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Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!

Megadeth - Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good! ©1985 Combat
1. Last Rites/loved To Death
2. Killing Is My Business...and Business Is Good
3. Skull Beneath The Skin
4. These Boots
5. Rattlehead
6. Chosen Ones
7. Looking Down The Cross
8. Mechanix

We all know the details of guitarist Dave Mustaine's departure from Metallica so we shan't repeat them here to avoid the trappings of redundancy. The long and short of the matter is that Mustaine was motivated enough to create his own monster metal band and Megadeth was the result. Their first album, the sprawlingly titled Killing is my Business...And Business is Good! (an old Vietnam slogan), was a concise attack to the jugular. The debut is an incredibly speedy, blistering release that proved Megadeth was something to be reckoned with and that Mustaine did indeed possess a considerable amount of talent. The album also had recruited Kerry King from Slayer to record guitar parts and legend has it he nearly stayed in the band.

Beginning with an ominous but beautiful piano intro, the next thirty minutes are a rampaging swath through metal. Mustaine's substance abuse problems in his youth are also highly publicized and perhaps those illicit substances helped fuel the utter speed at which he and the band played on the debut. I'm certain many jaws of many budding guitarists dropped upon first hearing the speedy runs of Dave Ellefson's basslines on "Skull Beneath the Skin" or the insane speed of "Rattlehead". Moreover, the eight songs on this album are incredibly memorable and one of them ("Mechanix") was memorable because it was a reworking of the riffs Metallica used on "The Four Horsemen" from their debut album. To Mustaine's credit, his version is much more to the point and interesting. His vocals on this album are of course his trademark sneering, somewhat whining thin voice, but they tend to work very well here.

While Killing is my Business may have not had the best production in the world, the songs are more than strong enough to shine through. The upshot of this debut is that Megadeth was able to set the foundation for their rise to being one of the most prominent bands to exist in the pivotal 80s thrash/speed metal world. Absolutely required listening for Megadeth fans as well as anyone who has the tendency to explore 80s metal.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2001

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Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? ©1986 Capitol
1. Wake Up Dead
2. The Conjuring
3. Peace Sells
4. Devil's Island
5. Good Mourning/Black Friday
6. Bad Omen
7. I Ain't Superstitious
8. My Last Words

Megadeth's utterly brilliant second effort, back when Chris Poland was the head sweep-picker, Gar Samuelson the unremarkable drum-guy, and Dave Mustaine the composer on a million different kinds of drugs. This was back when he hadn't made the huge mistake of going clean, and therefore made such riveting music that Peace Sells... is one of my top three favourite thrash albums.

It's also a huge mess, this production: the instruments are all over the place, and the bass has a ridiculous voice in the cacophony. When the guitars head off in all directions - a default, for this one - you really feel the power of these compositions, their intricacy; this isn't typical 80s thrash but highly realised, intelligent metal that'll stick in your head no matter what "advanced" 90s black/death/jazz metal you listen to. Mustaine easily wrote his best songs on this - "Wake Up Dead", "The Conjuring", "Good Mourning/Black Friday" and "Bad Omen" are immortal, the only filler probably the stupid cover ("I Ain't Superstitious"). It's all very fast and the lead guitar work is often just bind-blowing (pay attention to Poland's work on "Black Friday", before the vocals come in). So's the rhythm, actually, and the off-time playing coupled with Mustaine's "walking" vocal line in "Black Friday" probably epitomise the spirit of technical thrash.

Although Rust is Peace is slightly better, this is more raw and unqestionably essential. And it's early Megadeth, so there's no question of not having it in your collection.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 03/2000

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So Far, So Good...So What

Megadeth - So Far, So Good...So What ©1988 Capitol
1. Into The Lungs Of Hell
2. Set The World Afire
3. Anarchy In The U.K.
4. Mary Jane
5. 502
6. In My Darkest Hour
7. Liar
8. Hook In Mouth

So Far, So Good...So What! is the sound of an unstable band in trouble and quite possibly not knowing how far into it they have sunk. This is not to say what is on this record makes for a bad record. Rather, the revolving door lineup plus perhaps the expectations to follow up the successful Peace Sells...But Who's Buying! made things rather rough at this stage of the game. For example, you have to ask who the hell Jeff Young and Chuck Behler were. Apparently they were in the band for a little over a half hour because that's how long this album is. But where are they now? Secondly, a poor choice of cover songs ("Anarchy in the UK") done with little aplomb doesn't help. Finally, a strange production that made the guitars sound less like ferocious beasts and more like a rare but nearly extinct rodent didn't help either. That all said, the remaining songs (excluding the drudgery of "Mary Jane") are all quite good. They probably would have been phenomenal had a stable lineup been involved. So Far... has all the problems of a band hiring out indifferent musicians just playing their parts and going home at the end of the day. The drumming is very mechanical and lacks any sort of real aggression and passion. The solos are technically fine, but not as fiery as the songs demand. At least Dave Mustaine saved some venom for his lyrics...just check out "Liar" for some serious anger. One of the more ironic songs here is "Hook in Mouth", which was a scathing diatribe against the PMRC (for you kids, that was Tipper Gore's organization in the 80s that wanted to ban everything under the sun...this helped her husband eventually gain attention and become the Vice-President). It's strange that in '92, Mustaine seemed very active in getting the Democratic ticket (which of course included the husband of you-know-who) elected. Funny how cleaning up one from drugs changes their perspectives. Regardless, So Far... is sort of a bizarre peek into troubled lives of troubled musicians. Too bad they lost the fire after fixing a lot of their personal and lineup problems.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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Rust In Peace

