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CD Review: Megadeth - "Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?" Box Set

The commemorative box set includes five CDs and three LPs, compiling original remixes and remasters done separately in 2004 by Dave Mustaine and producer Randy Burns.

Peace Sells...But Who's Buying
Capitol Records/EMI North America

“Whether you heard this record in 1986, or you hear this record for the first time today or tomorrow, Peace Sells is a great heavy metal album—nothing more, nothing less,” writes Lars Ulrich in the liner notes of the Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? Deluxe 25th Anniversary box set. While many metalheads have had an axe to grind with Mr. Ulrich since speaking out against Napster, there isn’t much to disagree with his statement regarding Megadeth’s landmark album Peace Sells..., because it’s the release that marked Megadeth and guitarist Dave Mustaine’s commercial and critical success.

The commemorative box set includes five CDs and three LPs, compiling original remixes and remasters done separately in 2004 by Dave Mustaine and producer Randy Burns [Peace Sells… original producer before Capitol Records bought its rights]. To my ear, the Mustaine mixes are a little slanted in favor of the guitars—providing buoyancy to his and fellow guitarist Chris Poland’s scooped guitar parts. The best example of this is the galloping anthem “Peace Sells” where Poland and Mustaine’s chugging rhythms and back-and-forth solo riffs take obvious precedence. As expected, the Burns remixes and remasters are more subdued and complementary to the entire band’s sound. No matter which you prefer, it’s revelatory to have several versions of the album at your disposal to get into Mustaine and Burn’s heads and hear what each wanted Peace Sells… to sound like.

The true musical bonus of the deluxe set—included in both LP and CD formats—is a previously unreleased 1987 concert recorded at the Phantasy Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, during the band’s first world tour. This epic 12-song set includes six songs from Peace Sells… and six songs from Megadeth’s debut Killing is My Business… and Business is Good. Standout tracks are undoubtedly the crushing, Mustaine-ified cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots;” the palm-muting, shred-tastic “Bad Omen” featuring Mustaine’s signature falsetto in all its glory; and Megadeth’s longstanding live staple “Mechanix,” thrashing harder than Mustaine’s earlier rendition done by Metallica called “The Four Horsemen.” What the live album lacks in studio panache—though it sounds as good as the original mixing of Killing is My Business… and Business is Good—it makes up in tenfold with its pure metal aggression and fly-on-the-wall perspective showcasing a high point of one of Megadeth’s renowned lineups.

In addition to all the remastered and unreleased music, the box set is packaged with recreations of a vintage Megadeth concert ticket, two press photos, two flyers from classic Megadeth concerts—one is a billing shared with Motörhead—a booklet loaded with photos, memorabilia, and liner notes by Ulrich and Mustaine. This set is a no-brainer for those already in the Megadeth army, but it’s also a must-have for any metalhead interested in the chronicles of thrash—Peace Sells… is truly one of the genre’s landmark albums.