The Bach-inspired opening of this record gave me high hopes that I would be listening to something in the real of Celtic Frost in terms of its willingness to break from the conventions of thrash. Alas, it is the only sign that Mustaine has music ambitions beyond what I think of as Megadeth’s sound. (I have heard at least one other album.)
The rest of the album is typical thrash, albeit perhaps a little bit faster than much of the contemporary thrash of the time. It’s interesting that Megadeth has the reputation they do, given how late this record came out in the evolution of the genre. I suspect Mustaine’s pedigree as a member of Metallica has a lot to do with it, as does the speed at which this music is played. But why Exodus is a bit of a footnote and these guys aren’t? I don’t know.
Mustaine’s songs are not as good as those by Hetfield and Ulrich. That’s not really a surprise – and it’s something I knew already – but it’s worth noting. More importantly to me, he’s far less ambitious. With the exception of the piano opening, these are just run of the mill thrash tracks played extra fast. Meanwhile Metallica were about to start recording Master of Puppets.
Nearly all metal lyrics are dumb, and Mustaine’s are no exception. These bother me less than on Peace Sells and, given the year this came out, I’m more willing to ignore them, but he can be a bit of a caricature. (I guess that wasn’t so true in 1985…)
I’ve heard lots of comments about the bad production but I don’t hear it. Maybe I’m listening to a remaster or something but, to me, the production is one of the album’s virtues. I can hear all the instruments well. Maybe the guitars aren’t loud enough in contrast to the other instruments but I can actually hear the bass! – something that is a big problem on a lot of extreme metal records of the era. I will say the cymbals might be mixed a little high.
But the real draw of this record is how unbelievably fast they play. They do sort of find a happy middle ground between thrash and speed, with enough of the grit and power of thrash, with the technique of speed. You can see the origins of a subgenre like technical death metal in an album like this – fast and pummeling at the same time. So I guess that’s why they’re a bigger deal than Exodus.