Megadeth - Rust In Peace ©1990 Capitol
1. Holy Wars...The Punishment Due
2. Hangar 18
3. Take No Prisoners
4. Five Magics
5. Poison Was The Cure
6. Lucretia
7. Tornado Of Souls
8. Dawn Patrol
9. Rust In Peace...Polaris

Rust in Peace was the album that officially put my interest in Megadeth to rest. The band's first three albums, recorded in a haze of substance abuse and multiple lineup changes, ranged from good to classic albums of the heyday of thrash. However, between 1988, when So Far, So Good...So What! was released, and 1990, Megadeth underwent yet another set of lineup changes and cleaned up the substance abuse. New members Nick Menza and Marty Friedman provided a stability that the band strived for years to achieve, but at the same time, they provided less excitement or interesting music.

As a quick disclaimer, the musicianship of Megadeth is undeniable throughout Rust in Peace. Guitarist Marty Friedman matches up with Dave Mustaine and drummer Nick Menza is quite good in his own right. Unfortunately, the sheer manic rush of earlier albums was lost in an effort to be polished and showy. Worse yet, despite upgrading the band roster, Dave Mustaine is still singing. His little sneer simply does not endear. The weakest aspect of the entire album is the songwriting. Only "Hangar 18" and "Tornado of Souls" really muster up any sort of dust and debris. The others tend to linger behind the musicianship, digging their toes in the dirt while wild solos prove these guys have dexterious fingers.

At the time of the album's release in 1990, I was floored with how uninteresting the entire album was. Years later, the album fails to improve over time. Ability to play often overshadows ability to write exciting music and Megadeth fell headlong into that trap. From that point on, Megadeth became an act that I ignored as they spiralled into creative oblivion. Rust in Peace might have been an important step for the band, particularly for their health, but it certainly alienated me.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2002

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Megadeth - Youthanasia ©1994 Capitol
1. Reckoning Day
2. Train Of Consequences
3. Addicted To Chaos
4. A Tout Le Monde
5. Elysian Fields
6. The Killing Road
7. Blood Of Heroes
8. Family Tree
9. Youthanasia
10. I Thought I Knew It All
11. Black Curtains
12. Victory

After the really dry production and very "straight metal" orientation of their previous album, Countdown to Extinction, Megadeth decided to branch out a bit with a lusher mix, radio-friendly hooks, and a more relaxed attitude. The result was a very good album with many great arse-kicking songs and relatively few embarrassing moments.

All the classic Megadeth elements are present: harmonized guitars ("Addicted to Chaos"), classic chugging riffs ("Reckoning Day", "Victory", "The Killing Road"), muscular drumming, and extraordinary solos courtesy of Marty Friedman ("Victory", "Killing Road"). Mustaine stretches his songwriting a tad with a few more ballady songs than on previous albums, but unfortunately fails to impress, as both the songs themselves and their delivery are rather flat and uninspired ("Blood of Heroes" is especially cringe-inducing). His lyrics are as grotesquely moronic as ever ("The Killing Road"), but no more egregiously so than on any other albums.

Regardless, the strength of this album lies in its great classic metal songs, its excellent production, and Marty Friedman's particularly inspired solos, which are reason enough to justify the purchase of this album.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 12/2001

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Megadeth - Risk ©1999 Capitol
1. Insomnia
2. Prince Of Darkness
3. Enter The Arena
4. Crush 'Em
5. Breadline
6. The Doctor Is Calling
7. I'll Be There
8. Wanderlust
9. Ecstasy
10. Seven
11. Time: The Beginning
12. Time: The End

No matter how vehemently Mustaine pooh-poohs the incessant comparisons between Megadeth and Metallica, one hopes for him that he will realize he is not fooling anybody. Here is a short list of the similarities between Megadeth's new piece of junk and Metallica's recent pieces of junk: The Megadeth logo has had a facelift, as did Metallica's on Load. For the first time, Mustaine only printed snippets of each song's lyrics, as Metallica did (for the first time) on Load and Reload. More than half of the songs are worthless, as was the case on Load and especially Re-load. The vocal melody in the verse of "Prince of Darkness" bears an uncanny resemblance to Metallica's new midtempo songs. Friedman's epic solos of yesteryear have all but disappeared, as did Hammett's on Load and Reload (admittedly for a different reason: Friedman is smothered under the cardinal rule of radio-friendliness, whereas Hammett apparently decided to stop practicing and to become a horrible, intonation/tone-challenged, generic, sloppy rock player).

