Revisiting A Classic: Rust In Peace

“Humanity Still Producing New Art As Though Megadeth’s ‘Rust In Peace’ Doesn’t Already Exist”

-The Onion

Pretty Much.

Over 30 years later, the fourth installment in Megadeth’s catalog remains as iconic as ever. Its praise has been sung from every corner of metal as elitists and gatekeepers join hand in hand with casuals and dad rockers in shared admiration.  

This is old news.

Every superlative has already been said, and rightfully so. 

In and of itself, Rust In Peace is a phenomenal album, and in some respects, marked the peak of Megadeth. It’s regarded by many as Dave Mustaine’s finest work as a songwriter and was also our introduction to unknown guitar hero Marty Friedman. 

Once again, old news.

The album’s legacy is already cemented, strictly based on musical standards alone. But the process leading up to September 24th, 1990 was an absolute catastrophe. Drugs, infighting, and a career-threatening injury had all but dismantled the band. The greatest and most polished lineup in the history of Megadeth was decaying before the introduction.

That’s the story.

In 1988, Megadeth had to cancel their remaining shows for the Monsters Of Rock festival (replaced by Testament) due to bassist David Ellefson’s severe heroin withdrawals. However, he wasn’t the only one. Upon their arrival back in the United States, Ellefson and frontman Dave Mustaine both checked into rehab.

Ellefson lasted three days, Mustaine a little longer. But even while in rehab, they smuggled in heroin and continued to get high.

After their lackluster sobriety attempt, they began to rehearse and demo for what became Rust In Peace. During that time, David Ellefson struck up a kinship with Slash of Guns N’ Roses, who was already friendly with Mustaine. The kinship eventually led to the trio of Dave, Dave, n Slash: Heroin and Guitars.

In their friendly sessions of drugs and music, Mustaine asked Slash to join Megadeth. Guns N’ Roses already had two albums to their name, and Appetite for Destruction had captivated the entire country, yet Slash had considered the move, briefly.

Mustaine then shifted his interest in guitar phenom Dimebag Darrell (Then still known as Diamond Darrell) of Pantera. Had Mustaine allowed Dime’s brother Vinnie to join Megadeth on drums, it would have been a done deal. This was also pre-Cowboys From hell and Pantera was still the Van Halen-inspired hair metal unit.

What a butterfly effect that could have been.

By 1989, to say that the wheels of Megadeth were falling off would have been a gross understatement. The band was without a drummer and a second guitarist, Ellefson had just gone back into rehab, and Mustaine continued to spiral out of control.

The two Daves had moved into an apartment together, whereupon Ellefson’s return from rehab, spawned a debaucherous routine of heroin to fall asleep, then coke just to make it out of the door and off to rehearsal the next day (when they managed to wake up in time).

Chuck Behler was in just as bad shape and was essentially faded out of the band.

Enter Nick Menza.

Menza had served as the drum tech and roadie for the band for their last album. The drum tech replacing the current drummer was beginning to be a Megadeth staple, as Chuck was the drum tech for original percussionist Gar Samuelson.

The final piece of the Megadeth puzzle took form in the shape of a borderline homeless, malnourished, and—unknowingly at the time—deteriorating guitar phenom Marty Friedman.

Megadeth had already exhausted themselves auditioning numerous guitarists that ranged from flamboyant shredders playing on their own time, primadonnas that refused to learn the songs prior, and scorned musicians that claimed to have written Megadeth songs in their childhood.

Friedman showed up, no vehicle of his own, a cheap red Carvin guitar, and no amps or cabinets.

Mustaine had then set up Marty with two Marshall amplifiers. One for the rhythm and one for the lead, the most important aspect of the audition. Friedman excelled at the rhythm, though he wasn’t perfect, noted Mustaine, but he immediately won the job when it came time for the solo.

Upon Friedman’s entry to Megadeth, the band rented him an apartment, a Mercedes-Benz, and instructed him to change his orange and black hair. His life had changed in an instant.

