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When Dave Mustaine started Megadeth and released Killing Is My Business… he wanted it to make it better than Metallica, specifically what they did on their debut Kill ‘Em All. In some places Mustaine succeeded and in other places he didn’t. I think the most obvious aspect where Megadeth surpasses Metallica is the musicianship in the band members. Sure, Metallica had a great bassist in Cliff Burton (R.I.P.) and James Hetfield was respectable in the riff department, but Gar Samuelson (R.I.P.) blows away Lar$ Ulrich behind the kit, and Chris Poland is a hell of a lot better than Kirk Hammett. Of course, Dave Ellefson and Mustaine are no slouches themselves. This higher level of playing ability is really noticeable on this release, especially in the drumming. While Lar$ was far from his worst on Kill ‘Em, the precision and sheer speed of Samuelson really overshadows him. Mustaine wanted this to be faster than Metallica and he definitely succeeded in that. Samuelson was the perfect person for the job as he fills the songs with a lot of double bass and fast fills. Just listen to “Skull Beneath The Skin” and the title track to get a good indication of the speed on here.
However, where the thrashing speed of this disc is definitely a highlight, it’s also a bit of a detriment. While containing some quality riffs, compared to Metallica, or even early Slayer, the riffs aren’t as structured or as memorable. The riffs are by no means bad but since Mustaine wanted this to go head to head with Kill ‘Em All, this is one place where he failed. Even though Mustaine doesn’t have the best singing voice, he sounds so much better than Hetfield did on Kill ‘Em All. Hetfield was just horrible on there and Mustaine sounds brilliant compared to him. Where Mustaine lacks in actual singing ability he makes up for with clever phrasing and vocals that go along with the music very well. The leads from both Poland and Mustaine are also well done as they both have distinct styles that compliment the speedy music well.
Highlights of this CD for me are “Rattlehead”, which is perfect for head-banging, as it was meant to be, as well as the title track which speeds along at a fast pace and contains very good use of doubled vocals. “Mechanix”, Megadeth’s rendition of “The Four Horseman”, is also well done but not quite as progressive or as structured as “The Four Horsemen”. However, I do think this is the best indication of Samuelson vs. Lar$. Try and picture Samuelson playing on “The Four Horsemen” instead of Lar$. You should hear how a really great song could have been even better.
So when all is said and done, did Mustaine defeat James and friends? It’s hard to say. As Boris mentioned in his review, this was released two years after Kill ‘Em All and Metal in general had changed a lot in those two years, but if you ignore that fact, I would say both CD’s are equally enjoyable: Kill ‘Em All has better riffs and song writing, but Killing Is My Business… has better musicianship and more head-banging goodness. I’d say both CD’s are equally enjoyable but for different reasons and should be a part of everyone’s Thrash collection. On a side note, if you haven’t bought this yet, pick up the remaster. The sound is much improved and you get some interesting demo versions of three songs.
Song Highlights: Last Rites/Loved To Death, Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good, The Skull Beneath The Skin, Rattlehead, and Mechanix.