Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986): Review


Produced by Dave Mustaine and Randy Burns
Label – Capitol

1986 was a pivotal year in the development of speed metal and thrash. Vital album releases from Metallica, Slayer, and the continuing rise in popularity for Anthrax (who would release the “classic” “Among The Living” the following year) meant that there was a genuine four pronged assault that gained commercial momentum and provided a genuine alternative to listeners bored with the polished mainstream acts like Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. Megadeth, with their sophomore recording “Peace Sells…” would rise from the obscure depths to become a leading component in the popularity of the genre, and in leader Dave Mustaine, an angry, sarcasm spewing, but technically gifted anti-hero to worship. His frenetic guitar playing and scattergun lyrical rants provided a convincing characterization of the gifted ADHD kid who could turn his skill to thrilling an audience with devilish depictions of political manipulation in the cold war era, and the tragic ultimate destiny of humankind.

The response for a generation left reeling by the continuous cold war threat is all captured in the intensity of the title track, with Dave Ellefson’s fluid bass line leading into the crunching rallying call and absorbing intensity as the band delivered a middle fingered gesture to all the world leaders more concerned with their chest beating profile. Ellefson and drummer Gar Samuelson are vital to the record’s momentum, and their jazz fusion experiences help to seamlessly transition some striking tempo changes. For example “Good Mourning/Black Friday’s” relatively stately opening explodes into a breakneck anthem to impending doom. To their credit, the band experimented with funk rhythms on “Bad Omen”; something their peers would never have the guts to attempt. Mustaine’s lyrics, are for the most part dis-jointed, from fear of the confrontation due to his infidelity (“Wake Up Dead”), to being the advocate to the Devil (“The Conjuring”), and a death row lament (“Devil’s Island”). The cover of Jeff Beck’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” feels out of step with the rest of the collection and there are moments where badly recorded top end guitar edits form a shrill, distorted, and often unnecessarily crude noise.

But obviously “Peace Sells…” emphasizes the noisy aggression, and obsessive metallic thrashing speed where mishaps are rare, given the album’s relentless pace. It is at times, thrilling, daunting, fascinating and occasionally infuriating.


Track Rating
1 – Wake Up Dead (7)
2 – The Conjuring (7)
3 – Peace Sells (8)
4 – Devil’s Island (7)
5 – Good Mourning/Black Friday (8)
6 – Bad Omen (7)
7 – I Ain’t Superstitious (5)
8 – My Last Words (8)

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