Megadeth: Rust Never Sleeps
Originally published in Guitar World, July 2010
Dave Mustaine reflects on Megadeth’s mega-successful 20th anniversary Rust in Peace tour and talks about the thrash metal classic that continues to eat the competition.
"I love being onstage,” Megadeth main man Dave Mustaine says. “For me, there’s nothing better than looking out at the faces of our fans and seeing how happy we make them.” Indeed, over the past year, Megadeth fans have had good reason to be plenty pleased. In 2009, the legendary metal act, armed with a new lineup that includes hotshot shredder Chris Broderick, released its strongest album in more than a decade, Endgame. More recently, there was the unexpected news that Mustaine had welcomed estranged original bassist Dave Ellefson back to the fold after an eight-year absence, in the process restoring the core duo behind the band’s classic albums from the Eighties and Nineties.
And speaking of classic albums, Megadeth has been on the road for much of this year celebrating the 20th anniversary of the recording that many consider to be not only the band’s masterpiece but also one of the pinnacles of the first wave of thrash metal: 1990’s Rust in Peace, their fourth full-length effort. For the first time, the band has been performing the entire disc, front to back, giving fans a chance to hear not only such metal staples as “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” and “Hangar 18,” the album’s two most enduring cuts, but also lesser known Rust tracks like “Five Magics,” “Lucretia” and “Rust in Peace….Polaris,” some of which are being performed onstage for the first time in the band’s career.
A defining quality of Megadeth’s sound—and the one that perhaps most sets them apart from their “Big Four” thrash brethren, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax—has always been the band’s fiery mix of speed-metal ferocity and progressive instrumental virtuosity. Over the course of their 12 studio albums, nowhere has this combination been displayed better than on Rust in Peace. The labyrinthine, finger-twisting riffs and melodically inventive and technically dazzling leads embedded within the album’s nine tracks have influenced countless metal acts that have followed in Megadeth’s wake. But Rust in Peace also served as a landmark moment for Megadeth as a band. The album was an authoritative exclamation point on the speed-and-technique-dominated sound that characterized Eighties thrash. In the following decade, Megadeth and many of their peers went on to embrace a more radio-friendly approach, as exemplified on the band’s 1992 mainstream breakthrough, Countdown to Extinction.
But Rust in Peace was not only the end of something—it also signaled a new beginning for Megadeth. The album marked Mustaine and Ellefson’s first effort with drummer Nick Menza and lead guitarist Marty Friedman, a partnership that stands as the band’s longest lasting and, for many fans, most beloved lineup. Friedman’s introduction into the band was particularly pivotal. His astounding technique, combined with a melodic sense that leaned toward the use of exotic and eastern-sounding scales and modes, served to further separate Megadeth from the hordes of like-minded speed-metal acts emerging at the tail end of the Eighties. The fleet-fingered leads on Rust tracks like “Tornado of Souls” and “Hangar 18” catapulted Friedman, a former Shrapnel gunslinger renowned in underground guitar-geek circles, to genuine guitar-god status, and stand today as some of the most recognizable and celebrated in the metal genre.
Friedman and Menza both departed Megadeth in the late Nineties, and Mustaine has continued to record under the Megadeth name, save for a brief hiatus in the early 2000s when he was recovering from a nerve injury to his left hand. In a career that has already lasted more than a quarter century, he continues to move forward with new musicians, new albums and new tours. At the same time, he is happy to be revisiting Rust in Peace, a milestone moment in Megadeth’s history.
Mustaine sat down with Guitar World prior to his band’s American and Canadian Carnage summer tour with Slayer and Testament—for which Megadeth will continue to perform Rust in Peace in full—to talk about the making of the 1990 album and the 20th anniversary celebration. He also discusses how Marty Friedman came to join (and why he will possibly never rejoin) Megadeth, the return of Dave Ellefson and how Rust in Peace’s leadoff track and most famous song, “Holy Wars,” was inspired by a tense ride in a bulletproof bus.