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Yes, I am not the slightest bit exaggerating with the title of this review. I seriously believe Rust in Peace is probably the best album ever. I have lots of albums I really love. I know albums that I listen to a lot that are heavier. I know albums I listen to that are faster. I know albums I listen to a lot that are more technical. Not that all three of these musical traits aren't present on Rust In Peace of course, but never in my life have I heard an album with more focus, better composition, and more memorable songwriting than Rust In Peace by the great Megadeth. And while Megadeth did some excellent stuff both before and after this, they have yet to scale these heights again...this is just absolutely phenomenal...
So enough flash...why exactly is Rust In Peace so amazing? To sum it up...it is basically everything that is great about metal in a nutshell and more. For one thing, this album is EXTREEMLY heavy. The guitar tone (not to mention the production) is fantastic. Crushing and distorted but never "too heavy", creating the effect of a "blur" sound *cough*Kreator*cough*. The entire album has a very” spacious”, big sound that is perfect for the sonic atmosphere of thrash (all of you “tr00” thrashers who say thrash has to have absolute crap production to be thrash are totally wrong). The album can be extremely fast and punishing at times but has an equal amount of that as slow, more crushing riffs, some more high register technical riffs, even some clean passages to break up the whole "distortion" blur. As a result, you get a very multi-dimensional album, one that never sounds repetitive or boring, and makes it accessible to a wide audience. A thrash metal fan would love it just as much as a prog metal fan...but it's the melodicism and memorability of the songwriting that would make even your run of the mill FM Rock Station listener love it.
The songwriting achieves the "perfect balance" factor as well. This album, as mentioned earlier, has all your typical thrash riffs, but also some more progressive-metal ish passages, and even some melodic harmonies that add even more life to the songs. The songs are all extremely intricate and the riffs weave right into each other...yet the band never looses sight of melody, and all of the songs on here can be described as catchy despite the fact they are quite musically complex. Even songs like "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due", "Five Magics" and "Rust In Peace...Polaris" which follow pretty non-traditional structures do not stray too far away from the original song. Basically this album achieves the perfect balance between melodicism and a progressive influence.
The lyrics, like the music, is very varied. You have your typical thrash songs about war and politics (i.e. "Holy Wars", "Take No Prisoners", "Dawn Patrol", "Rust In Peace") done in typical Mustaine fashion (that sort of biting, sardonic satirical thing, usually from the antagonistic POV) and great as usual, but then there’s also songs that show complete different sides of Mustaine’s lyrical abilities. In this album you will also find songs about the occult, aliens, drugs, ghosts, and, most surprisingly for a thrash album, relationships. All of the lyrics sound absolutely perfect for the songs, and this is coming out of a guy who almost never even notices lyrics in music. That’s how good they are.
The fact that Mustaine had an absolutely outstanding set of musicians at his disposal didn't hurt the album one bit. Mustaine himself is a very accomplished rhythm guitarist, as evidenced by tons of very technical riffs on this album, the fact that he wrote them all and put them all together is even more impressive, as he did a marvelous job with this. His lead playing is a bit on the sloppier side, but they aren't that bad and are very memorable and serve the songs well. They sound kind of like “biker” type solos really, somewhat trashy but catchy and well executed shred. Dave's best lead on this album is either the last solo on "Holy Wars" or the last solo on "Lucretia" IMO. His vocals, many other people have complained about, but I find them to be sort of interesting and characteristic; they perfectly fit the words he is singing (he is much better than some utterly horrid thrash vocalists like Tom Araya and Tom Angelripper).
Probably the most impressive member of the band though is new guitarist Marty Friedman. A veteran of the excellent shred-metal ensemble Cacophony, Friedman's leads are simply masterful. Are they fast? Hell yeah. But they are also VERY melodic and serve the songs perfectly. Not to mention Friedman's technique is simply incredible, one of the most fluid, beautiful players ever, and all this while shredding really damn fast. His legato runs and sweep licks on here really display his trademark techniques at their best. He even displays versatility in his playing during the acoustic classical solo in "Holy Wars". He is also, without saying really, an accomplished rhythm guitarist, obviously having to double up all of Mustaines technical riffs. Also on the many guitar harmonies on the album Friedman plays the upper register and keeps in perfect time with Mustaine. A great player is an understatement. Simply a master. It’s hard to pick a stand out solo, their all fantastic in their own way.
Though many may disagree with me on this, the weakest link of Megadeth is definitely bassist David Ellefson. First of all, the bass line on “Dawn Patrol” is not hard AT ALL, I am a guitar player and I can play it perfectly. However that he is the weakest link is saying a lot. Ellefson is still a fine musician. His bass lines on here are pretty intricate and don’t just follow the guitars all the time, they are actually audible too. His off the wall bass lines in songs like “Hangar 18” and “Five Magics” are excellent, I honestly don’t understand why he downplayed himself so much on Dawn Patrol.
