Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?



by Spaten USER (8 Reviews)
March 23rd, 2017 | 13 replies

Release Date: 1986 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Occultism, arena rock and a blues cover

1986 saw the releases of what many would consider genre-defining classics of Thrash Metal with Metallica's Master of Puppets and Slayer's Reign in Blood being the most notable examples. Megadeth, in an attempt to forge their own identity, try to hybridize the most successful components of the music of their contemporaries with elements of arena rock, while upgrading the level of musicianship. The result, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, ends up being a somewhat awkward mixture of diverging ideas that lacks a cohesive artistic vision.

Most of the ealy Thrash Metal acts released an energetic and youthful but fairly straight forward debut album and only really came into their own on their second album. Metallica's Kill 'Em All was fun and sounded fresh but does not measure up to Ride the Lightning, which was much more ambitious and multi-dimensional. Similarly, Slayer released the stellar Show No Mercy but Hell Awaits ended up being ultimately more representative of their style as well as far more influential to the developing underground scene. After the frantic and messy Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! Megadeth also tried to step up their game for their sophomore release. They looked to their contemporaries for ideas. In this regard, the inclusion of several songs that attempt to explore the more violent and occult side of metal is notable, perhaps motivated by the success of Slayer with incorporating such themes at the time. 'The Conjuring', 'Bad Omen' and 'Good Mourning/Black Friday' all start off with creepy and haunting intros, with the latter two songs conjuring some apocalyptic sentiments, before transitioning into a violent outburst of furious riffs. On these two tracks, however, Megadeth lose sight of where they are heading about halfway though the songs, as the music starts feeling somewhat static, which is unfortunate, given the very effective build up in both tracks. 'The Conjuring' remains fairly convincing throughout but still does not manifest the same level of power and terror as a good Slayer song. I suppose the band noticed that they weren't quite operating within a framework that was suitable for them, considering that they largely dispensed with such ideas on later albums.

'Wake up Dead', 'My Last Words' and the title track incorporate some of the aforementioned arena rock tendencies in form of the bouncy hooks, shouted choruses and an abundance of flashy guitar solos. These tracks end up being fairly upbeat with 'Wake up Dead' featuring Mustaine's best lead guitar work on this album. This isn't saying too much however, since a lot of Mustaine's soloing here is messy and unexceptional (Chris Poland, the second guitarist, is the superior lead player). The title track is fairly uninspired as a metal song, perhaps mainly meant as a vehicle for the lyrical message and to appeal to a larger audience with its catchy phrases and guitar showmanship, which seems especially likely given the fact that a music video for the track was released. 'Devil's Island', perhaps the weakest of the original songs on the album, falls somewhere in between the two aforementioned categories, featuring an intro riff based on what could be considered one of the most cliché ideas in metal along with another hooky, shouted chorus. As such, the album suffers not just from the inconsequential nature of individual tracks, but also from the lack of thematic unity when the album is seen as a whole. The band's decision to include a blues cover on a Thrash Metal further exemplifies this problem.

The few great moments hint at the unrealized potential in this album, which is ultimately short-sightet and caught up between incongruent ideas. Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? is worth a listen if you are looking for an accessible Thrash Metal album that points into a few different directions in which the genre developed at the time, but the ideas on this album were ultimately realized in a more complete and articulate fashion by other bands.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
March 23rd 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

I'm buying bootleg concert cassette tapes from this era, who's selling?

March 23rd 2017


Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

"featuring an intro riff based on what could be considered one of the most cliché ideas in metal"

which is?

March 23rd 2017


y a nan

March 23rd 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

which is?

starting on the root and ending on the diminished fifth (tritone) which would be e to b flat in the key of e minor. its mostly either done in the form of low e - high e - b flat or (like in devils island) e - b - b flat.

some famous examples and variations can be found in black sabbath - black sabbath, diamond head - am i evil, bathory - a fine day to die or in call of ktulu by metallica and probably a million others

i am not saying it is necessarily a bad thing to use this idea, a lot of great songs were written with it obviously

March 23rd 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

fenriz knows what im talking about:

March 24th 2017


I dunno, you really gotta respect that this came out in '86. The album was ground breaking and still holds its worth today imo

March 24th 2017


was listening to this while showering/shaving the other day, what a great record. that riff in the second half of The Conjuring holy shit

March 24th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

The Conjuring does indeed go fucking hard

Well written review, though I obviously disagree

March 24th 2017


Good album but its no R.I.P lvl

March 24th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

Back when I first got into metal, I listened to a lot of Megadeth and I always felt that this album was cooler than RIP to be honest. Not sure how I feel about it these days

March 26th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

I agree with Bloc. It's easy to finger point at an album 30 years after it was made, but at the time this album was the shit. Excellent review and thanks.

February 12th 2018


Album Rating: 4.0

'Wake up Dead', 'My Last Words' and the title track incorporate some of the aforementioned arena rock tendencies in form of the bouncy hooks, shouted choruses.....

Er... dude, these songs don't even have choruses (not in the traditional sense anyway), wtf...

February 12th 2018


Album Rating: 3.0

Fair point, but they don't take the place that a chorus usually takes in a song, they are more like song finales or whatever, but they have a lot of characteristics of a chorus.

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