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Being the latest of the big four debuts, this is easily the most developed. After being kicked out of Metallica a couple years earlier, Dave Mustaine had alot of anger, and it shows. Even on the more humorous songs in this album, a sense of anger is throughout. Dave Mustaine pulls out some incredible chops, and fuels every solo with pure aggression, he also commits a fitting, if weaker, voice to the music. Gar Samuelson also provides some complex drum tracks, while Chris Poland adds some atmospheric solos to the mix.
The first thing you notice when you put in the CD is the piano. Some would think this doesn't fit the music, but Dave quickly shows as it provides a haunting opposite to what the entire album is filled with, anger. Last Rites (containing the piano) seeps this emotion of betrayal and blind rage through every pore, and this sort of emotion is heard on every song except the less spectacular Chosen Ones. Of particular note is The Skull Beneath The Skin. This song is just plain evil, with almost snake-like solos, incredible vocals from Dave and lyrics that explain how the mascot came about. My favorite song from the album, Looking Down The Cross, is from the eyes of Jesus, as he's about to go to the cross and says his last words. This song is clearly the hottest of the inferno, and provides interesting lyrics that condemn the church for all the sins they've committed.
So far, this has been basically a rant about how good this album is (Don't blame me, it's really that good.) but every album has a negative. And the biggest one is related to the strongest part, the themes of the music. While each song provides a clear representation of its material, it doesn't have much consistency. Skull Beneath The Skin, containing lyrics about sacrifice goes straight into Rattlehead which is about head-banging, Looking Down The Cross goes straight into a song about a gas-station mechanic banging girls (Yeah, that's what it's really about, sounded better before, huh?). This is jarring, and keeps the album from full listens. Two songs from this album just aren't as good as they could be. Chosen Ones just doesn't perform as well across the board, and Rattlehead seems like it could be so much better.
Overall, this is an excellent album, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes thrash metal.
Highlights: Last Rites/Loved To Deth, Looking Down The Cross