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The mid eighties was a huge year for thrash metal. Many bands released their classic albums at this time. This was especially the big breakthrough for the big four of thrash. The ever so infamous Metallica released Master of Puppets, which had a keen eye for melody due to the progressive rock influences. Slayer had the brutal speedfest known as Reign in Blood, which earned them a spot in the Trinity of Evil. Anthrax's Among the Living showed off a lighter side of thrash, with a slight edge of humor and an eye for punk. The best of these four, however, is definitely Peace Sells...But Who's Buying by Megadeth. In addition to being technically brilliant, it managed to leave the longest lasting impression out of all these albums.
While the production on this album may not be as pristine and crisp as Rust in Peace, Peace Sells has a very aggressive tone with a slight edge of grit, yet not too much grit to make it sound like it came from my basement. The guitars pack a fairly powerful punch, letting the aggression of each riff and lead hit your ears with tasteful ferocity, yet keeping a slight melodic tone to show off the virtuosity. The basslines are very prominent in the mix. Every track has the basslines thumping along, and you'll never lose it. The drumwork was toned very nicely on this album, booming like a cannon without the trashcan production of a certain album by a familiar band (I'll give you a hint: the album rhymes with St.Anus). For 1986, you couldn't have done much better.
The musicians on this album are amazing. Dave's snarl is a bit rougher on this album than on Rust In Peace, and his voice gives him a very cool, calculating, cynical personality. Megadeth's strong point has always been the guitarwork, and the don't seem intent on changing that on this album. Dave's riffs are very complex, and one thing I can really note about his guitarplaying is the heavy amount of New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence in his riffs and solos, particularly Iron Maiden. His signature shredding appears everywhere throughout the album. His axe-wielding partner, Chris Poland, is second only to Marty in skill. He carries a heavy jazz influence in his guitarwork, making his licks on the technical side, and also keeps a sense of melody in his solos carried from the NWOBHM influence (some of the solos here do sound vaguely Iron Maidenish). Dave Ellefson is yet another point of NWOBHM influence. He may not constantly use triplets like Steve Harris, but his basslines have a rather galloping sound to them-with an extra dose of speed. Gar Samuelson is similar to Chris in that he also carries a heavy jazz background with him. His drumming is skillful yet controlled, not to mention he crushes that snare abuser Lars Ulrich. You can sometimes hear this influence in his fills. The jazz sensibility found in the musicianship, combined with the heavy NWOBHM influence, makes for some kickass, talented instrumentation.
The songs on here couldn't have been more infectious. All of the songs will have you throwing up the horns and causing serious whiplash. Lyrically, this album is a bit more secular and violent than Rust in Peace, but still has a huge focus on the state of politics in the world. From start to finish, this album will have you coming back for more. For example, on "Devil's Island". Remember when I said there was a heavy NWOBHM influence present on this record? If you don't hear Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, or Diamond Head anywhere in this song, keep listening. The melody in the solo should be another clue. One of my favorites is the epic "Good Mourning/Black Friday". The melodic, slightly jazzy intro bursts into kickass guitar soloing and riffs flying at you from all angles, resulting in a snapped neck. There are solos everywhere in this album. "Wake Up Dead" and the title track are pretty much crazy solofests, with the former containing some nice shredding and the latter having a rather sarcastic tone through the classic lyrics, which defend us metalheads. I also admire their ability to be technical and neck-snappingly catchy at the same time. If you don't headbang to "The Conjuring", there is seriously something wrong with you. The best solo on the album is found on the breakneck thrasher "My Last Words", while "Bad Omen" is the heaviest, darkest song on the album, with some epic sounding riffs in the verse. The weakest track on the album is the bluesy thrash cover "I Ain't Superstitious". It's not a bad song, it's just overshadowed by the other seven songs. I have to admit though, it's a cover that only Megadeth could pull off with such energy, and it is a pretty fun listen. Other than that, this entire album is a blast to listen to.
I'm not surprised that Megadeth's breakthrough came with an album this great. No other thrash metal record sounds like this one. Pop this album in, embrace the technical skill, and get ready for a snapped neck!