Review Summary: The Greatest Album From One Of The Greatest Bands
When the topic of best metal bands comes up, there are a few bands you can guarantee will always come up. Megadeth is one of those bands. Bridging the gap, stylistically at least, between mainstream and "underground" thrash metal, Megadeth does a spectacular job of both appealing to new fans of metal, and to those who've been fans for years. While they are responsible for some of the best and most iconic metal albums of all time, Rust in Peace is the one that sits atop their metaphorical hill, a shining example of what metal is capable of when done right. It is an album that has been lauded by fans like few other albums have, an album that is ingrained into the minds of metalheads' as a classic, and deserving so.
Firstly, there is the songwriting. Dave has always been a spectacular song writer, and this is the album on which his talents are displayed in their fullest. Every song here is unique and special in its own way, yet the whole album feels cohesive. None of the songs here feel out of place, yet all stand out. It's a feat to behold, as I find this is where most albums fall apart. Other than perhaps Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, I have yet to hear an album that manages to perfectly work as a whole, while simultaneously having every song work on their own merits. Every riff on this album is memorable, and every song is filled with musical twists and turns. Almost every song will surprise you with where it goes on your first listen. This complexity in song structure is what really gives the songs on Rust in Peace their replay value. Since every idea musically is only explored for a short time, you always want to come back for more. I have listened to this album over 20 times through and I still find myself intrigued with every second of music.
While I will mention every musician here, I think that a full paragraph is needed to discuss Megadeth's biggest asset, Marty Friedman. While Dave is a very good guitarist in his own right, I honestly do not think there is a single guitarist in all of metal that can hold a candle to Friedman. He is able to play at lightning speed, yet never overwhelms the listener. His solos are absolutely amazing to listen to, as they astonish both technically and rhythmically. Every solo here, just like the songs as a whole, stand out from each other while still feeling tonally united. The real jewel in Mr. Friedman's crown is easily the solo from Tornado of Souls, considered by many to be the greatest guitar solo in all of metal. This is a position that I myself tend to take. The solo is both beautiful and badass. Words alone can not do this solo justice, nor can they really do any of his solos justice. Marty Friedman is the master of melodic shredding, and his mastery is highlighted on this album like nowhere else.
While none of the other musicians stand out to the degree that Marty Friedman does, that isn't to take away from everyone else's performances. Nick Menza is a fantastic drummer. While you probably won't notice his work much, especially on your first listen, his drumming is very, VERY interesting. It both works as a background instrument that propels the music forward, while also being good enough to be the main focus of any given song if the listener decides to focus on him. His drumming almost reminds me of a metal take on jazz. This is a sound that other Megadeth drummers have experimented with in the past, most notably Gar Samuelson. As with any Megadeth album, Dave Mustaine plays some amazing riffs, and Rust in Peace has perhaps the best of his whole career. His playing is some of the most intricate in all of thrash metal, yet often follows a very simple melody. It is almost as if Dave writes a simple riff, and then adds layers of complexity upon that original riff. This is what really makes Megadeth stand out, as there are real melodies in their songs, yet every song is fascinatingly complex. Dave Ellefson provides bass work, and is probably the only thing really disappointing about this album. Not to say his bass playing is bad per se, just that it stands out as being the least impressive. It's like being a low end Ferrari at a car show. Sure it isn't the nicest thing there, but judged on its own merits, it is still fantastic. His bass playing doesn't so much stand out on it's own usually as it provides an almost counter melody to the guitar. While those counter melodies aren't typically anything terribly impressive, the fact that they are there makes his bass playing stand out, as most thrash bass players simply play in the background, often being so similar in part to the guitars that it is confused WITH the guitar. As for the vocals, you'll either love them or hate them. This is what turns most non-Megadeth fans from Megadeth. Dave's voice is both raspy and nasally. While I think this gives his voice an almost punk snobbishness to it, it can be very off putting to some people. While his voice is like that on all albums, his voice is at its best here, in my opinion.
The lyrics from Megadeth are another point of contention for many people. While they are often political, it sometimes seems that Dave doesn't completly know what he's talking about, making assumptions to fill the gaps. However, that isn't really present on Rust in Peace. For the most part, it seems that Dave speaks vaguely enough to avoid needing specifics, which both helps make the politics more enjoyable to listen to and help gloss over the lack of detailed knowledge. Holy Wars is about Middle East involvement, Hanger 18 is about secret government programs, and the title track about a nuclear holocaust. None of the songs here go into too much detail, and none take themselves too seriously. They both have a serious meaning, yet playful attitude. They all take a fun approach to relatively serious topics, while never crossing into camp or humor. They all kid on the square to some degree.
In short, Megadeth's Rust In Peace stands out as a thrash album that even many people who dislike metal can enjoy. It's one album that I believe that every person who considers music a passion of theirs should listen to, if only for the purpose of having a better understanding of musical history. If I were to make a "Five metal albums you should listen to before you die" list, I can guarantee that this would be on there. If you've never listened to it, you should change that as soon as possible