`Peace Sells...' is without doubt one of the defining albums of the whole thrash scene, in fact one of the best metal albums of the 80's...no wait simply one of the finest metal albums of all time, simply put; life affirming. After the good but scrappy debut `Killing is My Business...And Business is Good' Megadeth really raised the bar and in my mind made the best record of 1986.
Rather than Metallica who were focusing on increasingly progressive songs and Slayer who went for just straight ahead stripped down brutality, Megadeth provided a sort of best of both worlds, being more musically proficient than any of their contemporaries as well as having tight and concise songs which could also rip your bleeding head off. No matter how technically brilliant Megadeth were, no one did angry better than Megadeth to be blunt Dave Muistane had issues. Megadeth was a band formed with the intent of revenge and they sounded like it.
`Peace Sells...' is Megadeth's finest album most of the songs here have now transcended into the realms of true heavy metal classics. In fact all the bands actual own compositions are fantastic only the ill advised cover of `I Ain't Superstitious' lets the side down, this song is an old blues standard but I think Megadeth based their version on the Jeff Beck Group's. Now Chris Poland can nail Beck's licks but Muistane sure as hell can't sing like Rod Stewart, so on the whole it just comes across as a bit of a novelty. But aside from that minor blunder this is all stellar speed metal. `Wake Up Dead' kicks things off in excellent fashion, it's a lovely piece of vitriolic metal with some of the best instrumental sections ever. It's like one verse then about two minutes of killer riffage and Muistane's solos that simply cut through everything and some more refined touches from Poland. Easily one of Megadeth's best numbers. `The Conjuring' displays a clear Mercyful Fate influence lyrically as its one of the bands few Satanic numbers. It's a spiralling concoction of riffs and tempo changes featuring Muistane's own (then) unique approach to two handed tapping. Again fantastic. Then the title track, which is without doubt one of the most seminal metal songs ever, a triumph of rage and spite...in a politically righteous kind of way, without ever being preachy (take that Rage Against the Machine!). The bass, the riffs, the lyrics, those driving rhythms and even Chris Poland's jazzy solos it's all phenomenally catchy and its one of those songs even casual metal fans love. Erm more standouts? All of it...well aside from the aforementioned cover. `Devils Island' once more is immensely catchy and so head banging friendly even though the chorus sounds more like Neville's island. However the best is saved for last with the distinctly more old school feeling (meaning I dunno pre-1984) `My Last Words' which starts with one of those classic clean thrash intros, then total head banging mania with what could well be Muistane's finest riff. As a song it feels really epic even though its under 5 minutes in length. It's got a certain energy to it that is so lacking in Megadeth's recent work it really makes the hairs on your neck (which is soar by the end of the album) stand on end. A monumental end to a staggering album, and that solo...ace!
Musically Megadeth could school any of their contemporaries at this time, but rather than relying on shredfest's the band retain a sense of melodic sensibility making `Peace Sells...' very much easy listening (in a heavy metal sense of course). Anyway, many consider the `Rust in Peace' line up to be the bands finest, but to me it seems this one has the best chemistry and ultimately brought on the best in Muistane's song writing. But it almost goes without saying that all this band are absolutely phenomenal musicians. The guitars really stand out on this album, this being Muistane's finest performance his riffs heavy and memorable and his leads just seem to shred through everything. Although he lacks some of Poland's finest as a guitarist I still prefer his lead style to any of his guitar partners. Poland as previously mentioned has a jazzy feel that was pretty groundbreaking in metal in the 80's and although a clearly accomplished guitarist his solos are often concise and never lose meaning. Ellefson proves himself as the consummate metal bassist (yes better than Cliff `silly bass wah' Burton...take that you sacred cow!) his tone is quite trebly and as such stands out in the mix which is good as he's actually doing some interesting things whilst never compromising what the song requires. Gar Samuelson is my favourite Megadeth drummer simply put I like his tone and feel, his and Chris' jazz background certainly makes for an interesting listen.
Oh now to have some fun, a Metallica comparison! `Master of Puppets' although good in places is simply no match for `Peace Sells...' Mop is plodding and overlong, lacking both the instant and appeal as well as the depth of PSBWB. Hetfield's riffs sound like forced picking exercises in comparison to Muistane's more nimble and frankly far more exciting compositions. Which rather than dense and dull which can be seen as James interpreting Iommi rather badly at times, Muistane's riffs have a more energetic feel and life to them, which can also be seen as the result of him actually keeping mid range to his guitar tone, as the triple tracked scooped mid sound of MOP may be dense but it's ultimately lifeless. I won't even bother going into how inferior Lars, Cliff and Kirk are to their Megadeth contemporaries. Yeah, this may be a slightly unrelated tangent but I feel this is a perfect way to give my opinion on age old metal disputes.
`Peace Sells...' represents Megadeth at their hateful and vengeful best, never losing focus of songs whilst always giving exciting and precise performances. This is an absolute winner of a metal album...every home should have at least one copy. Even at the very least you can dig the iconic yet dated cover with Vic Rattlehead in a post nuclear apocalyptic landscape...now that's thrash!