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If I were to give percentages to albums based on how I rank them, 100% being the absolute best and 0% being the worst, I wouldn’t regret giving this 100%. I don’t hand out percentages that way though; I prefer to score albums on their worth. I don’t think this will be the only album I review and give a perfect score to, but this is my favourite, bar none.
Rust in Peace is the supreme example of how to create an album using a slew of styles from the decade that preceded it, and how to master each style. This is why there could not have possibly been an album this good in 1986, or anytime in the 1980s for that matter; metal had just about reached its peak in creativity in the late ‘80s and it wasn’t until this album came along that anyone had looked back, evaluated the landscape, advantageously implemented styles into their work, find a way to expand upon ideas even further and go the next step further by making the most of the entire band’s talent. That’s one hell of an accomplishment, and there isn’t any album from 1990 that has the same replay value; Slayer’s ‘Seasons…’ wasn’t even an improvement from past releases, Pantera’s ‘Cowboys…’ seldom deviates from the same idea carried throughout and Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ doesn’t quite match the energy that this has. And they’re all excellent efforts.
(Ironically enough, many of these songs had been written years prior to the LP’s release, with some even dating back to 1982 according to Dave. Imagine if the title track had been unveiled 1983 or so! Brutality!)
As expected, thrash is a key element yet still manages to compliment everything else. Take No Prisoners exemplifies the over-the-top attitude and musical execution of bands like Overkill and Anthrax; there are some complex rhythm and lead stops throughout, catchy lyrics and a great chant-along at the end. It may be the simplest track (except for Dawn Patrol) but it’s still very detailed in execution. But we’re not even into the rest yet! Polaris is more mid-paced than speedy, but the riffs are monstrous and thrashy without being pretentiously heavy. And then, near the end, it does get fast. Very riff oriented. After its calm, concentrated opening, Poison Was the Cure is just straight-forward, mind-numbing thrash bordering on speed metal, and ends with solo (and there are A LOT of those throughout the album). And when Five Magics gets going, damn. This one’s an often overlooked classic; there are so many catchy lyrics, wild, blistering solos (yet despite their aggressiveness are technically proficient), an intense little break towards the end of the song and beneath it all a crazy time signature. Words cannot do this song justice.
And the forerunner to all of this? Holy Wars.
Fucking Holy Wars.
If this isn’t my favourite thrash song ever... no, it is. How the fuck is Dave playing this while singing? The riffs may not be the fastest out there, but they may very well be most memorable out of every thrash song I’ve heard. The riffs go on for a minute and a half before even getting to the vocals and still and it keeps on going without becoming boring at all. This completely changes after “Holy Waaaarssss” when the riffs change to a slow, deliberate pace. This section totally commands your attention. And of course, when it all keys back up again it’s back to the riffs with an awesome Friedman solo. Game over. Along with Tornado of Souls, this is the highlight of the album.
On the flipside of the coin is the catchier stuff which is all a mix of power, speed and straight-up heavy metal. Lucretia has a heavy emphasis on the lead work and features YET ANOTHER awesome solo. These just keep on coming! And of course, the song’s about the ghost that lives in Dave’s attic.
Amazingly, Friedman manages to top that solo in Tornado of Souls, and it’s arguably Megadeth’s greatest. Tornado contrasts from Holy Wars’ execution not only in the style of music, but the flow; Holy Wars plunges forward, slows down and starts up again whereas Tornado doesn’t let up. It isn’t the fastest track on the album, but the guitar work is almost too cacophonous to describe (and Friedman’s from Cacophony, how about that).
And of course… Hangar 18. This is very reminiscent of Iron Maiden in the verses and such, but then the time signature changes, and then changes some more. Can you say “Dueling solos”? Solo after solo after solo after solo after solo after solo. After solo after solo after solo.
This is perfection, right here. Everything good about the ‘80s was duplicated and then enhanced and expanded. Here, thrash becomes calculated, technical and catchy; technicality becomes aggressive and riotous; intelligent, provocative lyrics become memorable tunes that you’ll never forget. I give it my highest recommendation.