Retro Review - Megadeth - Peace Sells... but Who's Buying

Megadeth is selling it and I'm buying...

Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying is the first Megadeth album I bought and introduced me to the two DavesMustaine and Ellefson, so when MaF Overlord, Scott Adams asked me to do a retro review on one of the first 3 Megadeth albums it was a no brainer which one to go for.

1986 was an amazing year for thrash metal, with seminal releases coming also from from Metallica (Master of Puppets) and Slayer (Reign in Blood}, and then, in October, the world of thrash metal was turned on its head when Megadeth released their second album, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?  This was to be the last album with this line-up of Dave Mustaine – guitar and lead vocals, Dave Ellefson – bass, Gar Samuelson – drums and Chris Poland – guitar.  When you look at it, Peace Sells was probably lucky to be made, for a number of reasons.  Mustaine and Ellefson were homeless at the time and it has been well documented since then how many drug issues the band was having. I remember watching Megadeth – Behind The Music, and Dave Mustaine talking about how they went through the money they were advanced to buy drugs and then would find equipment being sold off to pawn shops so another band member could get cash to get his next fix.  The album was mixed under two different producers and also had the rights to it bought by Capitol Records part way through is, but in spite of all that it was recorded and is what I consider to be an absolute thrash classic.

The album overall is better both musically and technically than its predecessor Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good.  The lyrical ability focussed on some darker aspects with songs The Conjuring, Devil’s Island, Good Mourning/Black Friday and My Last Words covering occultism, serial killers and both preparing for and playing with death. Packed in amongst that was the classic title track Peace Sells with it’s politically charged lyrics.  If there’s a new way, I’ll be the first in line.  But it better work this time!

The songs are a touch slower overall but have better progressions that make the music more interesting when compared with KIMB.  Though that is not to say speed was forsaken, after all this is probably the album that led to their consolidation within the Big 4 of thrash metal.  Two songs that prove that are Good Mourning/Black Friday and Bad Omen which were described by front man Dave Mustaine as being much faster than Rattlehead in an interview around late 1985.  Good Mourning/Black Friday is extreme in speed but is so much easier to listen to (in my view) compared to Rattlehead. I vividly remember playing it for one of my mates and he just said to me – It’s too fast for me man, I’ll stick with my Dio and Iron Maiden.

The opening track is the riff laden Wake Up Dead which Mustaine wrote about sleeping around on a girl he was living with at the time.  I think that this song has two of my most favourite riffs of all time that were interspersed with some great solo work from Mustaine and Poland.  The song sets the tone and my expectations were high as I moved onto The Conjuring, a song heavily focussed on the occult and which apparently simulates a satanic ceremony.  This song has not been played live by Megadeth since around 2001 when Mustaine converted to Christianity.

Peace Sells is an amazing song and is still one of Megadeth’s most popular songs live along with Holy Wars.. The Punishment Due.  The lyrics seemed to be a personification of Mustaine’s rebellious nature at the time with lines like What do you mean I don’t support your system? I go to court when I have to.  Devil’s Island is one of the weaker songs on the album but is still a damn good track giving testament to how good an album this is.  It is written about a prisoner facing death on the notorious French penal colony of the same name.

Next up is one of my favourites off the album with Good Mourning/Black Friday which is really two songs, beginning with the slow starting acoustic Good Mourning. Black Friday is all about a homicidal madman going on a killing spree.  This is one of the most intricate songs on the album and is played at blistering speed. Bad Omen is almost slow by comparison to Black Friday but it is another scary and dark song though the lyrics are almost unintelligible.

The cover of Willie Dixon’s I Ain’t Superstitious is the weakest song on the album, it’s a rock and roll song that feels right out of place on this iconic thrash album.  My Last Words rights the ship and brings a close to the end of this magnificent album.  A song around playing a game of Russian Roulette which is fast and aggressive, the perfect way to finish off one of Megadeth’s best albums.

Most people should look back on this album fondly, and in my view it has earned the right to be classed as one of the greatest thrash albums of all time.