The Album That Raised the Standard for Metal: 30 Years of Megadeth’s ‘Rust In Peace’

Released on this day three decades ago, find out how the album incorporated a deeper meaning into the world of Thrash.

Their first album with, what is now considered their ‘classic lineup’, Megadeth’s Rust In Peace is widely recognised as the album that first catapulted the Thrash band into stardom. Their fourth studio release, the album tackled some of the most controversial and hard-hitting issues at the time, addressing motifs including politics, religion, war and addiction.

Released by Capitol Records back in 1990, Rust In Peace began to galvanise attention from across the globe for its blatant confrontation of some of the most taboo topics and new approach to the Thrash genre. 

Renowned for its unorthodox shifting of time signatures, intricate lead guitar and the multitude of sections within each song, the album revolutionised the simplified angst that Thrash became founded upon. For the first time, the genre ran parallel to Progressive Metal with its overt technicality, precision and refinement.

Much of this was as a result of the new lead guitarist, Marty Friedman. However, although widely celebrated for his role in the album, few know that Friedman wasn’t the band’s first choice of guitarist…

An extensive, drawn-out search for a new guitarist took place upon previous guitarist, Jeff Young’s departure, with Annihilator’s Jeff Waters and Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell all being considered. What’s more, Dimebag Darrell was initially offered the role as full-time member, but declined due to the band’s reluctance to let his brother, Vinnie Paul, join the band as drummer- a role filled by the previous drummer’s technician, Nick Menza.

Experimenting with virtuosic instrumentation and political commentary through its lyrics, Rust In Peace became one of the best Thrash Metal releases of all time- raising the standard for other bands on the scene who would shy away from addressing such deep-rooted issues.

This political motivation was most clearly seen in the track, ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’, which tackled the conflict in Northern Ireland at the time. Deriving from the hostility between the Protestants and Catholics, the single became one of the band’s best selling hits to date, addressing what Mustaine saw to be the hypocrisy in religion and politics.

Further, the title track of the album, ‘Rust In Peace… Polaris’ also refused to turn a blind eye to some of the most prominent political issues at the time, attacking the government’s attitudes towards nuclear warfare. This is seen as the hit alludes to the lack of humanity of the United States during times of war, making reference to the Cold War-era UGM-27 Polaris missile: a weapon practically immune to counterattacks.

This politically-fuelled, brazen discussion of some of society’s most controversial issues at the time targeted a gap in the industry. With its thoughtful lyrics resonating with audiences globally, the release debuted at number 23 on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum in the US… Megadeth’s highest-charting album at that point.

Not merely successful due to the number of copies sold, it also received rave reviews from some of the most renowned publications at the time, with Mustaine’s songwriting being celebrated as raising the standard for metal music. 

To say the concept and title of the album came from a vehicle’s bumper sticker, reading: “may all your nuclear weapons rust in peace”, the album has become a landmark album for all metal lovers. From the intense lyricism to the technical refinement and intricate sections throughout, Rust In Peace has paved the way for some of the most iconic albums to date, infusing the metal genre with the sense of purpose that it had previously backed away from. 



Dave Mustaine’s latest book, discussing the history of the revolutionary album, Rust in Peace: The Inside Story of the Megadeth Masterpiece, is out now.

To purchase the book, click here!

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