Review Summary: "This IS the news!' Less raw than Killing Is My Business, yet still their heaviest album, and one of their two best.
Megadeth's 1985 debut LP, Killing Is My Business, was a fantastic thrash metal debut. It wasn't going full speed all the time, but there was still enough venom to carry it, not to mention a generous supply of succulent riffs and solos, of course. However, the album sometimes felt a bit underdeveloped. The title track and Chosen Ones, for example, both barely hover around the three minute mark. What if these guys (Mainly frontman and lead composer/lyricist Dave Mustaine) were given more time to develop their sound and, in the process, hone songwriting skills, leading to more fully evolved songs?
The answer: we'd get an even more kickass album! Peace Sells...but Who's Buying, which will henceforth be referred to as simply "Peace Sells", was released just a year after their first album. As good as that album was, though, this one's a considerable improvement, with some of the band's all-time greatest tracks. The production is much better; although for most songs I prefer the 2004 remastered edition due to its often superior drum sound, the original doesn't sound too bad. Dated, yes; this album is drenched in reverb, as many low-budget thrash releases at that time often were. But it sounds thicker, and no longer excessively quiet. The remastered edition clips often and is loud enough to diminish the dynamics, but compare both versions of Devil's Island and tell me which one has more powerful percussion.
Speaking of percussion, Gar Samuelson lends his jazz fusion tinged talents for the last time on an official Megadeth studio recording. Some rather brief sparks of him showing off can be heard in Devil's Island, Good Mourning/Black Friday, Bad Omen (which features a pretty impressive beat before it speeds up), and My Last Words. David Ellefson is still a fantastic bassist, although he seems to be less highlighted here in favor of Mustaine and Poland's impressive chops. With that being said, you just can't beat that intro to Peace Sells. But now that I've mentioned them, Dave Mustaine and Chris Poland are ***ing awesome guitarists. Marty Friedman gets a lot of well deserved love, but Chris Poland does a great job and keeping up with Dave's always-impeccable performance. Dave Mustaine isn't my favorite vocalist in the world (or at least, not lately), but he totally rips here. He doesn't sound as raw here, but something about his voice seems to indicate that he's settled more firmly into his role as the lead vocalist of Megadeth.
Peace Sells is certainly more refined than its predecessor. But in no way does that mean that this album has lost an ounce of heaviness. This is affirmed right away as Dave snarls his way through the menacing beginning to the opener, Wake Up Dead. Almost all the vocals in this song are in the first and last 30 seconds, meaning that this track is mainly a riff-o-rama. Many songs on this album contain at least one awesome riff that you can point to as the track's high point. The pummeling riff starting about a minute in would qualify well enough here. At the two minute mark, Megadeth shows that they hadn't softened up any during their brief period of evolution. Gar Samuelson pounds away at full speed behind the kit while Dave and Chris launch into one of those trademark fast chugging thrash riffs. Then things get even more crushing before. "YOU! DIE!"
Gang vocals tend not to be Megadeth's forte, but they're utilized pretty neatly here. If you thought the last song was heavy, wait until you get into The Conjuring. The lyrics to this song (as well as a couple other tracks here, namely Good Mourning/Black Friday and Bad Omen) contain occult/satanic themes. A fairly typical lyrical topic in metal, but Megadeth pulls it off with style. The Conjuring switches between some high-speed riffage and menacing power chords, and is a fun listen at first, even if the filter over Dave's voice comes across as cheesy and not-at-all menacing. Soon, though, comes one of the best riffs on the entire album, at around 2:55 ish. I feel it important to point out this particular section, because this ultra-heavy, stunning, crushing freaking RIFF
solidifies this album instantly as one of Megadeth's greats. It's just that good, especially with Gar's pummeling work behind the kit complimenting it brilliantly. After this point, the song kind of fizzles out, but it's okay, because that riff is in this track and therefore makes listening to it worthwhile.