Finally we have drummer Nick Menza, another new addition to Megadeth, and certainly a welcome one. Menza is a masterful drummer, probably the best they have ever had (sorry Gar [RIP]). His has very impressive foot speed, yet his drumming is not all about double bass. All his beats fit the music perfectly and he throws in some truly incredible fills throughout every song. Definitely a very underrated drummer right here. I’d like to see Dave Lombardo tackle all those weird meters in “Five Magics”, or even just play the drum beat for the title song (one of the craziest beats I have ever heard in my life and certainly one of the best). His drums sort of have a “mechanical” feel to them which I like for drums especially in metal, but there is reverb going on which fits this albums very “spacious” production value. Another excellent musician.
The album kicks off with “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” and right from that frantic, technical opening riff you know this album is going to be a winner. It continues with this riff for a while and then Mustaine plays a melodic line over it, making the song even more memorable. The lyrics come in with Mustaine singing about what can be assumed is the Persian Gulf war, a religious war going on at the time of this albums release. It continues in this vein for a while but then all the sudden the song comes to a halt, and Marty Friedman throws in this beautiful Arabic sounding guitar solo, and all the sudden the song changes into this absolutely crushing weird timed riff comes in with Mustaine singing in the weirdest way over it, as odd as it is, it totally makes sense for whatever reason. Then the song goes into a slower riff and Mustaine wails over it, with Friedman taking some excellent, exotic solos between verses, at that point you think, “can this get any better!”, and then it does…after Friedman’s second solo the riff suddenly turns heavy and fast like the first part of the song again, Mustaine takes probably his best solo on the album and then the final verse begins. The melodic guitar line from the intro comes in again and the song ends with Mustaine shouting “next thing you know they’ll take my thoughts away!”…and you are just left at loss for words. An incredible, incredible track.
The next song is the ultimate guitar song, “Hangar 18”. This song is probably closer to progressive metal than thrash metal, with a strong neo-classical influence even in the riffing, based heavily on diminished and 7th chord patterns. The riffs all simply weave right into each other in the intro and it sounds incredible. The lyrics come in, about the infamous Roswell incident. Then the first solo, by Friedman comes in, which is excellent. This pattern continues for a verse, and then all the sudden, the entire key of the song changes and Friedman and Mustaine get into the ultimate guitar battle. The song has a grand total of I believe 11 solos and they are all totally sick, yet the catchy riffs of the album come in between lead breaks to break up to potential monotony of a solo filled song. After Mustaines epic final solo, the song ends. Talk about head spinning. At this point, after only two songs, you know this album is just incredible.
After two ultra-complex progressive songs, the much more straight up thrasher “Take No Prisoners” comes in. This is relatively straight forward compared to the rest of the album, but the riffs are still pretty damn fast and hard to play, after the absolutely metronomic opening riff the lyrics come in, about prisoners of war. The vocals at first are sort of a call-and-response thing between Mustaine and the rest of the band (“got one chance-INFILTRATE THEM”/”get it right-TERMINATE THEM”, etc.) There is a pretty decent, really fast bass solo, and then the song proceeds into a really crazy riff with Mustaine frantically signing over. There are little guitar fills between vocal phrases. Finally the song calms down a little, playing a simpler open chord riff. Friedman goes into one of his trademark harmonic minor solos, and as this is going on the call and response thing comes back with the songs classic line (“take no prisoners-TAKE NO SHIT!”). This continues until the songs humorous ending (the entire band crying “SHIT!”). Talk about a face melter.
If you thought the first 3 songs were technical, then you will be totally unprepared for “Five Magics”. The song starts out with a frantic riff, then goes into a very off the wall but cool sounding bass line, with Menza playing an almost jazz sounding little beat under it. Friedman and Mustaine play a haunting harmony over it twice…before the song goes into it’s “thrash section”. The lyrics seem to deal with the occult, Mustaine speaks of being the “master of five magics”. The riff sounds very oddly timed and put together, but it works really well, with Friedman throwing in his excellent leads between verses as usual. Then all the sudden after 4 verses, a very weird metered riff comes in, with Friedman coming in for another excellent neoclassical solo. Mustaine even sings over it, which is even more impressive, as weird meter riffs like this are hard to coordinate instrumentally even, especially with vocals. Then the song brakes down into a simpler riff, with the whole call and response vocal thing going on again (“give me-ALCHEMY”/give me-SORCERY”, etc.). Then during the “chorus line” comes in another weird time riff, and you have to think “how did they get it this tight”, it is no wonder the band rarely plays this song live, God…then there is a really word call and response thing going on between Mustaine and I believe Ellefson over the songs first thrash riff. Then it goes into a Mustaine solo and ends. This song is just indescribable, all that technicality and rhythmic complexity, yet the song is also CATCHY…this is a the ultimate testament to Mustaine’s songwriting skills.
