Review Summary: Megadeth's finest hour. More consistent than Peace Sells, and even more well written. And not only is it their best album overall, but it's also their best album without an ellipsis in the full title!
Rust in Peace is simply Megadeth's best release ever. It will never be topped, thanks to to the powerful combination of sheer energy exuded from tracks like Poison Was the Cure, crushing heaviness on display in tracks like Holy Wars and Take No Prisoners, the fun grooves of songs like Lucretia, master class shredding in tracks like Hangar 18 and Tornado of Souls, and the technical virtuosity and magnificent performances of the entire band that keeps everything together.
Rust in Peace is the first Megadeth LP to feature Nick Menza on drums and Marty Friedman on guitar. Them plus Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson are Megadeth's most successful and recognizable lineup. Nick Menza is awesome behind the kit, plain and simple. Then there's David Ellefson, who gets quite a few moments on this album like on the introductions to Poison Was the Cure and Five Magics, or all of Dawn Patrol, which he's credited with composing. Marty Friedman and Dave Mustaine are the true stars of this record, though, spitting out intricate and ***ing delicious solos and riffage like you wouldn't believe. Rust in Peace is Megadeth's greatest example of being able to play memorable music while also staying true to their heavy metal roots. Rust in Peace is in some ways the most melodic album that Megadeth put out at the time, but there's unmistakeably enough thrash metal power to leave your neck sour after the record's conclusion.
Holy Wars' opening riffage (I counted five riffs, although that's perhaps not the most conservative estimate) affirms that sobriety hasn't made Dave and his band soften up by any means. The lyrics are hard-edged enough, too. "Brother will kill brother/Spilling blood across the land! Killing for religion/Something I don't understand!" Good ***. Mustaine's snarling vocal delivery supports the heaviness pouring down on all fronts. Then they slow down for a mega-crunchy section, The Punishment Due, that features more master class soloing. Soon after, they reprise the Holy Wars section, only at full ***ing speed! Not just fast riffage and percussion here, either; Mustaine and Friedman ***ing shred
like beasts here. Holy Wars...The Punishment Due (the title for the whole song), the album's longest track, is one of the finest offerings in Megadeth's diverse discography. The best way to follow that classic track is with another that will go on to become a live staple and fan favorite, right? Hangar 18 is pretty much entirely guitar driven, with premium Mustaine/Friedman riffwork and shreddage that really exemplifies just what makes this album work
so well. As melodic as this song starts out, don't let your guard down, because almost three minutes in the song transitions to its second half, which basically comprises of pummeling, layered riffage and incredibly skillful shredding, with some shots of speed in there.
Take No Prisoners is, of course, ***ing awesome, but it brings up an important issue with this album: the original (non-remastered) release is simply better. Sure, the drums are awesome in the remastered edition, but the album, as is the norm with remasters, is now much louder and therefore now mostly lacks dynamics. What makes this remaster in particular bad, however, is that Dave lost the vocal tracks to some songs and had to use alternate takes and/or new recordings for certain tracks. The closing track doesn't sound too bad with alternate takes, but Lucretia just sounds silly now. Those who have only heard the original should check out the remastered editions and weep at the much weaker gang vocals in Take No Prisoners, not to mention the now outright goofy growls in Five Magics. Sorry Dave, but thanks to this unfortunate problem, I'd recommend passing on the remixed and remastered reissues.
Back to the music, though; Take No Prisoners is, as previously stated, ***ing awesome. This one's heavy as ***, and more proof that adding more melody doesn't mean you really have
to sacrifice too much heaviness. The Slayer-esque riff just before the (also pretty heavy) main riff kicks in will no doubt bring back memories of the brutality of Peace Sells' Good Mourning/Black Friday. There's even a brief and very cool bass lick in there! Grim lyrics about World War II reinforce this track's heaviness. "No one knew what would happen there/No one knew, no one even cared!" And who could forget the way this song closes? "Take no prisoners! Take no ***!
" Five Magics, being the fourth consecutive stew of brutal and memorable riffs and solos that comprise this album, is no slouch either, featuring a very cool opening centered around a cool, ominous bass riff from David Ellefson, with some guitar work. The fact that said section repeats slightly detracts from the song's momentum, but that can be forgiven, because the song soon blasts away at full speed. This one's already plenty heavy enough, before they speed up and there's deeper vocals. These deeper vocals are said to be the voice of Vic Rattlehead, and are performed as...I guess a growl is the best way to put it? They're certainly low and hoarse.
Up next is two less than heavy yet more than stellar tracks. Poison is the Cure brings its own punk-influenced sound to the table, not really resembling much of the rest of the album. Hot off the heals of that fast smoker is the awesome Lucretia. Not lethal or fast thrash, but it is incredibly fun, and I've gained new appreciation for sick-ass grooves in this song over the years. The outro to this song won't make you rattle your goddamn head, but it is nonetheless silky smooth. Tornado of Souls is another one of Megadeth's greatest songs, yet again featuring orgasmic guitar work. I'm also quite fond of Dave Mustaine's vocals in this song as well. I can't really describe what makes this song great in words without doing it injustice, but rest assured that it's an incredibly memorable outing. Dawn Patrol is a filler track, but at least David Ellefson's bass riff is awesome. Don't ask me why, but I get the feeling that Mustaine's strange vocals here ended up inspiring Johnathan Davis of Korn. Someone's going to be pissed at me for that one, but oh well. The final track, which is really a medley of two different tracks (They were really into doing that back then, weren't they?), is given the title "Rust In Peace...Polaris". The first portion features some tuneless snarling from Dave, and a driving heavy riff. The chorus, with a cool growl from Dave and double-bass drumming from Nick, is particularly effective. You might've noticed that after the intro, there isn't much soloing. Don't worry, because Polaris, the raging and ultra freaking heavy thrashing conclusion, features more than enough lightning-fast riffage and shredding. Dave's actually pretty badass growl (POLARIS!) closes the album.
Or at least, it does in the original. The remastered edition features some bonus tracks. My Creation is an obviously unfinished and very undeveloped leftover, is at least crushingly heavy, but that's not enough to carry it. There are three demos here as well, and vocally Dave seems to be in a transitional phase between his '80s vocal style and his slightly more refined (yet certainly aggressive) vocal style on Rust in Peace. The first two of three demos here are quite interesting. The Rust in Peace...Polaris demo features no tone-deaf snarling during the verses. Instead, Dave sings his way through, and it's actually less effective. Holy Wars...The Punishment Due features less effective soloing. The fact that the album version is so much more polished in that front only shows just how much effort went into the guitar work on this album.
Dave and Marty's achievements on the fretboard in this release are absolutely monumental. The guitar work is definitely what makes this a standout album. But there's more to this record than just "Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman are talented guitarists". Dave Mustaine's songwriting was at its absolute peak here. There's melody, heaviness, and incredible technical prowess here on Megadeth's most accomplished and developed set of songs. Rust in Peace is a stone cold classic metal album from start to finish, essential for anyone who calls themselves a fan of thrash and especially technical thrash. I have no hesitation whatsoever in giving this magnum opus a 5/5.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS/BEST OF:
Holy Wars...The Punishment Due
Take No Prisoners
***, I'm gonna be listing the whole thing here! You know what? The whole album!