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Although I think I’ve been fairly objective with my 87 over all ranking, I also know that I tend to overrate this album as a whole because I tend to focus on its highlights. The album consists of four songs (‘Into the Lungs of Hell’, ‘Set the World Afire’, ‘Mary Jane’, ‘In My Hour of Darkness’) which range from nearly to clearly flawless. These are the songs I am thinking of when I think of this album as essential. Unfortunately the other four selections on the record are not nearly as solid and at the end of the day probably constitute just a little too much filler for this album to be considered one of the all time great thrash albums.
‘Into the Lungs of Hell’ is a well-paced, well-structured instrumental introduction to the album. All too often the instrumental introduction tends to be an easily skipped selection, but I still listen to this one all the way through and think it stands on its own as a composition.
Most thrash writers would be grateful to come up with just one the several parts making up ‘Set the World Afire’. In the first two minutes alone, Mr. Mustaine whips off two or three different riffs that could alone carry a song, and the different riffs/sections of this song do not stop coming. Fortunately, unlike the case in many thrash songs, the frequent changes don’t leave the song sounding disjointed. On the contrary, the parts all hang together quite nicely and the song never gets stale, even after a hundred listens. For those growing up when Reagan was in power and sharing what is probably a never ending fear of world wide nuclear devastation, I imagine this song will always especially ring true: “They said it'd never come, we knew it was a lie.”
‘Mary Jane’ is probably still as odd sounding a s song today as in 1987. The song has several tempo changes with some very clever lead playing. It’s a slow yet heavy number at the outset with a simple but instantly memorable guitar line that kicks in at about :40 right before the verse kicks in. The song picks up speed throughout and Mustaine’s vocals slowly climb the register. Again, a bit of an odd thrash song, but incredible catchy.
‘In My Darkest Hour’ is considered by many to be the masterpiece of the album, and by some to be one Megadeth’s finest songs. This song is also often associated in some way with Cliff Burton. Mustaine himself described the song as such in interviews conducted in the early portions of writing the album. However, the lyrics actually suggest a different topic, a relationship (perhaps romantic) gone seriously awry:
Did you ever think I get lonely
Did you ever think that I needed love
Did you ever think to stop thinking
You're the only one that I'm thinking of
You'll never know how hard I tried
To find my space and satisfy you too
As bad as that sounds, it appears that things are getting worse for the narrator:
But oh how I lived my life for you
Still you'd turn away
Now as I die for you
My flesh still crawls as I breathe your name
The songs builds perfectly in speed and momentum, eventually clocking in at over 6 minutes. One of the longer Megadeth songs and worth every minute
As mentioned above, the rest of the album (‘Anarchy in the UK’, ‘502’,’ Liar’ and ‘Hook in Mouth’) pale in comparison to the rest of the album and most of Megadeth’s early output (although the quick, single note heavy riff at the beginning of ‘502’ is reminiscent of some of the great riffs found on ‘Killing is My Business . . .’, the song quickly peters out). The problem songs of this album are indicative of two general problems for Dave Mustaine: his somewhat questionable choice and execution of cover songs (‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’?, ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’?....ok, I’ll give you ‘These Boots’) and his struggles with writing lyrics that don’t deal with war, the occult, or death. However, anyone who has a chance to spend some time with this album should be able to overlook the blemishes and revel in the solid thrash gems.