Growing up I had four albums that I kept in the kitchen, prime listening for when I was doing the dishes: Mozart’s Requiem mass, Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings, Ride The Lightning, and Peace Sells. . . But Who’s Buying? The Robert Johnson songs were my top choice, but I held the other three in about equal regard. That’s right: Metallica and Megadeth were equals, perhaps nowhere else but in my kitchen. The main reason they remained equal is that Kirk Hammett still sounded like Dave Mustaine until Master Of Puppets. There, I’ve said it.
These albums (Lightning and Peace) were still thrashy. Puppets was ok, but I liked it a bit more concise. It was the dirty style of Mustaine’s guitar work that I liked the most, though, and I firmly believe that, to my youthful pleasure, Hammett totally bit that style until Puppets(when I first heard Kill Em All, I was sure that Mustaine was playing on those tracks, and should probably have been credited for “writing” those solos). The chromatic runs, the off-kilter squealing (paging Kerry King, the original Megadeth guitarist), the un-classicalness of that style gave a break from the more predictable thrash moments. Puppets, released earlier the same year as Peace, was really two thrash moments (“Battery” and, try to say it with a straight face, “Damage, Inc”) in amongst the prog-y baby steps tha band was taking toward . . . And Justice For All. There needed to be a more melodic guitar distinction for the prog-ier tunes, and Hammett became, well, more like him and less like Dave Mustaine(some mag, maybe Rolling Stone, back in ’88 referred to Hammett and Hetfield’s styles, respectively, as the “imp” and the “centaur”. Fair enough.).
Then a couple of things happened.
1) Dave Mustaine started to hate everyone that wasn’t named Heroin.
2) Metallica released . . . And Justice For All and jacked us all off with it. Hard.
. . . And Justice For All
destroyed my seventh-grade mind. I feel comfortable saying this was my first exposure to prog rock. The lack of bass guitar wasn’t obvious at first, because there were twenty overdubbed guitar parts per song. And, besides, we knew there was a bass player; Cliff Burton got ahold of a bad case of the fatal bus crashes and was replaced by an angry Muppet(sorry, Flotsam and/or Jetsom!). The video for “One” was bad ass, and I got to be awesome for forty-five seconds because I had read Johnny Got His Gun in the fifth grade instead of just Choose Your Own Adventure books(I also got to tell people that the weird song on BloodSugarSexMagik was a Robert Johnson tune. Straight knowledge, son.). It went from “Will Metallica’s new album be as good as the new Sacred Reich album?” to “Holy shit there is nothing like this I MUST OBEY IT.” T-shirt art better that Iron Madien. Sweet maxi singles with totally cool, if stylistically non-similar, b-sides. Fucking QUEEN covers! Metal hardons for everyone. . .
. . . except Dave Mustaine. Megadeth’s offering for the same year, So Far, So Good. . . So What! was lame (a guy in an Exploited tee told me they screwed up the “Anarchy in the UK” lyrics), with a new cast of musicians, surely a heroin-compelled decision. Always bitter/jealous of Metallica’s success, Dave did what he could to keep up with the thrash Jonses in 1990; he kicked heroin. Good start, for any reason. Next, hire you a stone-cold guitar killer, Marty Freidman. The difference between Dave and Marty’s dynamic versus the “imp” and the “centuar” is that neither of them had to alter their style to make a dichomity of sound. Marty Freidman is classically trained and shred-y; I
listened to a lot of classical music at the time, and that style of playing was totally in my wheelhouse (Jesus Christ, I bought Passion And Warfare in 1990, too, the week it came out. . . and if had the breadth of metal knowledge then I probably would have bought a Cacophony album, too). When Rust In Peace came out I didn’t immediately rush out and buy it, but it wasn’t long after I saw the video for “Hanger 18” that I did run out and get it. Thrash-y, shred-y, guitar solo swapping for the win. Sure, there were a couple of duds on the album (paging the song, “Lucretia”), but songs like “Tornado of Souls” and “Five Magics” picked up the slack. In 1990, Megadeth was the top thrash band for sure.
[full disclosure: I hadn’t heard Reign In Blood at this point, but Seasons In The Abyss came out in 1990, too, and was awesome, but I wasn’t ready to hear that much evil yet. Persistance Of Time, the best, and certainly the least fucking corny, Anthrax album also came out in 1990. Marching band bus rides and D&D games had their best soundtracks ever that year, good Lord!]
The ultimate lesson? Twenty years later, Rust In Peace is a superior album to . . . And Justice For All. For as groundbreaking as Justice was, the flaws in it are not only painful to listen to, but a sonic portent to the band’s demise/pussout. Megadeth would weaken their game with Countdown To Extinction, but not at the suffering speed Metallica would reach with their eponymous album. Both bands made important personnel changes, but Megadeth featured theirs ,Freidman, while Metallice buried and destroyed theirs, Angry Muppet Newstead(on the newest personnel changes, Megadeth’s Chris Brodrick wins again over fonky Robert Trujillo). I slipped the remastered Rust In Peace in the cd player last week while I handwashed some dishes in lieu of using the dishwasher. Sounded fantastic. I had to wipe the air guitar off of my hands before my partner got home, but when he noticed the metal boner in my pants, I gave him all the credit. Don’t be mad, Dave.
Some notes as I was researching some things for this essay:
— Youtube provided the most pee-larious Metallic vs Megadeth battles ever. What a fucking spectacle that is. Youtube commenters are the new “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”.
— Also on Youtube, Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band moments of both bands. Super winner was “Hanger 18”, “as made famous by Megadeth” it was quick to point out.
— Les Claypool tried out for Cliff Burton’s vacated spot, but didn’t make the cut because, as James Hetfield states, her was too funky. Trujillo better be glad he spent the next four years after that audition brain-dead drunk and forgot the decision making process he used before.
— Chris Brodrick and Marty Freidman seem like legitimately nice guys, and I hope they really are.
— Also hot in 1990? “Humpty Dance”, “Vogue”, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, and “Groove is in the Heart”. Man, thrash metal kept me from being GAYER THAN I ALREADY AM.
— Some Kind Of Monster almost kept me from writing this whole thing. Shit. Heap.