The speed-metal band Megadeth isn’t only fast with riffs. It’s also quick in wit. Unlike genre leader Metallica, which takes its gloomy worldview seriously, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine finds destruction a blast. While his lyrics may wail about speed-metal’s pet serious subject, nuclear war, the music’s over-the-top tone adds a sense of what can only be called nihilistic whimsy.
Likewise, the band has found a way to keep its brutality inventive. On Rust in Peace, its fourth album, Megadeth is still coming up with new inflections amid the blitzkreig rhythms and lightning-fast leads.
To aid in that pursuit, the group has two new members (lead guitarist Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza), both of whom prove as creatively abusive as their forebears. They help the group’s new music dent its way into your memory without ever resorting to conventional hooks. Sheer velocity, combined with dexterity, is the draw here. The band members make their triple-timed rhythms seem effortless, and no matter how thick their guitar chords, they still manage to make them swing. That’s true even in tracks like ”Five Magics,” with its sudden, risky tempo changes. The rich guitar chords hold things together at all times, allowing for such unexpected breakouts as a bass volley in ”Tornado of Souls” and a drum flourish in the title song. Numbers like this should hit hard with the slam-dance crowd. But even for more demure listeners the album offers a helpful twist on an old lesson: Here, at least, speed doesn’t kill — it thrills. B+