Following the absolute technical workout of Five Magics is the decidedly shorter, more straightforward track “Poison Was The Cure”, under 3 minutes long, not just a rarity for Megadeth but in thrash in general (at this point in time the average thrash song was between 5 and 7 minutes). It begins with a chord bass line. Then the guitar comes in, and an extremely fast riff comes in. This riff almost sounds more “hard rock” than metal tonally, sort of like Led Zeppelin gone thrash. Mustaines voice comes in for some ultra-fast singing. The song basically follows this format for most of the song and only changes really during the “chorus” breakdowns. The song ends with a solo trade of, both of which are quite good. Though not by any means the albums best song, it is a good, catchy thrasher that is a nice change from the more complex, long songs that preceded it.
The next song up is “Lucretia”. Like “Hangar 18”, Lucretia gives off a more prog/power metal feel due to being played in the higher register. The high register opening riff (which I believe is made up at least partially of harmonics) starts up, then it is sort of expanded on in a weird timed second riff, which is sort of the hook of the song, which is also played in the higher register. Then the vocals come in, and the vocal approach also sounds a little off-kilter, as are the lyrics. The song is about Mustaine finding a ghost in his house and talking to it (apparently his grandmother). After the verse ends there is a bouncy little riff, and then the intro riff repeats itself and goes into the second verse. This same pattern continues into the next post-verse riff, and then goes into another somewhat bouncy sounding riff, and the solo section begins. Friedman’s solo here is decidedly more laid-back than some of his other solos on the album and sounds off-kilter, but fits the song well. Mustaine comes in with an excellent, more shred-oriented solo and then, after the post-verse riff is repeated (and harmonized over) the song ends. A slightly off-kilter but well done and excellent song.
Up next is “Tornado of Souls”. Starting with an immediate hooky palm-mute and harmonics intro, and then going into a hyperactive but melodic riff, this is the most catchy song on the album. After the verse riff plays a few times, Mustaine begins singing. Now something particularly interesting about this song is the lyrics. The lyrics tackle a subject almost completely taboo to thrash metal…relationships. The lyrics seem to revolve around Mustaine just dumping his girlfriend and anticipating hard times ahead. As much as a song like this could fail in music like this, it is executed so well you don’t even know; as it is angry instead of whiny (mall metal bands pay attention to this). The rest of the song is relatively simpler and driving, focusing on that one hyperactive but melodic and almost bluesy riff from the intro. There is an excellent drum fill from Nick Menza in here, and then Marty Friedman’s solo. Unlike the neoclassical, exotic style of most of his solos on here, Friedman’s Tornado of Souls solo is decidedly more melodic and simpler, using basic major scale modes instead of say, a harmonic minor or diminished or Arabic scale that makes up the majority of the solos on this album. It is for the most part melodic, though goes into some excellent sweep sections. It immediately sticks in your mind and is just perfectly executed. The song ends similar to the way it begins. The most hooky and catchy song on the entire album, defying every “rule” of metal…but still excellent.
“Dawn Patrol”, the albums infamous fill track, follows next. It’s not much really musically. Just a pretty simple bass line over a pretty simple drum beat, with guitars appearing periodically, and Mustaine singing in a hilarious deep British accent. Some of the lyrics in here are very darkly humorous and unfortunately accurate (“with the greenhouse in effect, our environment was wrecked”), but it is otherwise skip-able. Still, they could have done much worse with a song like this.
Finally we come to the album’s title track, the lost song on the official album, “Rust In Peace…Polaris”. The song begins with an insane off the wall drum beat but Nick Menza (I can only imagine how long it took him to get it down). The first riff is also a bit unorthodox sounding. Friedman comes in and plays a brief, bluesy fill, and then Mustaine’s vocals, even odder sounding than usual, come in. The song is about nuclear war (the “Polaris” connection is still a mystery to me) and was directly inspired by that infamous bumper sticker that inspired this albums title (“warheads shall all rust in peace!”). After a few verses…the song suddenly comes to halt, another riff comes in. The only lyric from this point on is “eradication of earths population loves-Polaris”, with Friedman throwing an excellent solo after the first round of this, and metronomic riffs fill in the blanks between. Then with a final set of lyrics, and Mustaine doing a sort of death metal scream under it, the song ends with a sustained cymbal hit. Another masterful song and a great end to a completely marvelous album.
The Remastered version also contains a song “My Creation”, which is a decent but relatively uninteresting song, and demo versions of “Holy Wars”, “Take No Prisoners”, and “Rust In Peace”, which are interesting to hear, though none of them are superior to the final recordings. Still, in the end, Rust In Peace is an absolutely incredible album with amazing songs, incredible composition, technical, progressive moments, masterful musicianship, and marvelous focus. I can’t say anything at this point I haven’t said about it. It is a must have for EVERYONE. All metalheads of all subgenres, and non metalheads who just want to hear great rock music, this album is a must have. That’s my final verdict.
Final Rating: 100% (okay nothing is perfect, but this is the closest there is to it)