Yeah, OK. So maybe this one a pretty obvious album to list as a classic, but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth now and I’m sure there is a younger generation out there who might have missed it. And what an album to be missing out on.
Before Megadeth became yet another hard rock outfit and Dave Mustaine an outspoken arsehole, Megadeth was a quality thrash band. They easily held their own musically against the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus and so on. But around the era of Rust in Peace all the major thrash bands seemed to start finding their own identities.
Metallica had done …And Justice For All with the “Black” album on the horizon; Slayer had slowed things down (marginally) with South of Heaven; Testament had gone heavier rather than faster with Souls of Black and started throwing ballads around on The Ritual.
Megadeth went technical. Precise. Note-perfect. The classic line-up at that time included Marty Friedman, possibly one of the best guitarists (in my opinion) of his generation, along with Mustaine at his best. Rust In Peace, in my mind, is the double underline that settles the argument as to who is the better guitarist – Dave or James Hetfield.
Subject matter is predominantly the usual Megadeth favourite of politics of one sort or another, with even “Hangar 18” loosely falling into that with its conspiracy-theory laden topic.
What sets the album apart, though, is its non-stop fast-fretting frenetic pace. The handful of slow sections buried amongst the tracks sit as small areas of quiet before the storm, and aren’t just areas of slow tempo but perfectly crafted miniature solos. With the exception of “Dawn Patrol” – which somehow manages not to feel too out of place despite sounding like it was accidentally left on the album after the producers spent a night drinking – every track positively requires furious headbanging.
Now all this is well and good. We know how many takes a band might submit in the studio. All the tracks separate and mixed by professionals so that they sound perfect.
But hearing the songs live, particularly with the line-up who recorded them – is a revelation. I remember seeing them on the album’s tour (twice – Glasgow and Newcastle with Pantera in support!) and being completely blown away by the fact that they were hitting every single note. Still to this day, anyone who can play this kind of stuff perfectly astounds me.
This is an album the core of which is finger-blurring riff after riff, rather than just speedy rhythms. It’s, as I said at the start, technical – each note is important and just perfectly placed.
It probably comes as no surprise that Rust In Peace rates as one of my personal favourite albums of all time. If you’ve not heard the album before, or judge Megadeth on their more recent output then I urge you to find a copy and listen to what music was like in the early 1990’s. A shit decade for pop music, but bloody hell was metal flourishing behind the scenes.
To tide you over until you get the whole album, here’s possibly the biggest highlight from it – “Hangar 18”: