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This is a pretty underrated classic of Megadeth's catalog, and considering all the turmoil the band was going through at the time, I'm surprised it doesn't sound any worse. It nearly rivals Killing Is My Business in terms of sheer sonic ugliness, but not so when you get the remaster, where all the various layers are revealed rather crisply.
Overall, the sound here is rather progressive. By that, I mean that there are quite a few layered guitar sounds. "Mary Jane" and "In My Darkest Hour" are the best examples of this. In fact, "Mary Jane" has to be the creepiest damn thing Megadeth has ever written, sounding heavily influenced by Mercyful Fate, and Mustaine sounds like he's literally going insane. Excellent! Great solo on this one, too! The opening melody is downright haunting, as is the acoustic sections of "In My Darkest Hour."
Still, there's a lot of straight up shredding on here. "Set the World Afire" is a fercious maelstrom of angry riffs, guaranteed to tear your flesh off like a nuclear explosion...damn, it really evokes images of an apocalypse! "502" and "Liar" are both shredfests with maniacal, threatening vocals to match the voracious riffing. Mustaine's soloing is downright lethal, and Jeff Young is no slouch either. The only weak link is Chuck Behler, who though adequete, really doesn't offer anything of note, especailly when sandwiched between the godly Gar Samuelson and Nick Menza. Even worse, the cymbals were recorded seperately from the drums, leaving an irritating pause that makes them sound like a drum machine...that really kills a lot of the energy of the ablum.
I don't care for the Sex Pistols cover at all. It's punky, jolly feel disturbs the overall dark and threatening atmosphere of the album. Mustaine still sounds nasty in his vocal snarling, though.
If this came out before Peace Sells, it would no doubt enjoy a more esteemed position, but this era and album were a transitional period that didn't last. For the next album, Mustaine honed his agression and remained sober to create the finest piece of thrash ever...