It is thus only natural to wonder whether Risk is as unworthy of Megadeth's discography as Load and Reload are of Metallica's. And the answer is yes.

While Mustaine's lyrics occasionally made one wonder if English was his native language ("This behavior's quite insane/But we do it for the fame, yeah" - "The Killing Road"), he has hit bottom on this album. Not printing them thus has the combined benefit of saving the listener a fit and of making way for the eye-catching artwork, this CD's only redeeming virtue (don't be fooled by the ugly cover, the inside art is actually worth checking out).

Everything on this album reeks of commercialism. Five out of twelve songs are co-written with manager Bud Prager, which evokes Steve Vai's frightful collaboration with his then-manager Desmond Child on the wannabe-radio-breakthrough-catastrophe "In my dreams with you". The production is clear and well-balanced, with undermixed drums, harmless electric guitars, layers, vocal harmonies and other niceties. The song structures have been pared down and guitar leads feel as though they were put in reluctantly. You can find electronica drums and basslines ("Crush'em", "Insomnia"), a country song played with heavy metal instruments ("Breadline", with a major key chorus and poor-man lyrics - suggesting that producer Dan Huff's influence is much greater than the credits let on), poppy power ballad choruses ("I'll be there", "Ecstasy"), revamps of older songs ("Wanderlust" is a poor clone of "Train of consequences"; "Seven") and hackneyed chord progressions ("Ecstasy"). Most of the songs are based around questionable commercial hooks, while the verses appear to have been completely neglected and often lack a distinctive melody altogether. And sadly enough, when they do exhibit some sort of a melody, it sounds like The doctor is calling, which co-opts alternative rock's cliché of using the vocal melody as a rhythm guitar part.

Is this album completely worthless, then? Not exactly. First, the inside artwork is cute. Three songs are actually rather good by Megadeth standards: "Insomnia" is a kick-ass uptempo cut with interesting string samples, and Mustaine does a convincing job of singing on "Time: the beginning" and "Time: the end" (which incidentally has the driest, truest production on the album). And finally, the production is very good, if you can abstract away from the music.

The newish logo symbolizes what happened to Megadeth: it has lost all its sharp edges and now looks like a poorly-done retro motorcycle gas tank paint job. Sad fate for what was once one of metal's more interesting bands.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 09/1999

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The System Has Failed

Megadeth - The System Has Failed ©2004 Sanctuary
1. Blackmail The Universe
2. Die Dead Enough
3. Kick The Chair
4. The Scorpion
5. Tears In A Vial
6. I Know Jack
7. Back In The Day
8. Something I'm Not
9. Truth Be Told
10. Of Mice And Men
11. Shadow Of Deth
12. My Kingdom Come

Back in the day, Megadeth mattered. A lot. Rust in Peace, for example, remains a favorite for scads of hairy and formerly-hairy metal fans almost fifteen years after it came out, and I myself still listen to it with as much glee now as I did then. Then Dave Mustaine's muse moved to Antarctica to hang out with penguins, and Mustaine inflicted such flamboyantly dull duds as Risk on a world that truly didn't deserve such hatred. The nadir of Megadeth's career was Mustaine's injury and the band's subsequent dissolution, which didn't leave much hope for a glorious return.

Then something happened. Mustaine's arm healed, his teeth grew sharp again, he called up his old lead guitarist Chris Poland, and released the best Megadeth album since 1992's Countdown to Extinction, hands down.

The songs, the riffs, the snarling vocals, the guitar solos, the hooks, everything on The System Has Failed screams, "I'm back, you fokofs", and the only possible course of action when the last track ends is to press "Play" again. Sure, little in the songwriting has changed much since Mustaine's glory days, and his lyrics are still less than memorable. Much of The System Has Failed is a tighter, better-performed version of the material on Peace Sells or Killing is my Business (the intro to "Die Dead Enough" sounds eerily like a bit they forgot to put on Peace Sells). And of course Mustaine had to include a couple of songs about his band's and/or his own past ("Of Mice and Men").

But a handful of newer elements, like spoken-word samples, discreet orchestral/keyboard lines, and an almost all-new backing band, do make this album more than just a throwback to the good old days. And speaking of backing bands, Mustaine got himself two of the most brilliant jazz fusion musicians today, namely drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and former lead guitarist Chris Poland, to record his comeback album. Fear not the jazz label, though: Colaiuta thumps like a mofo throughout the record, and Poland is his usual superb self, cramming more taste and inspiration into four bars than one hundred metal guitarists combined could muster with ten years' advance notice. This fact has evidently not escaped Mustaine's attention, and his ever-ambiguous relationship to Poland's playing is once again prominently displayed in the relative playtime he assigned Poland and himself - Poland's sublime lines are simply too few and far between to satisfy, as they were on Megadeth's first two records. Every other Megadeth lead guitarist got more playtime than Poland ever has, and that's just criminal.

Petty recriminations aside, though, this is exactly the album that Megadeth needed. Ten years ago. But we'll take it now and relish every minute of it, thank you very much. Well done, Dave.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 10/2004

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