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If you've read my Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? review, you may recall that I said that I felt that record was their best. I'd like to say right now that I'm not entirely sure what was going on in my head at the time, but that I can now say that I was wrong. That's not to say that Peace Sells isn't damn good, because it has some killer songs like the title track, "My Last Words", and "Good Mourning/Black Friday", but for all it's quality and charm, it can't beat this sparkly wall-o'-thrash Rust in Peace. This album is one of the most melodic thrash records that I have ever heard, everything scintillating hi-fidelity and most of the riffage emphatically light and blitzkrieging, even the trademark Bay Area crunch bits coming off as nimbler than even their more progressive rivals, although the trade-off being that they seem quite a bit less heavy.
There really aren't many albums out there like this to my ears, just this strangely virtuosic melodic speed, Marty and Dave not necessarily playing more complex than others, but perhaps simply playing more thought-out music at high speeds, because even the shredding when it comes it usually hooked to soaring harmony leads (and when, they cut like knives), Indian flavours, and jazz-based noodling that bust out unpredictably but generally with a modicum of logic. Perhaps my favourite lead on the album comes on "Lucretia", because it's so slow and drawn out despite the speed of the riffery in the background, a good minute and a half of amazing soloing stuffed into a highly underwritten track until the whole thing seems fit to burst like an overheated pizza pop, yet mysteriously stays a whole perfectly. In fact, many of the riffs sound like solos because they're so note-dense and often so lead-based, which just leads to this feeling of a veritable symphony of guitars. Not only that, but on tracks like "Five Magicks" they seem to cram thoughtful solos intro every available space, and with Friedman's touch it works perfectly.
In addition, the band has a secret weapon in Dave Ellefson, because whether or not he's the most technically adept player out there (I wouldn't know) his sound is lovely. The intro to "Poison Was the Cure" is simple, but I just love that warm, full bass line, unhurried and tight as the guitars solo around him slowly build before introducing a great, fast drum and superbusy riff, pointedly showing you kids how to build a mood. Furthermore, when he's given a chance to do a solo spot he's magic, his little "Take No Prisoners" bass run being a beautiful piece of business.
Yea and verily, the songs (and more importantly here, the riffs) are top-notch, each song section virtually independent of the whole, "Hanger 18" lyrical section a brief intro to the shredding solo-fest on the back-half, "Take No Prisoners" exhibiting a shoddy first verse before morphing into a near perfect thrash assault as annoying melodies are exchanged for a short multiple-solo break as segue to a completely different and infinitely superior second verse. It's funny that the sprawling "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due", despite it's abrupt shift at the midway point feels more cohesive than say, "Five Magicks" which rambles off into a half-dozen sections that hit and miss with equal frequency.
"Tornado of Souls" is the only real conventional song on here when all's told, the other candidate "The Dawn Patrol", a highly abbreviated bass with Dave's strange English accent, being so far out of the headspace of any other thrash act, hell metal act, that it becomes worthless to compare it to anything else. There is something about this very strangeness that makes RiP such an enduring album, something more being the sheer riffing genius of the thing of course.
To be fair, I've got some problems with this. The tracks are really underwritten, a verse or two before more breakdowns (I swear they fit Dream Theater's six-minute "Metropolis" break into thirty seconds on some of these tracks), some of the song structures here being more than worthy of getting some more writing time, an example being "Poison Was the Cure" which could've used either another two-verses of equal length or a re-read of the existing ones. There aren't enough choruses here either, the only one with a significant one (outside of "Rust in Peace...Polaris") "Tornado of Souls" having such a great one that it hurts that we only get to hear it twice. Also, there is still some goofiness apparent in the monster voice on "Five Magicks" (seriously, it's like a Steel Attack record or something) and the stupid backing vocals (and ending refrain) on "Take No Prisoners" that make me want to curse the 80's in general (did someone say the disc came out in 1990? Quiet, you). Oh yeah, and "The Dawn Patrol" despite having a truly awesome title, seems rather pointless.
However, despite some issues and reservations I have, or rather because every time I hear something incredible on this record (roughly every five seconds) like the chunked-up version of the main "Holy Wars" riff in the back half of the song or the spiralling descending chorus riff on "Rust in Peace" (seriously, it's such a visual riff that one can almost see the bombs dropping) or any hundred other sporadic, unique, and wonderful nuances, I find it in my heart to forgive them for all of those mistakes.
Stand-Outs: “Lucretia”, “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”, “Tornado of Souls”