Had Friedman not won the job that day, the struggling musician had another audition lined up with Madonna the following week. 

At this point, the members of Megadeth were in the midst of a fierce attempt at sobriety (to the point that they even quit smoking cigarettes). They were lean, mean, and clean. But once Marty joined the band, Dave Mustaine became so intimidated by Marty’s talent that it completely extinguished his confidence in his playing.

He quickly relapsed.

Marty wasn’t the well-rounded player that Dave was, Dave was still one of the greatest players in the world with his abilities at rhythm, lead, acoustic, and his prowess as a songwriter. But Marty’s proficiency at lead was so staggering that his lack of skill in other areas (despite there not being any true skill deficiency) did not matter.

Dave Mustaine began to show up to recording sessions completely loaded. He antagonized members and lusted for confrontation. Second opinions and suggestions aside from his own ignited arguments instantaneously. It became so emotionally taxing for the rest of the band that he went off to treatment again, but for the first time, under his desire.

However, Dave wasn’t the only one struggling with some form of physical detriment. Marty Friedman was suffering from a serious arm injury in silence. The nerves in his right arm were so damaged that a doctor had ordered him to quit playing guitar or risk complete and permanent loss of use in that arm.

Megadeth was recording the album of their career—one that eventually put the exclamation point on an entire genre—while their frontman was deteriorating in rehab, and their lead guitarist was deteriorating in silence.

In hopes to preserve his arm, Marty played as little as necessary. He would bypass warming up and try to nail the complex rhythm sections and solos in one take. When he wasn’t playing, he wore a sling, which he attempted to hide under a sweatshirt.

Eventually, he confessed his injury, but not the severity of it, to the rest of the band. Post-confession, he spent his downtime icing his arm.

Dave emerged from rehab a month later, completely energized. He returned to the studio, away from his guitar for a month, and recorded his solo for Holy Wars…The Punishment Due in one take.  

The vocals, one take.

Holy Wars became a mainstay on the Mount Rushmore of Megadeth. A song that was spawned after Dave unintentionally ignited a religiously fueled crowd in Northern Ireland, Holy Wars has been the closing song for their live shows for the last 20+ years

Hangar 18, on the other hand, has been the leadoff song ever since Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul suggested it be. The song they replaced? Holy Wars! Before Megadeth, and even before Metallica, Dave’s first band Panic was playing this song in their setlist under the title “N2RHQ”. Dave saw the text on the tail fin of a plane and was inspired to write a song about a mysterious space military base.

The Rust In Peace rendition, however, featured a Shaq and Kobe-like performance by Dave and Marty, dueling back and forth with solo after solo. The song has since been featured in video games such as Guitar Hero, and a 16-bit inspired version was on the Doom II: Hell on Earth Soundtrack.

Tremendous.

To support the album, Megadeth would embark on a massive co-headlining tour with fellow Big Four member Slayer. Thrash comrade Testament and hardcore punk outfit Suicidal Tendencies would join in support. This stacked lineup was eventually dubbed the Clash of the Titans Tour.

To build a report with the new band members and organize their setlist, Megadeth had a small five venue circuit around Southern California. It was here where the beast finally began to come to life.

Once again, they were lean, mean, and clean.

Megadeth carried their momentum into the Clash Of Titans tour, which became a massive success. But it did not go off without a few headlines: Mustaine and Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir developed a feud that brewed until Mustaine approached Muir looking to settle it in a fight when they returned home.  

They immediately became friends.

Then, later on, Dave had walked right into a lighting truss, drawing blood. The press speculated that Chuck Billy of Testament had hit Dave.

The initial success of Rust In Peace rewarded Megadeth with their first gold record as well as their first Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance. In the story of Megadeth, this was the peak. The band found a chemistry that Mustaine later stated they would never capture again.

Mustaine is the only remaining member from Rust In Peace, yet its legacy remains untouchable over 30 years later.

