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I used to be inclined to give this album the backseat among Megadeth’s classic albums, but after listening to it again for this review, it seems I’d truly forgotten how great this album really is. Taking the essential elements that Killing is my Business established and polishing them to near perfection, Peace Sells is one of the best overall displays of Megadeth’s skill in songwriting, technical flair, and intense, high-speed metal destruction.
The album hits hard immediately with the killer track “Wake Up Dead.” It’s a prime example of Megadeth’s increased instrumental skill since their last album. All the riffs are heavy, original, and very easy to headbang to. Guitar solos are frequent and virtuosic. Drumming is pounding and precise. Bass guitar is poignant and incredibly effective. Lyrics are dark and foreboding, as are Dave’s vocals. And that’s just the first track off this album. Every song after gets the same professional treatment. Some feature magnificent clean riffs, but most rely off of intricate, skull-crushing, distorted rhythms. A lot of the band’s most memorable riffs, leads, and lyrics appear on this album. The riff halfway through “Wake Up Dead,” the bass line throughout “Peace Sells,” the extended intro of “Good Mourning/Black Friday,” all the stuff of legends.
And it’s not just the music that’s spot on. The album just sounds cool. Far from being overproduced, the mix adds to the incredibly dark atmosphere already created by instruments. Dark indeed is the atmosphere, also added to by the lyrics and vocals. Dave Mustaine is criticized as being a sub-par vocalist, but his signature snarl adds an unprecedented amount of necessary evil to every track. The only time this isn’t the case is on the cover “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Here his ‘singing’ actually sounds pretty good, however raspy. A lot of people don’t like the way this song fits into the album, but it’s just a fun, cool mixture of blues and thrash to change up the pace. It’s a lot more well done than the blues thrash on Violent Playground’s so-called “Thrashin’ Blues” LP anyway. As for the lyrics on the album, they’re as dark as the music, with Dave beginning to express his political agenda a bit. Other topics hit on are black magic, Russian roulette, and mass slaughter.
This album is arguably Megadeth’s best release, though that can be argued about any of their first four albums. Regardless of personal preference, Peace Sells is a welcome addition to any metalhead’s collection and a timeless masterwork as far as lyrics, music, and complexity go.