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Megadeth – Rust in Peace (1990)

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You know, “Tornado of Souls” may very well be the best song Megadeth has ever written, at least if you judge it by my standards. It doesn’t repeat itself much, it has a good sense of dynamics, its sections are linked in a logical and coherent way, and so forth. Whatever. Megadeth always struck me as having an inexplicable, nebulous ‘cool’ factor that most of their contemporaries never got their hands on, at least in their classic era. They managed to keep it at least up to Youthanasia, which is an achievement given how far that album drifts from the band’s previous style. Maybe writing about it will help me understand my own opinions…

Now, I don’t know if the 1990 original version or the 2004 partial re-recording is more popular, but the 2004 version is what I’ve listened to. As you might expect for a major metal band recording in 2004, everything is crystal clear and appropriate, but that’s not saying much. I seem to remember reading of some peoples’ preference for the original version of Rust In Peace‘s vocals, but I really should emphasize that there’s not a major difference between these two versions. An album like this (i.e one that relies quite heavily on musical virtuosity) requires a clear production for maximum effect, so given the budget, it’s not really saying much.

After all, most of the good writing about Rust in Peace would revolve around the compositions, including the aforementioned “Tornado of Souls”. Before that, though, a listener has the opportunity to taste Megadeth’s compositional style; “Holy Wars” and “Hangar 18” actually suggest that “Tornado” might be a bit of an outlier. From a structural stance, these two aren’t really as fluid or as well developed, although they’re still fairly ambitious. Honestly, comparisons to Metallica are actually quite apt here; although Megadeth’s instrumental parts are way more complicated than anything Metallica ever attempted, they didn’t really have the same knack for extended compositions at most times.  On the other hand, Rust in Peace has several shorter songs that rather excel, although part of it’s just their velocity; “Poison was the Cure” comes to mind. For not being Slayer levels of fast, Megadeth could deceive you for quite some time by virtue of the intricate shredding on display here. Now, this had always been part of the band’s repertoire, but (most likely due to the efforts of new guitarist Marty Friedman) it takes on new levels of intensity here; essentially making much of the guitar work here resemble traditional/early speed metal riffs sped up a few times. Given that a lot of classic thrash bands wrote their material in this fashion, I suppose it’s not saying much, but it’s still worth noting if you want to analyze things.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m any closer to decoding the “cool” of Megadeth, although there are a lot of musicological elements here that I didn’t think about before writing this feature. For whatever reason, Rust in Peace isn’t where this is at its strongest – I’d say the band’s 1986 sophomore album Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? has more charisma… and in fact, I think I like that one more in general! On the other hand, it doesn’t have any peaks as high as “Tornado of Souls”, although it is a bit rougher and nastier at the best of times…

Some imaginary person, most likely overweight and inebriated is yelling at me to shut up and enjoy the music.

Highlights: “Take No Prisoners”, “Poison Was The Cure”, “Tornado of Souls” (“X-MEN, WELCOME! TO! DUH!”)

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