Hot off the heels of those two crushers is the less lethal title track, which is a million and a half tons of fun. Dave's sarcastic lyrics and vocal delivery make this song. Can't forget the bass intro, which was the MTV News jingle way back in the day. Back to the music, though! Is Peace Sells (the track) ultra heavy like the last two songs? No. Is it ultra technical and progressive? No. It doesn't have to be, though, because it's quite memorable and fun. Especially with that outro! Devil's Island is a return to heaviness, featuring an opening that's very ominous and heavier than a tank filled to the brim with cinderblocks. How about the rest of the song? It has all the heavy and memorable riffage that one would associate with this album, although I wouldn't call it a standout. Coming afterwards is my personal favorite Megadeth song. Good Mourning/Black Friday is an absolute masterpiece, and their most evil song, probably, smoking everything they'd released before or since. Loved to Death comes close, but can't match this. The first part, Good Mourning, is atmospheric, setting a sinister tone even with its super cheesy title. It opens with some eerie acoustic guitar work. Then they expertly transition to some shredding and electric-guitar driven riffs. Then comes Dave on vocals. "Something's comin' over me...what the *** is this?" Suddenly, they transition to this wicked riff with evil sounding shredding to match. That's right, it's Black Friday! Once things calm down for a second, in comes another absolutely ***ing lethal
riff, which the first verse is built off of. Now, Megadeth is hardly known for writing gruesome, grisly lyrics. Black Friday, on the other hand, takes full advantage of this lyrical cliche popularized by bands like Slayer, and Dave's snarling vocal performance sounds like he really does "grin while you writhe with the pain that I deal". Up until Endgame's Headcrusher, I wouldn't imagine Megadeth would ever write a song like this again! If that wasn't heavy enough, they go into another brutal riff, only now things are also going at full speed. Dave's lyrics get more sick here. "The remains of their flesh now sop under my feet/One more bloody massacre, the murder's complete!" This song not only features some great soloing to top it off, but a super memorable...chorus? If you can call it that, since it's at the end of the song. "It's black Friday
! Paint the devil on the wall!"
What could follow that? How about another ominous, heavy song featuring more lyrics that Dave Mustaine doesn't want to sing live anymore now that he's all born again? It's Bad Omen, and the intro kicks your ass six ways from Sunday. Most of the song after that seems a bit underwhelming, not particularly slicing or pummeling, or too memorable. Then, with screeching shredding to match, they suddenly start flying at mach seven. At this point, Dave Mustaine's incredible talent on the fretboard is showcased. This song's thrashy conclusion really saves it. I Ain't Superstitious is a metal-tinged remake of a classic blues track, making Peace Sells the second Megadeth album in a row to feature a rather unorthodox cover. Megadeth's version sure is a lot of fun. My Last Words is our closer, and it features an atmospheric acoustic guitar driven opening, which means you could kinda sorta maybe draw a connection between it and Good Mourning/Black Friday. This song, originally titled Next Victim, is a memorable thrasher with lyrics about Russian Roulette. It's already pretty good, but the ending is particularly impressive and a nice way to wrap up the album, with memorable and emotional riffing and shredding. "You! YOU!
Next victim! You! Next to die!" A loud shout of "DIE!" is probably the best way to end Peace Sells, which stands as the heaviest overall Megadeth record.
Megadeth refined their sound and released a much more developed collection of songs that contain some of the band's (AKA Dave's) best qualities. The riffs are memorable, but here they're more cutting and/or pummeling than usual. The soloing is top notch, as it should be on a Megadeth album. Dave Mustaine is, after all, a very talented guitarist. Poland's leads are great too, and it seems to me that he doesn't get as much recognition as the "other guitarist" as he deserves. Yeah, Marty Friedman is a great guitarist too, and deserves the praise given to him, but Poland/Mustaine is still a worthy shredding duo. I have a hard time resisting giving this a 5/5. Sorry, but weaker moments in otherwise awesome tracks like Devil's Island, Bad Omen, and The Conjuring keep me from awarding Peace Sells with a perfect score. It's still just about worthy of being on the legendary Rust in Peace's level, though. 4.5/5
RECOMMENDED TRACKS/BEST OF:
Wake Up Dead
The Conjuring (That riff!)
Good Mourning/Black Friday
My Last Words