Megadeth – Rust in Peace [Finely Tuned]
By Afridi Majeed | Staff Writer
1989 was a tempestuous year for Megadeth; they had become a 2-piece band after the simultaneous axing of their drummer, Chuck Behler, and lead guitar player, Jeff Young. The remaining band members, Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson, had spent the year cooped up in rehabilitation centres, paying the price for pushing their bodies beyond limits with their incessant substance abuse. Dave Mustaine’s constant slandering by his former band members was coming back to haunt him as they retorted in interviews that he needs to “shut up and play his guitar.” Not the one to take an insult lying down, Mustaine, armed with a fresh and reinvigorated line-up, restored Megadeth to their rightful position at the epitome of thrash metal.
The album starts off with one of the most bellicose riffs ever written, creating sparks in all directions as the notes seem to fly off of Mustaine’s fingers. It reminds one of the sirens of war ringing, compounded by the drums interlocking with the guitar to give the impression of an army rushing to its battle stations. As the band launches into a jam, Dave breaks out into an impromptu riff of his own, slowing down while the rest of the band plays at breakneck speeds. After a couple of minutes of pure instrumental music, Dave starts singing foreboding yet painfully honest words, “Brother will kill brother, spilling blood across the land! Killing for religion, something I don’t understand.”
Following this, lead guitar player, Marty Friedman, breaks into a brief acoustic guitar solo which provides a moment for the listener to regain composure whilst revelling in his mellifluous, Middle-Eastern scales. To paraphrase Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth, shredders are a dime a dozen; the only way a guitarist can truly stand out in a crowd is when he bends a note. Distinguishing himself is precisely what Dave does as he lets his guitar serve as an outlet for his irascibility, as one is not sure what to enjoy; the seemingly endless guitar solo, Ellefson hammering out harmonics on his bass, the backing riff played by Marty, or the relentless alacrity with which Nick attacks his snare drums as he sets the tempo for Dave’s solo.
In what is possibly one of the best one-two opening combinations any album has ever had, one is greeted by what feels like a troop of spaceships headed directly at the listener as Dave and Marty strum away rapidly while Nick’s feet thud away at the kick drums during the intro of Hangar 18. Of the many nuances in this song, the sudden slowing down of the tempo after the intro as Nick displays his vast palette of fills and ability to a groove in a manner is reminiscent of the late, great John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
The fire and ice combination of Mustaine and Friedman becomes lucidly evident during the guitar duel section in which listeners are met with a barrage of solos. Marty’s playing is truly out-of-this-world as it becomes evident why Mustaine would later say in his autobiography that he used to feel domineered by Marty’s mastery of his craft. In retaliation, Dave wields his guitar like a halberd and makes it clear that he was not going to be defeated. The band then displays their ability to play the most complex of time-signatures with utmost precision as the record progresses into Take No Prisoners. In continuation of the anti-war stance so far depicted, Dave leads the band in a series of battle cries that lead to the sardonic mockery of war with lines such as, “Your body has parts your country can spare. By the way son, here’s your wheelchair!” In yet another clever play on words, Poison was the Cure introduces itself with a steadfast bass intro as Nick taps the cymbals with a pace similar to a ticking time-bomb as we all know by now what’s about to follow. The highlight of the next track, Lucretia, has got to be the Friedman solo that makes the listener feel like they’re plundering through the Pyramids in Egypt. The end of Mustaine’s relationship with his fiancé sparked the genesis of Tornado of Souls as he took to his guitar for solace in the hapless confinement of a room at a rehabilitation centre. In his blog, Marty Friedman cites that the first time he felt truly welcome in the band was when Mustaine walked up to him and shook his hand after watching Marty record his solo for this song.
The album now heads toward a close as listeners are finally allowed a breather while Ellefson and Menza break into a jam during Dawn Patrol. This is a song that is often compared to Metallica’s My Friend of Misery due to the similarity in their intros. With a momentary pause, one is privy to fall for the illusion that the album has concluded when suddenly, Nick makes his presence known with a ferocious drum solo.The sonorous thundering of the double-bass and intricate fills on full display, all griping about the axing of the previous Peace Sells line-up drummer was put to rest once and for all. An adrenaline-pumping breakdown at the end of this song finally leads this landmark album in the history of not just thrash metal, but music itself, to a close.