ALBUM REVIEW: Desiigner Three Piece Goes Hard

Credit: @LifeofDesiigner on Twitter

The music career of Desiigner has been a road winding through peaks and valleys. He was both blessed and cursed by the early and astronomical success he stumbled upon through his 2016 single Panda, which instantly made him a global sensation while dooming him (rather unfairly) to be relegated to the rank of a “has been”. The fall off of Desiigner is one of the biggest misconceptions in music, and particularly egregious considering it’s been spawned
from a level of success he enjoyed early that most successful artists only ever achieve a fraction of. Every casual fan of rap music knows Panda, and most also know Timmy Turner. However, far fewer ever bothered to listen to rest of his New English mixtape. If they had, they might have understood back then that the teenager was not an automatic hit-making machine and adjusted their expectations accordingly. While Desiigner has evolved in the six year period since Panda and the mixtape, the mixtape actually gave a pretty accurate picture of what kind of artist he is. Desiigner is an artist who still sounds unique and can consistently make decent music. A lot of it isn’t super memorable, but in an autobahn era of rap when hot records begin moving into the rearview the moment they’re released, this is not a fault he can be critiqued for exclusively. 80% of the time his mis music is ok, and 20% percent of the time he strikes gold, which is a much higher rate than most rappers who either stay praying for that one illusive hit or are forced to shell out cash for a hot feature to gain an audience. Not every Desiigner drop is great, but he’s certainly released his share of quality music since his initial hit, and if the numbers of Panda weren’t there to overshadow everything then Desiigner would probably be viewed in an entirely different light.


While everything he does will continue to be measured against that impossibly high standard, few will acknowledge that virtually every song that Desiigner has dropped in his career that performed well was dropped solo. To this day, he’s only collaborated with big artists on a couple occasions, and is still capable of drawing massive crowds outside of the U.S. While the breakdown in relations with G.O.O.D. Music sidelined him as his window to follow up on his initial wave closed, he’s still dropped gems since parting ways with the label and it doesn’t appear that the resources he likely no longer has access to has prevented him from finding the right formula at the same rate that he was before and during his major label days. Since then, he’s released Diva, Survivor, Soup, Molly, and Amen among others, which only goes to prove that random chance always plays a part in a song going global, because all of these releases are equally good candidates when the ear test is applied.


One overlooked reason why Panda was so successful was the time of its creation in 2016, a transitional year for rap. This was a time when Travis Scott, Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, and Young Thug were charting a new course for the genre that just a couple years prior would have sounded completely foreign. Desiigner was another member of the ship, and for many served as the introduction to mumble rap and proof that it could be mainstream. When Panda took off, most
didn’t know what to make of it. It was completely different. Comparisons to Future quickly arose, more so because Future was the only artist who sounded remotely similar to Desiigner, although the accusations of being a Future-copy have never been legitimate. Even if Desiigner never makes another hit, he’s already left a permanent mark on the genre.


Fast forward to today, and Desiigner’s latest effort, a three piece single titled 3 THE HARD WAY, is yet another unheralded offering that is unlikely to significantly move the needle, but proves the potential is still there. Desiigner serves up familiar flows and uncomplicated lyrics with vocal production that sounds slightly experimental compared to his previous work in terms of tone, but isn’t radically different from anything he’s done before. Echoing, ambient hums and ad libs complement the main vocals and help the songs feel large, and often strikingly similar to some of Quavo’s work.


Beat selection is one area where Desiigner has never disappointed, and his choices for this mini project are no different. The beats hit and hit hard, making the simple raps that might not get a pass on other tracks almost seem like a blessing. The 808s on F.A.B are huge and relentless when they drop, contrasted by a flute melody that makes the beat impossible to ignore. It has the ingredients of a beat made for Tik Tok but is far less abrupt (thankfully). HOP
OUT is a smoother, catchier track with a thumping and complex drum pattern. It’s slightly more mellow song, but it’s far from calm. The final track, BIG EARTHQUAKE hits every bit as hard as F.A.B while flowing more similarly to HOP OUT. While all three songs are very similar, the final track feels like it finds the middle ground and capitalizes on the likable aspects from the other two.


