1. Is It Any Good?
Fans will argue until they're blue in the face about the merits of Megadeth over Metallica, and vice versa, but with the possible exception of Metallica's first two albums, there's never been any question that Megadeth has always thrashed harder. Peace Sells...But Who's Buying may not be Megadeth's masterpiece(that honor has to go to Rust in Peace), but it's probably the most consistently solid album in Megadeth's discography, and maybe of the mid-'80s thrash movement in general.
Things start off at a nice gallop with "Wake Up Dead", the best song about infidelity not to come out of the American south, with the last minute transforming the fairly standard thrash tune into diabolical sounding war march. The beginning of the album suffers far more than the end, due to the clunky and dated "The Conjuring" and the outright boring "Devil's Island". That said, sandwiched between these two songs is "Peace Sells", an anthem that ranks up with "Ace of Spades", "Balls to the Wall" and "Raining Blood" as one of the defining heavy metal tracks of the '80s. Hilarious lyrics, intense guitar work and possibly the greatest metal bass riff of all time ensure it'll be a song remembered long after people stop playing "Rock Band 2".
Side 2 of Peace Sells is pure gravy. "Bad Omen" starts off slow but features a guitar solo that literally makes the guitar sound like it's melting and has to be heard to be believed. "I Ain't Superstitious" is a hilarious attempt at mixing thrash metal with the blues that, in a turn of events that you'll see becomes a pattern with this album, goes utterly apeshit in the last third. And "My Last Words" is an exhilarating ode to Russian Roulette and a fine way to cap off the album. It's a good chunk of music, and many lesser bands of the era would've killed to have a run of songs so excellent on one album.
But the centerpiece of the whole album has to be "Good Mourning/Black Friday". Starting out with a moody, haunting atmosphere, launching into a guitar solo that can only be described as "desolate" and progressing into one the most off-the-walls-insane-with-energy odes to mass murder ever recorded in the realm of metal, this song is easily one of the most underrated of Megadeth's entire canon and should have come to be known as one of the defining tracks of the thrash era. "Blistering" doesn't even begin to describe the last two and a half minutes of this song, as the drums start pounding like thunderclaps and the Dave Mustaine and Chris Poland's guitars start swirling around each other like they're eating each other from the inside out. Not until "Grand Theft Auto III" came out were killing sprees this fun.
The lyrics deserve a passing mention, as well. From infidelity to the occult, from global war to good old fashioned every day nihilism, Mustaine and company never stay on one subject for too long. While lyrics often took a backseat to the actual musicianship in thrash music, and still do on this album as well, it's refreshing that Megadeth decided to mix it up for this release, and it gives the music a freshness that's lasted to this very day.
Peace Sells...But Who's Buying is an essential recording from the thrash period. Funny, whip smart and as intense as all hell, any metalhead's discography is incomplete without this, one of Megadeth's finest efforts.
2. Is It Influential?
It was an album released by one of the Big Four, and one of their most well known ones at that. Even Megadeth's later guitarist, Jeff Young, was inspired by the playing on this album. I have no doubt that it served as a firm benchmark for quality metal for many future metal musicians, as well.
3. Is It A Good Starting Point For Beginners?
Absolutely. Peace Sells is a great microcosm of the entire thrash movement: From lyrics to lightning-fast musicianship, everything you need to know about thrash metal is right here in 37 minutes. Guaranteed to blow a newbie's lid off without sending them running away.
ONE LAST THING:
I know this was a couple of days ago, but on Sunday Ronnie James Dio passed away. While I was never a fan of his solo work or his tenure with Black Sabbath, he did some good things with Rainbow, had an impressive voice and seemed like a great guy besides. And hell, the dude gave us The Horns. So even if I wasn't a particularly huge fan of his music, he inspired close to every metal group I enjoy, and that by itself is worth honoring, I think.
This installment of The Importance of Being Metal is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio. Here is a totally silly picture in his honor. Keep on rockin' in the Underworld, Dio!