OF:
Last Rites/Loved to De(a)th
Skull Beneath the Skin
Looking Down the Cross