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The late 1980’s were thrash heaven. Ground was being broken everywhere; landmark and genre-defining classics were falling out of the sky. Metallica and Slayer were gods, Dark Angel was brutalizing ears and Kreator were pumping out twisted riffs that made your neck ache and your brain explode. It was raining thrash classics and Megadeth’s So Far, So Good, So What! was no exception.
Kicking off with the instrumental intro ‘Into the Lungs of Hell’, So Far, So Good, So What! immediately grabs you by the face and lets you know that Megadeth means business. Once it finishes, you hear the dropping of a nuclear bomb before being kicked in the face by the first riff of the mighty ‘Set the World Afire’. This album is packed with not just Megadeth classics but thrash classics. Even the weaker tracks on this record (and that’s arguable) like ‘Mary Jane’ and ‘502’ will make you bang your head and feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as metal pumps through your veins. The most famous song from the album, ‘In My Darkest Hour’, is Megadeth’s answer to Metallica’s ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’. It’s not as good as that song, but it’s really close. A beautiful mid-paced tune that explodes into hyper drive as Mustaine sings “Please God, send me on my way!” The closer—and a personal favorite—‘Hook in Mouth’ is a fist-pumping thrash bash with a main riff that is a perfect example of why thrash metal is so awesome. If you aren’t screaming “YOU SAY YOU’VE GOT THE ANSWERS WELL WHO ASKED YOU ANYWAY!?” and grinning at the signature Mustaine snarl, then I don’t know what to tell you. You might be slipping into a coma and going to a dimension where metal doesn’t want you. The only thing that prevents this album from getting a perfect rating from me is the cover of ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’. It’s not that it’s a terrible cover or anything, but it really should have been included as a bonus track or maybe a b-side to a single as it feels out of place on the record.
One of the biggest appeals of this record for me is that which seems to drive some people away from it: the production. In the 1990’s Megadeth would go on to more crisp, clean and polished productions. But not on this record. Fuck no. This production is dark, dirty, gritty and fits the music perfectly. The production, combined with the attitude of this record and where Mustaine was in his life at this point, makes it the darkest, angriest, most drug-laced and in my opinion best album that Megadeth ever made. Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? had a gritty production job itself, but not like this. This record makes you think of nights on streets where you really wouldn’t want to be. It also makes helps to make this record the monster that it is.
If you’re a newbie to the metal world and are curious about Megadeth, you’re safe in picking up any of the first four albums but this would be my first recommendation. That’s right. I’ll take this over the overrated Rust in Peace any day. Now, don’t think for a second that I don’t think that album’s awesome, but the production was cleaner and the riffs weren’t as mean. The riffs on So Far, So Good, So What! are fucking mean. I myself have been listening to this album for over 15 years and I’ll never get tired of it. It’s an absolute classic in every sense of the word and deserves way more respect than it’s gotten over the years. You, as a metal fan, are doing yourself a disservice by not having heard it. If you are someone who dismissed it long ago, you’re missing out. Big time.