The music industry is pretty much the worst. Obviously big, broad, boring bureaucracies are nice, safe, easy targets, but consider this before you write off my forced humor: someone, at some point, had to approve this:
Executive Ideaperson: Hey, you know Rust In Peace?
Frodo Grovelpants: You mean the one Megadeth album people care about?
Executive Ideaperson: That’s the one. Is there a way we can make any more money off it?
Frodo Grovelpants: Not that I can see.
Executive Ideaperson: How about a remaster with bonus tracks?
Frodo Grovelpants: Sounds nice, but the original album was recorded with good equipment. There are no kinks to iron out.
Executive Ideaperson: There must be something we can change. What do kids these days like in music?
Frodo Grovelpants: Probably not technical thrash metal, sir.
Executive Ideaperson: Well, we’ll just squeeze and compress it then.
Frodo Grovelpants: …huh?
Executive Ideaperson: You know, hide the crunch. Less personality means more universality!
Frodo Grovelpants: Oh, okay. Sounds good.
Executive Ideaperson: Kids also like bass, don’t they? Let’s crank up the bass.
Frodo Grovelpants: Another good thought, sir. But kids these days don’t have sufficient ability to discern those kinds of differences. What can we change that’s more obvious?
Executive Ideaperson: Just call up Dave and ask him to rerecord the vocals.
Frodo Grovelpants: Uh…have you HEARD Dave sing recently? His voice has gone to crap. He sounds like Kermit the Frog being crushed in a garbage truck.
Executive Ideaperson: THINK OF THE MONEY, FRODO. THE MONEY. THE METALHEADS WHO WILL BUY ANYTHING. THE MOOOONNEEEY!!!
Wow, that went straight into mean-spirited strawman territory. I’m only kind of sorry.
If it’s not clear, this is a review of the ORIGINAL Rust In Peace, not the 2004 digital remaster with the horrific new vocals and flat, thin mixing. I wouldn’t mind the existence of the remaster so much if the record company wasn’t so keen to push it over the original (the remaster, for example, is the only version available on Spotify). Soulless dreck, that one is.
Now that I’ve defused about the remaster, allow me to gush about one of the best metal albums I’ve ever heard. As in, better than anything by Metallica. Megadeth vs. Metallica is a common debate among metalheads, and while I can’t really chip in because this is the only Megadeth album I’ve heard, but I would still rank it above my favorite Metallica album (Master of Puppets).
So, where does all this love come from? Honestly, Rust In Peace is a pretty stripped-down, basic album. It works because there is nothing even remotely resembling a bad song, it clocks in at a satisfying-but-manageable time, and is generally super-professional. It was made by talented people doing a good job. It’s the kind of great album that makes the creation of a great album look easy.
That’s a pretty dang boring answer though, so let’s look at specifics. Firstly, the soloing is absolutely impeccable. It’s tight while still feeling huge, melodic while still being technically dazzling, and super-heavy while never wearing you (or at least me) down. The solos are the star of the album, honestly. Instead of waiting through the solos to get back to the chorus, you’re waiting through the chorus to get back to the solos.
Super-consistency helps too. The opener “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” is one of the best thrash songs I’ve ever heard, with a good melody, super-satisfying guitar, and always-engaging dynamics. After the title drop, a brief Middle Eastern strum flickers in, making for one of the most memorable touches I’ve heard in metal. “Hanger 18” is pure fist-pumping glory, with a cascading guitar tone carrying a fun melody, bone-crunching solos, and even more bone-crunching drum parts. DUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUN
“Take No Prisoners” is snappy and confident, with more incredible drumming. “Five Magics”, in addition to a name that’s almost as hilariously bad as “Megadeth”, uses crunch to provide a surprisingly atmospheric intro before swooping into 11-mode. Probably the weakest song on the album, for what very little it’s worth. “Poison Was The Cure” has an amazing intro, building thin tone into thick tone with engrossing effect, leading into another technically impeccable piece of speedy thrash. “Lucrecia” exchanges blazing speed for incredibly oppressive heaviness. “Tornado of Souls” is catchy beyond all reason and features some sparkly guitar lines. Also, the title is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, 10/10. “Dawn Patrol” drops the energy down, providing some relief before the rousing climax of “Rust in Peace…Polaris”, a massive anthem of power, terror, and pure pulse-surging awesomeness.
By all means, this should be an album I admire more than enjoy, but because it’s so engrossing and tight I have no problem listening to the whole thing at once. I don’t know much about metal, but this has to be in the top 3% of metal albums. The only points I can bring up against it are (a) there’s not a lot of variety and (b) Dave’s vocals aren’t very good. They’re not annoying, like on the remaster, but they still bring the album down from transcendent level.
Pretend there’s a good conclusion here. I’m too busy air guitaring to write.
Thematic Content: 4/5 A bit preachy, but there’s some surprisingly tolerable takes on social issues.
Lyricism: 4/5 See above.
Resonance: 5/5 In the words of the legendary, respectable, and academic linguist/critic George Starostin: “ROCK ON BUDDY!”
Experience: One of those ironic protest rallies for peace that involves a lot of violence. In space.
10/10. Best Song: Tornado of Souls