In summary, 3 THE HARD WAY isn’t a return ticket to the top for the young artist (he’s still only 24), but it’s good enough for those that care to keep paying attention. While the overall sound of rap sounds much more similar to Desiigner that what it did when he first emerged, he still sounds unique and possesses all the qualities needed to make modern hits, and if he continues to roll the dice, then lightening may strike for him a second time. Even if it doesn’t,
he’s independent now and gets to take a home a much higher percentage of revenue from his music, which means he’ll continue to win regardless of whether he finds himself in the spotlight again.

Yung Pinch Teams up with Brasstracks and Rothstein for Summertime 1, 2 Bop

via runthetrap.com

An appealing aspect of collaborative musical efforts is being able to hear the result of multiple artists putting their unique and various skill sets on a single track. While more doesn’t always equate to better, artists coming together on a song can function to bring out the best of each individual and yield a wonderful final product to bless the listener’s ears with when the chemistry is right. A prime example of this is the Brasstracks-produced, Yung Pinch and Rothstein-featured single Summertime 1, 2. The song is a head-bobbing single that is both catchy and melodic. Sonically, it has just the right amount of funk and quirk in it to be memorable, but not overdone to the point where it becomes less accessible. The four artists (Brasstracks is a two-producer outfit) make a great team. Each has a different vibe and sound if you listen to their solo work, but prove to be extremely cohesive when working together.

Summertime 1, 2 feels like a true collaboration rather than a song with features. It’s a dish of equal contribution, with each camp bringing the perfect measurement of key ingredients and serving the final product at just the right temperature. If the typical multi-artist song is a multi-course meal with each performer offering their own plate; Pinch, Roth, and Brass decided to throw their talents into a blender, probably to save time on a day when the sunshine was calling. The track is smooth, consistent, distinct, curiously spicy and pleasantly sweet. It’s a mix of tried and true with fresh and new, a bit of the “ooh” you get from a new taste with the “ahh” of a recognizable flavor that you haven’t had in a while. Simply put: Summertime 1, 2 is a common wavelength with different accents.

Yung Pinch is by no means old news. He’s been around for a few years, but he’s still relatively young (24). He’s already proven himself capable of making laid back and catchy, summer-friendly records (Wink Emoji feat. Gashi for example). The Huntington Beach native sounds exactly like you’d expect a rapper from a surfing spot to sound. Not too hard or soft, all vibes and middle of the road in a good way. He’s made some waves but hasn’t caught a huge one yet, but if he does it won’t necessarily be a surprise either. Rothstein by comparison is substantially smaller, but has a wavy, autotune-heavy sound that is very modern and is very clean and polished. He’s more of an undiscovered gem than a niche artist, and like Pinch has plenty of potential to hit higher levels as his career progresses. Brassworks is the brainchild of Jazz students-turned-producers Ivan Jackson and Conor Rayne.

Summertime 1, 2 doesn’t sound like Jazz, but listeners aware of the fact may be able to catch the influence of the genre on the brass-tinted beat. The melody from Yung Pinch keeps things smooth but while tapping into the beat’s happy, solar-powered energy. Rothstein follows with a smooth second verse that is a tad more wavy but also brings its own share of highlights lyrically. It’s a song appropriate for all summer occasions. It’s good for the beach, neighborhood cookout, the commute to either or a road trip. The vocal production for both artists makes the song sound current, while the beat brings a mood reminiscent of Chiddy Bang, Shwayze, and other carefree alternative Hip Hop acts that were among the first to utilize the internet as a means of putting sonically accessible music onto the ipods and computers of millions while still being underground. In summary, Summertime 1, 2 is perfectly characterized by its title. It’s a modern throwback to not-so-long ago, that will likely fall short of the Billboard and go unnoticed by the Grammy committee, but will be a gem to those that come across it and be appreciated for the fact that it will never get too old even if it doesn’t sound brand new.

