"Rust In Peace"
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Megadeth has always been the backwards little brother of Metallica. It came into thrash behind Metallica (as a result of vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine having been kicked out of the latter), and by the time "Rust in Peace" came out in 1990, Metallica had already moved on to more radio-friendly heavy metal. "Rust" may have been Megadeth's last foray into thrash, but it was by far the band's effort. I was thrilled to see it included in 1001 Albums, because it's a criminally underrated album that competes strongly with thrash landmarks like "Master of Puppets," which overshadow it.
Understanding thrash to be a form of metal driven by rapid rhythms and aggressive guitars, Megadeth falls somewhere between the constant assault of Slayer and the grand arrangements of Metallica (which took no issue with hitting the brakes for aesthetic value). Megadeth tries to stay fast; it doesn't feel the need for "Fade to Black"-style ballads (with the exception of the skippable "Dawn Patrol" here). Mustaine's strength as a guitarist is his ability as a soloist. There has long been debate over who's better, Mustaine or Kirk Hammet from Metallica, and in reality Mustaine is more qualified as a lead guitar player. What gives Metallica the advantage is James Hetfield's riff-writing, as well as his vocal ability. Vocals are always an opinion-based thing, but I find Mustaine's nasally delivery annoying. If you can, get the original recording of this album, and not the 2004 remaster, where he sounds worse with age.
Caveats about Megadeth aside, "Rust in Peace" is one of the few thrash albums still worth your time. Take your pick from any of the opening three tracks: "Holy Wars (The Punishment Due)," "Hangar 18" and "Take No Prisoners," and you won't lose.
The opener is the highlight of Megadeth's discography. The track begins with a minute-thirty of rapid riffing, giving a preview of what the following 40 minutes will hold. The lyrics are the socio-political fare that people expect from Mustaine, covering religious warfare (believe it or not). The song then delves into "The Punishment Due," a track-within-a-track, before finishing off at the same blistering pace it began on. And of course there's a solo, so the song encompasses everything that Megadeth and Mustaine stand for.
"Hangar 18" focuses more on the solos, a series of dueling blasts from Mustaine and fellow guitarist Marty Friedman that "Guitar Hero" players are more than familiar with. "Take No Prisoners" is the fastest track on the album, and is more compact for listeners who can't handle the seven-minute thrash epics. The most underrated track on the album has got to be "Tornado of Souls," a song that, despite its awful title, features the catchiest hook on the record and an excellent solo of its own. Realistically, it should have been an answering single to what Metallica was putting out at the time. Closing the album out is the equally excellent "Polaris (Rust in Peace)."
Perhaps the thing that made "Rust in Peace" Megadeth's best album is that the band finally had its act together. It was the first time the band had made it through a recording without firing the producer. The "Rust" lineup was also the best group of four musicians the band ever had, in a history that has seen quite a few members come and go. The pure and simple problem is that Mustaine has always been inconsistent as a songwriter, and most of Megadeth's albums are pure filler as a result. However, if a metal band can only put out one good full album, "Rust In Peace" is worth all the other crap.
INTERESTING FACT: "Rust in Peace" is Megadeth's fourth studio album…and its first not to feature an ellipsis in the title.