Rust In Peace
Capitol Records, 1990
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/15/2010
One of my favorite sports writers, Bill Simmons, has an interesting take on the relationship between players in the modern NBA. His premise is simple: nobody hates each other anymore. In this, the Summer Of LeBron, we see that there are no great rivalries, no great feuds like those of the past. Everyone is familiar with each other from the time they first begin to play organized sports, and that burning hatred simply never develops.
Feuds are great for entertainment; they help to get the fans emotionally invested. Fans can pick a side, they can devote their time and energies to supporting one group over another, they can spend hours arguing about it in a bar, or in the car, or at the mall. What fun would we have if everybody liked the same thing?
There is no doubt that the music industry has had its share of feuds over the years. Beatles vs. Stones. Hagar vs. Roth vs. Van Halen. The Gallagher brothers. Some of these relationships might be news to you; for others they are more than familiar with the level of pure loathing that was reached with these groups/people. It's not a question of how much someone is disliked – no, instead, you have musicians reaching an entirely new level of hatred.
Dave Mustaine had it in the palm of his hand; not only was he the lead guitarist of an up-and-coming thrash metal band, he was in THE band (Metallica). But as is so often the case, drugs and booze led to a falling out, and Mustaine was booted out of the band that would essentially become the biggest metal group of all time. Upon being kicked out, Mustaine essentially promised to form a new band that would be heavier, faster, and generally more badass than the boys from San Francisco.
Enter Megadeth, and the creation of one of the more entertaining feuds in all of metal-dom. The argument has never been settled as to who is the greater group, with both sides arguing passionately for their band. Entering the ‘90s, it seemed everything was settled. Mustaine's substance abuse had torn apart Megadeth, while Metallica HD just delivered their magnum opus in And Justice For All... So really, it was perfect timing that Mustaine pulled himself together to try and do the same with Rust In Peace.
Besides having one of the best album titles in the history of metal, Rust In Peace can lay claim to being one of the best thrash metal albums of all time. That's a lot of hyperbole for one record, but Mustaine always had the talent to deliver such an album (let me put it this way – his playing didn't get him kicked out of Metallica). The blistering speed from the days of Killing Is My Business has not vanished, but merely streamlined and polished. This is decidedly metal pre-Black Album.
What really attracts the ear on Rust In Peace is the precision that this iteration of Megadeth is able to play with. Mustaine and Co. can play fast, almost to the verge of falling apart before pulling it back and instituting a form of controlled chaos, which is really what the best metal groups are able to do on a consistent basis. The epic, chugging riffs that lead off "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due" move at an incredibly fast pace, but retain their sense of melody, something that Megadeth was proficient at since day one.
Many decried how Metallica changed heavy metal in the 1990’s with The Black Album, and its slower pace and greater reliance on hooks (I know, a terrible crime right?). If you want to take that particular road, Rust In Peace represents one of the last stands for the classic heavy metal sound of the 1980’s. Back then, metal bands did not release singles or do videos, but the brilliant/frustrating part was that they could have. "Hangar 18" has taken on a new life in the post-Guitar Hero age, but removed from said context, the song has legitimate single potential. It’s technically more proficient than any other hot single, and more importantly a genuinely catchy tune. Mustaine's growling about Area 51 and assorted other sci-fi notions is a great hook, and the musicianship is just stellar all around.
The nods to the other great groups of heavy metal here cannot be ignored either. While Metallica and Megadeth may have despised each other, they have always been entwined due to Mustaine. It's damn near impossible to listen to "Take No Prisoners" and not hear "Caught In A Mosh"-era Anthrax. "Five Magics" is one of the less successful tracks on the record, but the homage to Black Sabbath wins it back some points. Rust In Peace was not constructed in the same manner as a typical Slayer record, but when the double bass is pounding and Mustaine and Co. are shredding away during "Poison Was The Cure," the linkage is there. When it comes down to it, Mustaine may have sought to alienate himself from every metal band on the planet, but he was influenced by them in more ways than one.
Fueled by his hatred of Metallica, Mustaine created Megadeth to "destroy" them. He did not succeed by any stretch of the imagination, but there is no denying that Megadeth deserves their moniker as one of the "Big Four" of thrash metal. Rust In Peace is the unquestioned high point of the man's career, and really, we have James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich to thank for that. We owe you one, boys.