Thursday, April 28, 2011

Megadeth - Rust in Peace (1990)

Rust In Peace is the fourth full-length album from one of the elite bands of American Thrash Metal, Megadeth. Recorded in early 1990 at Rumbo Studios, and produced by Mike Clink (the first producer to make it through an entire Megadeth session without getting axed), the L.P. was released in September of that year. Considering when the material was written, this record features one of the final gasps of the 80s Thrash scene, as most bands would soon travel down a path of damnation and misery. This album featured yet another line-up, as Jeff Young and Chuck Behler were replaced by Marty Friedman and Nick Menza. Despite the hardships, Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson persevered and put together a tight unit capable of bringing to life one of the real masterpieces of the time period.

This was my first Megadeth album, and has always maintained a certain amount of sentimental value. In fact, it was one of the first Thrash Metal albums that I ever acquired, and part of a core group of releases that served as the measuring stick by which many other bands were judged, as I began delving deeper into this music. There was a time when this cassette was constantly in my portable tape player, accompanying me on many early morning walks to the school bus stop (and occasionally being listened to, at a low volume, during class). Nearly two decades later, I can't say that I even have a favourite album by this band anymore, as each one possesses its own charm.

Side A begins with "Holy Wars... the Punishment Due", which opens with one of the best thrash riffs ever written. Right away, one can tell that the production is cleaner than on the previous album, which almost does a disservice to the material. The guitars are thicker and the sound is reminiscent of that of their sophomore effort. While So Far, So Good... So What! seemed chaotic, at times, it is very clear that this is a group of musicians that are much tighter and up to the task of creating something special. The first couple minutes of the song are rather intense, and the lyrics deal with the Northern Ireland conflict. Oddly enough, there is a musical shift that accompanies a change in lyrical focus, which then describe a comic book character. This mid-paced section is memorable, but nothing compared to the shredding that follows. As the song progresses, the intensity builds again and it builds to a vicious crescendo, with the first riff returning to pummel the listener into complete submission.

The next song is "Hangar 18", which starts out with a somewhat melancholy chord progression. While clocking in at just over five minutes, the track has an epic vibe that is similar to the way Mercyful Fate would construct their songs. There are lyrics, which deal with UFOs and government cover-ups, but the song feels like an instrumental, in a sense. It is packed with killer riffs and great solo work from both Mustaine and Friedman. By this point, one gets a sense that Dave has given up on trying to sound too menacing with the vocals, as they sound a little more smooth and his snarl lacks some of its usual bite. All in all, this is one of the best songs that the band has ever written.

"Take No Prisoners" follows this, and is more of a straight-forward track with a lot of fast riffs and a little more attitude than the previous songs. Nick Menza seems a little busy behind the drum kit, but does a decent job anyway. There are enough riffs and tempo changes to keep things interesting, without going so far as to just throw them out there with no purpose.

Next up is "Five Magics", opening with some very ominous melodies that imbue the listener with a sense of doom. The riffs hearken back to some of the darker moments of Peace Sells..., before the song changes gears and turns into an all-out thrasher. There are some nice galloping riffs that are interspersed later on, just before the song speeds up and bursts with intensity. Beware of the remastered version, however, as this is one of the songs that was completely raped by the alterations that were made, rendering it completely ineffective.

Side B starts out with "Poison Was the Cure". The song slowly builds from a bass and drum intro, with crushing guitars that weave in and out, soon giving way to old school Speed Metal at its finest. The intricate riffs remind one of songs like "Rattlehead", from Killing is My Business... and there is a great solo at the very end. The only complaint that I have about this is that it is too short. That is something that it has in common with many of the other songs on this record; iit leaves the listener wanting more, never lasting long enough to become tiresome or boring. Either way, it certainly delivers.

"Lucretia" slows things down a bit, but still presents some interesting riffs. While not the most intense or impressive, songs like this are necessary for the cohesiveness of the album, as a whole, to give it peaks and valleys. There are some really good solos (as if anyone would ever doubt this band's capability to offer up worthy guitar solos), though the song's primary function seems to be only to break things up and add a little diversity.

Things speed up again on the next song, "Tornado of Souls". It is loaded with memorable riffs and has long been a fan favourite, since the album's release. It's not terribly fast, but the pace is more energetic than some of the other tracks. What one really finds on this album is a band that is more comfortable with its own identity, allowing for more melodic moments without compromising themselves as they would do later on. There are great transitions between each riff and, though the vocals aren't very threatening, they work well within the context of the song.

"Dawn Patrol" is a peculiar track, in that it doesn't feel like a real song and is just bass, drums, and Dave Mustaine doing a horrible accent. More or less, this is just an interlude and builds to the final real song. It is kind of interesting, but not entirely necessary.

The album ends with "Rust in Peace...Polaris". The opening drum sequence is very memorable and the riffs are some of the most intense moments to be found on here. Unfortunately, my appreciation for this song has waned, over the years, as I find myself wishing to hear more Thrash and less of the relaxed type of riffs that dominate much of the song. Things speed up a little, as the song nears its conclusion, but there's not quite enough to satisfy those who needed more of the speed and energy that the first riffs promised.

Rust In Peace is one of Megadeth's best albums, and is far more impressive and together than the the album that preceded it. However, over time, it doesn't quite stand up to the first two in the way that it once seemed to. Most of this record's best qualities are things that were done better years earlier. That said, this is a solid album and it features some of the band's best work. When compared to other releases from 1990, it is much more creative than Seasons in the Abyss, Souls of Black or Persistence of Time (to compare them to their closest peers), and it completely destroyed the pile of garbage that Metallica would unveil in the following year. This album is highly recommended, just be sure to seek out the original version.