Gashi’s Elevators Rollout Continues with Sleeping On My Left

GASHI – Sleeping On My Left // Music Video

Just under a month after the release of Don’t Pass On Love, Gashi has given us the second single from his upcoming album Elevators, as well as another music video. If Gashi did indeed travel thirty years back in time to record his previous album, 1984, he may have made a brief stop in the 90s during his his return to record this latest offering. Sleeping On My Left is a simplistic pop ballad that sounds familiar while sounding nothing like the pop music being made today. It’s a bit of a serenade, all soft and no bop for better or worse, and feels much like the songs that played in the background of late 90s rom coms when love interests had their fall out before inevitably reconciling. The somewhat dated feel of the song makes it difficult to gauge how good it is. It doesn’t “hit” the way a successful modern single does, and it’s hard to envision this song going far enough to reach the ears of anyone who doesn’t already have Gashi on their radar. That being said, the mellow, nostalgic nature of the beat makes it impossible for this song to blend in with anything currently being played, and it certainly won’t lose Gashi any support he already has.

Gashi has never been one to chase trends or conform to the flavor of the month, which has allowed him to create with a wide variety of sounds while still having a sound all his own. He’s hard to confuse with anybody else, and other than the occasional Post Malone comparison (which is a considerable stretch) he doesn’t get compared to other artists. This hasn’t prevented him from making hits, and while Sleeping On My Left probably isn’t destined to be one of them, it’s just as likely that Gashi chose to release it because he personally likes it, regardless of where it ends up on the charts. While he might still be considered a B-list artist in terms of fame, Gashi has been in the game long enough to secure a fiercely loyal core audience that show up for every release. He’s well past the point of being groomed or guided in a musical direction, and luckily RCA Records seems to have recognized that as well by allowing him the freedom to create projects that reflect himself more than reflect the current music climate. The average Gashi fan will take little issue with Sleeping On My Left, if for no other reason than it’s a Gashi song and Gashi doesn’t miss; even when the song feels like it was recorded on a whim in the span of half an hour with a second verse that nearly repeats the first verse. That’s just how it is for his supporters. Even if the song isn’t a favorite, Gashi fans will still celebrate it because its release means they’re one step closer to getting the album.

The Sleeping On My Left music video takes the song and transforms the experience entirely. The video is visually very similar to the one released for Don’t Pass On Love, with overlapping themes and imagery but with less warmth in the lighting, probably to reflect the sadder vibe of the track. It’s far from depressing though. Gashi sings about heartbreak with a smile on his face and dances around his abode alongside a diverse number of women whose attire and routine are noticeably more elegant than what the typical pop singer or rapper puts in their visuals. Those who haven’t yet heard the song ought to skip Spotify and go straight to Youtube. The video does wonders for the song, and once it’s seen, the images the song will conjure when it’s listened to later without the video adds something that would have been missing before to a song that, while solid, could use a small boost.

Better than Nothing: Posthumous Pop Smoke Album Lands in Gray Area

Photo by Orli Arias

Upcoming albums by notable artists are supposed to evoke feelings of excitement and anticipation. The process of creating an album is a lengthy, tedious, and meticulous process that takes time and requires patience on both the part of the artist, their label/team, and the fanbase that eagerly awaits it. If a single flops, an artist can quickly redeem themselves in a matter of weeks if their next single is fire. If an album flops, an artist will have to live with the failure for at least a year, and then face the uphill battle of not only returning with better music but convincing a disappointed fanbase to tune in again. The amount of buzz an artist has leading up to an album can play both in their favor and against them at the same time. An emerging artist has less to lose if their album doesn’t do big numbers. The further from the pinnacle they are, the less ground they stand to lose if they miss the target. An artist that has already attracted a large audience has more pressure to impress when they release a major project. A well-received album can extend their relevance for another 2-3 years even if they don’t do much afterward. A flop effectively puts them “on the clock”, with a shrinking window of opportunity to prove to fans that the initial buzz they created wasn’t a one-off.

