These are the ones I always hate having to write. Yet it seems like I’m having to write them more and more since last year. Once again here I sit knowing that one of the musical giants I grew up on has passed away in the night. Former MEGADETH drummer Nick Menza died last night, and it sucks. The first album he played on was arguably one of the greatest Thrash Metal records of all time. So in honor of this classic line-up’s first recording, tonight we take a look at Rust In Peace…Classic Album.
In late summer of 1990 I was a 17-year old metalhead hangin’ with my buddies and gearing up for my senior year of high school. One night the crew was over watching Headbanger’s Ball when a brand new MEGADETH video appeared. That video? “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due.” After we picked our collective jaws off the floor we all vowed to sell blood if necessary to purchase what promised to be a landmark record in this group’s career, especially after the horrific So Far, So Good…So What! (STOP, STOP, STAHHHHP!! It’s trash, and you know it.)
A few weeks later I was a newly-licensed driver armed with a booger green 1979 Plymouth Horizon and $10 in my pocket. I was headed over to local shop Record Collection where I finally got the album in my greedy little paws. First order of business? Tape a copy of the CD for my state-of-the-art car sound system. And by that I mean a boom box on the floor of the passenger side! The second time around with “Holy wars” was just as powerful as the first. The arrangement is flawless, and Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, Marty Friedman, and Nick Menza are a well-oiled machine on this and every other track. “Hangar 18” is next and it’s one of my top MEGADETH songs of all time. The lead breaks on this one are fucking JUDAS PRIEST-worthy!
The band swings a mighty wrecking ball on “Take No Prisoners” and it is a series of whacks to the head with a 2×4, but done so with surgical precision. They start and stop on a dime, but never once lose the headbanging rhythm. “Five Magics” is slow and evil for about two minutes before putting a Size 12 boot right up your ass, while “Poison Was the Cure” is more of a slow potboiler at first before Menza’s drumming catapults this song into the motherfucking stratosphere aimed at blowing shit up. Five songs in and 17-year old me was absolutely floored. Hell, 43-year old me is STILL floored by how amazing this unit sounds on this disc!
A dirty mid-tempo groove permeates “Lucretia” and you can just feel how locked in these guys were during the recording. They had to know with each and every track they were creating gold. If you’re any kind of real metalhead and you’ve never floored it down the highway to “Tornado of Souls” you simply haven’t lived. I did…then again I had a ‘79 Horizon so how fast was I gonna go, huh? Incidentally, I drove that car with my friends Mike and Jen to see this tour. It was the last hurrah for The Booger as she died a short time after. Another favorite to this day is “Dawn Patrol”, and I am so glad to have seen it live on three separate occasions now.
Closing this excellent record is “Rust In Peace…Polaris” featuring some killer drum work by the late Mr. Menza once again and a riff that boogies every bit as much as it thrashes. I still play this one multiple times before I’m through. Rust In Peace is one of THE quintessential MEGADETH albums that should be in every metalhead’s collection. I can’t tell you how many Saturday nights me, Joe, and Mike sat on my back deck from our teenage years till our mid-30’s playing this one over and over, finding something new to marvel at each time.
This record will continue to stand the test of time. It is brilliant execution from the first note to the last, and every time I hear it, whether it’s at home, or in concert, there I am, back in the Horizon, and that makes me smile pretty big. And THAT is what makes this part of the Classic Albums family. I bet Nick Menza would be pretty proud of that, and the legacy he’s left behind. ~dc
R.I.P. NICK MENZA (July 23, 1964 – May 21, 2016)