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Megadeth followed up their mildly disappointing 1988 album “So Far, So Good…So What?” with the masterful 1990 album “Rust in Peace”. But once again between albums the guitarist, this time Jeff Young, and drummer, this time Chuck Behler, where fired and replaced, just as the same happened after “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?”. Who replaced theses vacant spots? Well, on guitar you have “the purple and pink haired” Marty Friedman, best known for his shredding prowess displayed on his 1988 solo album along with his work with Jason Becker in Cacophony. Nick Menza, a relative unknown was brought in to fill the vacant drummers chair. Little did Megadeths fans, or did the guys in Megadeth themselves realize that this lineup would become the most skilled, hailed, stable and critically successful lineup in Megadeth’s history.
But let’s return to “Rust in Peace”. Simply put this is one of the single most explosive displays of virtuous talent, brilliant songwriting, and one of the most cohesive thrash metal albums ever!
And of course with the addition of Marty Friedman, the fret work on this album is the highlight. Both guitarists seem to have a defined role that each is comfortable with, making the tag team effort of each that much better. Both Mustaine and Friedman burn through amazing fret burning solos with ease and impeccable speed due to their collective jaw-dropping skill.
Also, with the addition of more skilled instrumentalists, Megadeth could write and execute more complex, challenging compositions, clearly evident on “Rust in Peace”. Also, with this new found ability to write and execute more complex music, the focus shifts away the lyrics or vocals, which have never been a strong spot for Megadeth. But that said, the lyrics are fairly good, maybe due to the fact that they don’t have to be the main focus and become more fluent and natural and less forced.
And with all the focus on the guitars it’s easy to imagine that the rhythm section of bassist Dave Ellefson and drummer Nick Menza are merely second though on this album. But they aren’t, the guitars on this album are the highlight, but without the rhythm section those guitars would devolve into aimless shredding. The rhythm is a driving force and helps the guitars in turn become much more interesting. So in many senses the rhythm section is just as important on “Rust in Peace” than any other part.
As for highlight material, you don’t have to wait that far to find it, as the first two songs, “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” and “Hangar 18”, respectively, are absolute killer tracks! The rest of the tracks aren’t a letdown by any means, but in a sense, they are almost too consistent. Not that they sound the same, it’s just that one of the things that made some Megadeth albums good was the range of material. “Take no Prisoners” is another standout, along with the title track “Rust in Peace…Polaris”.
Overall, “Rust in Peace” is one the best albums that the thrash era graced us with, and is one of Megadeth’s finest moments. If you ever want to call yourself a true fan of Megadeth, this album is essential.