From a business perspective, an artist’s ceiling is determined by their ability to release albums that fans will care about and validates the time they spend waiting to hear them. Artists can make successful careers for themselves off of singles, but if an artist is sustaining themselves through that medium, it’s usually because that’s the only option left.

How “good” an album is is usually fairly easy to determine. An album can score low reviews, but if it still does numbers and fans still buy tickets to shows, then it can still be considered a success. It’s not unusual for the music critic to be out of touch with the typical fan, and at the end of the day, fans get to choose the fate of the artist.

Less often, and usually, under unfortunate circumstances, we get albums from deceased artists, and the lens of perception for these projects completely changes. It’s impossible to judge posthumous albums by the same metrics as a typical album. When a living artist releases an album, there is an expectation of improvement and artistic evolution to be evident. With a posthumous album, we’re not getting what’s next, we’re getting what’s left. In a way, postmortem projects are easier to appreciate. Even if the music itself doesn’t build on what the artist released in their lifetime, it’s easier to be grateful when you know what you’re given is being drawn from a finite well, and when it runs dry, we will never get another song from that artist again.

If Pop Smoke’s Faith had been released while he was alive, the truth is that it might have been a disappointment. In that context, varying degrees of chemistry (or lack thereof) between Pop and the extensive list of featured artists would be an easy first target for criticism. Secondly, a 20 track album that topically explores little beyond excessive wealth, sex, and killing get repetitive far too early in the nearly hour-long project. Thirdly, Pop Smoke himself (with a few exceptions) commits to reusing the same flow over and over almost as fiercely as DaBaby. To be clear, this isn’t to say that the album is poor, because context matters, but if Pop Smoke was still alive, these would be the main points of criticism that will probably be less focused on since he isn’t. The album certainly wouldn’t have killed his career, but likely wouldn’t have advanced it. Judging the album within the context of Pop Smoke being gone, the album feels more like something to be simply received and processed rather than judged. A critical ear will be able to detect why these songs weren’t released before, however, it’s much easier to simply be grateful for the music we’re getting since we will never get to hear the music Pop Smoke could have made in the future. The things that made him appealing are still present. He still sounds larger than life, hyper-masculine, immortal even. Though this proved not to be true, that persona will live forever through his music. The roster of big names featured on the project may be hit-or-miss, but this can probably be attributed to the fact that most of these features were needed to fill in the blanks on tracks that hadn’t been completed. Even if a lot of the features don’t elevate the tracks, getting to them is better than never hearing them. At the very least, it’s fun to hear a variety of Pop Smoke collabs that we might not have ever heard in other circumstances. All things considered, it’s better than nothing.

The 20 track album has a total of twenty-one features. Rick Ross, Rah Swish, Takeoff, Chris Brown, Dua Lipa, Pharrell, and Quavo give the more solid performances, while the rest do what they can to make it work.


The hard-hitting drill that Pop Smoke was single-handedly popularizing in America before his death takes up a large portion of the album, but there are also a handful of more traditional sounding tracks sprinkled in at appropriate intervals, and one can’t help but wonder how Pop Smoke might have broadened his sound if he had been given more time to develop.

As a whole, the album is a bag of mixed emotions. Track by track, it’s a clash of patchwork and potential. Collectively, it is what it is. Listeners should look for the gold in this late offering from a young artist whose career was just getting started and tragically cut short. The gritty bravado Pop Smoke embodied is still there, and when listening to the album, it still feels like he’s invincible. At the same time, lyrics centered around violence, and might making right, now carry with them the sour and inescapable irony of the fact that Pop Smoke’s untimely death was eerily similar to many of the scenarios he describes carrying out in many of his songs. Faith isn’t an album to love or hate. Rather, it’s simply an album to be accepted. It’s an album of “what ifs” that we’ll never know. Unfortunately, that’s as good as it gets, but at least we get that much.