Review Summary: Don't look now to Israel, it might be YOUR homeland!This is an attempt to make up for my previous review of Rust in Peace, which was met with universal criticism. I understand now that "essence in brevity" cannot alone make a review, and some more substance is required. Apologies to anyone who was offended and hopefully this will be better.
Once upon a time...
Somewhere in 1988, the group Megadeth undertook a tour to promote its then-latest recording So far, so good... so what!. Among the many venues of this tour was the particular town of Antrim, Northern Ireland -- a parish of small stature and no great historic significance. Legends say that, on the night of the show, slightly prior to the band's taking the stage, Megadeth chieftain Dave Mustaine witnessed a street merchant peddling vests bearing the script "For the cause!" close to the venue. Not being well versed in the political standing at the time, and the proverbial Troubles of Ireland, Mr Mustaine unwisely decided that the writing on the shirt alluded to the cause of Metal.
And, later that day, when the concert struck its midhour, Mr Mustaine made an interjection between two songs to declare "This next one's for the Cause!"
The crowd erupted into a frenzy, which, according to varying reports, may or may not have led to the concert being abruptly and forcefully concluded by the authorities and the band being taken away from Northern Ireland in an armoured vehicle.
This infamous occurrence led Mr Mustaine to become more acquainted with the political workings of the world and inspired him to write the song Holy Wars... The Punishment Due, which would become the opening song of the band's magnum opus – Rust in Peace.
Let's take a brief glance of how the world looked like in 1990, through the prism of a choice theme – in this case, religious politism:
There was no 9/11. There was no bombing attack on the World Trade Center. The First Gulf War hadn't started yet, and the Second one was ways away. Same for the Chechen wars. The dissolution of Yugoslavia, combined with the huge ethno-religious conflict it suffered was yet to occur. The memory of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was gone, largely because it was an unsuccessful attempt. The Iran-Iraq war had ended, leaving the Middle East in a temporary, but secure peace. Carlos the Jackal was labelled a “neutralized threat”. There were no terrorist attacks on the London metro. The Soviets had barely pulled out of Afghanistan.
There was no terrorist state that vowed the destruction of the entire civilised world. People did not get offended by petty satire to the point where they would go out to commit mass murder. Muslim immigration to Europe was in numbers too small to cause worry.
Terms like “holy war” were a forgotten relic not to have been remembered for almost a millenium...
So Rust in Peace came out in 1990.
Looking at the lyrics of “Holy Wars”, some passages stand out:
“Brother will kill brother spilling blood across the land. Killing for religion...“
”Do you kill on God's command"”
”The end is near, it's crystal clear, part of the Master Plan”
”Don't look now to Israel, it might be in your homeland”
I am absolutely, positively certain that when people looked at those lyrics when this album first came out, they were convinced that they were reading the distorted ramblings of a schizophrenic. Surely, none of those lines would have made any sense in anyone's mind in 1990.
And funnily enough, I have a quote ready, a brief excerpt from a 1991 interview, from some forgotten metal magazine, with Scott Ian of Anthrax, which I chanced upon. Here's what he had to say about Megadeth's then-latest effort:
“I dоn’t gеt it, dоn’t like it, its аll оvеr the place, where is he gоing with this, doesn’t make sense to me”
, et cetera.
And an additional quote by Mark Prindle, which rings truths for the ages:
”Of the bands of the so-called Big Four, Metallica is the most accessible, Megadeth is the most technical, Slayer is the most aggressive; and Anthrax is the most undeserving of being included.”
Let's face it: Scott Ian was a simple cat who grew up in the limiting environment of the streets of Queens and whose interests began and ended with comic book heroes and Stephen King books.
And what we are essentially witnessing right here in Scott's words is a limited musician's fear and awe, and lack of understanding, that occur when confronted with true art, with true greatness. Scott Ian was afraid. Because when he heard this album, he was met with the sudden unrealised terrifying epiphany that he will never produce anything that will come even close to the genius of Rust in Peace.
Either that, or inadequacy. Because Scott Ian didn't see. He didn't have Mustaine's vision. And, even worse, he could not even conceive putting himself behind Mustaine's eye sockets. He could never, nor will ever imagine the picture that Dave Mustaine saw and continues to see today: Those small seeds, those little events described in my initial paragraphs that predated 1990, which grew into those big carnivorous plants (also listed in my initial paragraphs) which postdated it. Seeds which later on, much later on than Rust in Peace, would potentially catalyze this all-consuming worldwide phenomenon that might just as well unfurl the apocalyptic vision that “Holy Wars” offers.
You can think whatever you like about Mustaine's political aptitude. In the recent years, he's made statements which would put him beyond redemption on any political and moral spectrum. But it has to be fuсking recognised that he was never one to resort to infantile rhetoric like “Jesus sucks!” and “Fuсk the system!” which some other prominent
bands based their entire discographies on.
In 1990, those lyrics from Holy Wars which I quoted above earned him the title Dave Insane.
It's 2015 now, and we have the historical perspective of a quarter of a century.
Maybe it's time to title him Dave the Prophet.
And it just might be in your homeland
very soon, folks. Very soon, there might not be any more time for a foolish, naïve stand
. God have mercy.
So yeah, time to actually review the music here.
Let's start backwards, with the bad.
I can only ever accept one valid criticism of Rust in Peace, and it's... wait for it... NOT Dave's vocals. Dave is not a talented singer, but his voice has attitude that fits the style of the band perfectly. End of discussion.
It's the album's production. Dave wanted to have that smooth and accessible sound that ..And Justice for All had. That dry, clinical sound, with the muted mids. It was a bad idea. He would have benefitted more from a louder, more colourful and boisterous mix.
And then the good:
Listen, do I really have to" I've written 3 pages of text already, give me a break.
We all know that there is not a single bad song here. Not a single boring moment, not a single incongruous transition, not a single weak note. We've spun the record enough times to the point where we can hum even the solos. From the invigorating opening gestures of Holy Wars, through the magnificently, virtuosically weaved solos of Hangar 18, Tornado and Lucretia, to the final, annihilating pumelling blasts of the Title Track, we have heard pure perfection.
Oh, and Dawn Patrol is a song that needs to be there. Because if it weren't, the juxtaposition of Tornado and Souls and RIP...Polaris would have been too much. How nice of Mustaine to spare us the emotional overload by including this brief, yet effective interlude inbetween the two. That is the awareness of a great musician and composer.
The true testament to this album's greatness is the fact that, whereas all the other bands of the "Big 4" were somewhat influential in the metal scene, Megadeth really wasn't... I mean, all the other three bands' marks on the genre are obvious. But there isn't quite a band that succeeded in mimicking Rust in Peace. Because Rust in Peace is inimitable. Megadeth is inimitable.
Hats off to the greatest album in metal history.