For this entry, The Grand Relistening project has me questioning my first impressions of Megadeth’s classic 1990 album Rust In Peace.
First of all, one thing that has always existed for me is that out of the band’s first four albums, the classic thrash metal albums, this is the album which I like the least. That is not to say that I dislike it in any way, only that there are three albums that I like more than it. With most albums in the world, that wouldn’t be a problem, but of course Rust In Peace is the sort of album that causes internet flame wars if it isn’t adequately praised and fans get overly defensive of it.
That defensive overpraising fan aspect is hugely off-putting to me and the very same phenomenon that causes me to be overly critical and skeptical about Reign In Blood. Much like Reign In Blood, my first impressions of this album were made when I was young and while I can be sensible and fair in my opinions now as an adult, it is hard to reassign unfair decisions that were made before my brains maturation had completed.
The song that gets nearly all the focus of that fan situation is opener ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’ which is a song that I enjoy a hell of a lot on my own but become strangely cold towards in the presence of, or in discussion with other Megadeth fans. It’s a flaw of mine, I admit that and on this relistening I know that I really like the song, the only time I would think it was anything less than brilliant is when someone is insisting it is the best thing since sliced bread.
I suppose I must just have a mixture between a minor childish need to be contrary and some kind of minor superiority complex that lashes out meakly against hyperbole and the concept of ‘liking it wrong.’ This is something I get over more and more as time passes but which unfortunately has not been completely eradicated.
‘Hangar 18’ is similarly considered by most people to be one of the band’s signature tracks, up there with ‘Peace Sells’ and ‘Sweating Bullets’ and I certainly enjoy the track when I objectively sit down and listen to it free from context, but two things always make me think it isn’t that great. Firstly the aforementioned not thrash enough and overrated notions and secondly how much I enjoy the related track ‘Return To Hangar’ from later in their career, the fact that I like that song more somehow wrongly implants the notion that Hangar 18 isn’t good when I’m not listening to it.
Now, apart from the big songs that Megadeth always play live, there are two ways that I listen to the album, as a Megadeth album and as a Thrash Metal album. When listening to it as a Megadeth album it is simply a bunch of impressive guitar solos and a lot of great songs, half of which I forget easily.
As a Thrash Metal album, which is honestly the most common way that I’ll listen to it, Rust In Peace is something of a disappointment. You’d think that I would logically therfor chose to listen to it as a Megadeth album from now on in light of that, but these feelings are completely illogical and despite trying to logical in so many areas, I am often unable to here.
You see, when I start to listen to Thrash Metal I perceive myself as empty and can only become filled by hearing a certain level of sonic characteristics often describe by fans and hack journalists as sweaty energy, low pitched chugging and just a certain specific range of sounds.
In fairness, Rust In Peace is a masterpiece of quick spindly guitar where fingers go all up and down the guitar creating fluid runs that are brilliant mixtures of mid and high-pitched notes. I’m sure a large part of the album’s success and legacy is based on that very fact. The problem I have is that when I am fiending for a specific sound in such a way as that my forearms feel hollow and can only be filled by the type of meaty riffs that Scott Ian or Gary Holt are good at writing, Rust In Peace doesn’t satisfy that need/itch.
The track ‘Take No Prisoners’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album, being fast, largely low pitched and featuring gang vocals. Much closer to the Thrash sound that I like.
‘Five Magics’ is a superb display of guitar work that is proggy in structure, gets thrashy after a while and has a really great ending, but is a song that I would never listen to outside of listening to the album. This relistening reminded me that the song is good, but I still foresee it disappearing from my memory after a few hours.
‘Poison Was The Cure’ has a slow intro but turns into a hectic speed metal track that would be more at home on the band’s debut, furthermore it has a wonderful melodic guitar solo. I know that now, after relistening to it, because before I did I had forgot every single second of it.
‘Lucretia’ and ‘Tornado Of Souls’ are two songs that are easier for me to remember but unfortunately it is a case of having taken an inaccurate mental-snapshot which completely fails to capture the exciting nature and the more fun sections of the songs. On this relistening, I was reminded of the better parts of the songs and feel much more positively towards them.
‘Dawn Patrol’ does nothing for me and never did. I don’t really have anything to say other than that it evokes a vague bomb shelter, mole people vibe in my mind. It isn’t pointless or out of place exactly, but I cant think of another way to describe it.
The final track on the album; which is the title track, has been one of my absolute favourite Megadeth songs since I first heard it a decade ago and arguably one of my favourite songs in general despite the fact that I never think to listen to it anywhere near as frequently as any of my other favourite songs. Incidentally, this track completely ‘fills my forearms’ with that aforementioned raw Thrash that I sometimes itch after and yet is also a bizarre and creative track unlike anything else that has ever been written, structurally and musically.
Some of the guitar lines on the song are just so uncommon and out of left field, yet feel completely natural when left unanalyzed, so this track could fit equally well beside Anthrax and The Mars Volta on a beginners mixtape to give away, which is something I spend an absurd amount of time fantasizing about by the way, to the point where it makes me understand my place on the spectrum between normalcy and extreme Aspergers really specifically.
Sometimes the line ‘Rotten Egg-Air Of Death’ wrankles my lyrical sensibilities, but otherwise the track is perfect from beginning to end. Furthermore, possibly due to my aforementioned contrariness the track has endured as one of my favourite Megadeth tracks because I rarely ever hear anyone else mention it and up until recently, the idea of the band playing it live was unrealistic.
In summary, as usual Rust In Peace is a great album when I listen to it but that I wrongly have a weird attitude towards because I like certain other things more and because other fans almost subconsciously annoy me in the way that they present themselves as feeling about it somehow.