Review Summary: Huge moments interspersed with mediocrity
Megadeth's second effort showcases great development compared to their debut. Where riffs in Killing is My Business were random and mismatched, in Peace Sells they are more coherent and catchy. If production on KIMB was messy thanks to its budget being spent on party stuff, that of PSBWB is clearer and helpful in discerning the talented musicianship underwork. If KIMB was composed mostly of juvenile headbangers, PSBWB is a tad darker, adding politics and the occult to the mix.
For all its strong sides though, PSBWB is somehow lacking something
. Killing is My Business was charming in its deranged eccentricity, and Rust in Peace will later on become immense with its larger-than-life virtuosity, but Peace Sells is somehow mired in the boring subject matter of its lyrics. As much as I love the absolutely huge riffs and solos on Wake Up Dead
, the latter of which are among Mustaine's finest, ultimately it is still a song about getting smashed and cheating on your girlfriend. I mean, really... Yes, Megadeth were party animals back in the day, and always a band to have that cosmopolitan sleaze and in its lyrics, but in this case it's just, well... classless... for lack of a better word.
Meanwhile, Dave & Co. don't come up as very convincing acolytes to the occult as well. Just look at the lyrics of The Conjuring
Arrange the symbols,
Of the wizard, and, magician,
Light the candles,
Place the parchment paper in position,
Between its leaves place,
The lash from a black cat's eye,
A straw of a broom,
Fold, and, burn, and, centralise,
and then again, those of Bad Omen
Sacrifice the virgins,
Their master's time has come,
The moon is full tonight.
Feels like Dave Mustaine had a "Things-to-include-in-lyrics-to-make-them-sound-more-sinister" checklist, and it shows. And his ever-present whining vocal delivery does not help in that aim.
Leaving the failed attempts at occultism aside, Devil's Island
, a song about a convict facing execution, is just plain boring with its idiotic shouted chorus and endless meandering gallops.
However, despite all these shortcomings, Peace Sells... but Who's Buying" is still an excellent album. Yes, I slagged The Conjuring
for its lyrics, but you simply can't ignore its absolutely huge riff -- you know the one, the one that kicks in at 2:56. Yes, Bad Omen
is unimaginative, but its opening bassline is rightfully wicked. Yes, the title track
succeeds every bit in being infectiously groovy, and the lyrics are extremely singalong-able. Even the oddball cover of I ain't Superstitious
succeeds in being fun and lightening up the album.
A very high point in the album is Good Mourning... Black Friday
, the one song where the dark magic theme does succeed. Opening with a chillingly beautiful intro, the song introduces us the story of a man who becomes possessed by some evil force and goes on a killing spree. After the intro is finished, the listener is subjected to four minutes of absolute riff madness that make the song so insane, so sinister, that it's singlehandedly the most brutal track in Megadeth's catalog, and among the top most brutal tracks in metal altogether. Other thrash and/or death bands can only hope to make half-witted attempts at the deliciously bloody mess that this song is. Yes, Slayer and Cannibal Corpse, I am talking to you. You've overdone the blood & gore theme, and managed to lose its novelty factor. Megadeth did the blood & gore theme once, and they did it with style and attitude, without repeating it ad nauseum.
And of course, one cannot ignore the album's closer, My Last Words
. A song about russian roulette, this song is surprisingly upbeat. Like Good Mourning, it opens with a haunting intro, but then kicks off into a full rock'n'roll thrashfest culminating in an absolutely magnificent solo. You can almost imagine the pistol's drum spinning hearing the main riff to this one.
Overall, Peace Sells... but Who's Buying is an album which has its downsides, but which, more importantly, shows development
and hints at what Megadeth are capable of doing when unleashing their full potential -- an event that happened two albums later.
- Wake Up Dead
- Peace Sells
- Good Mourning/Black Friday
- My Last Words