august 2011

The company has carved its niche in the industry as a manufacturer of US-made instruments and amps that can be had at a fraction of the cost of their counterparts.

Lowell Kiesel started Carvin in 1946, right around the same time Leo Fender got his company going. Both were experimenting with electrifying the popular Spanish and Hawaiian guitars of the era. And while Leo Fender, Ted McCarty, Les Paul, and Adolph Rickenbacker certainly share much of the credit for bringing the electric guitar to life, Lowell Kiesel was there too—he was just doing it in his own way. Going their own way is a good way to describe Carvin, and they proudly maintain the direct-to-consumer marketing and sales approach they’ve practiced throughout the company’s history.

Over the years, Carvin gear has been used by heavyweights like Frank Zappa, Jaco Pastorius, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Steve Vai. The company has carved its niche in the industry as a manufacturer of US-made instruments and amps that can be had at a fraction of the cost of their counterparts. Their electric guitars have a unique look, an excellent reputation in terms of playability, and are priced in the same ballpark of the mass-produced, Asian models that dominate big box music stores—stores where Carvin instruments cannot be found. Before retailing through the Internet, Carvin relied almost exclusively on catalogs and mail order. As is still the case today, if someone wants to check out one of their guitars or amps before buying, a visit to one of their Southern California showrooms is the sole option.

While still holding true to their sales methodology, Carvin has embraced the digital age. One can visit their site and custom order an instrument with an assortment of details and options. And while there, gear-centric musicians can order amps, PAs, stands, mics, and pretty much everything else needed to rock out—all under the Carvin brand. Premier Guitar recently spoke with Carvin's Creative Director Richard Cruz to learn about the secrets of their success, the history of the company, and what sets them apart.

Lowell Kiesel and one of his lap steels and amps in the 1940s.
What was Lowell Kiesel's mission with Carvin?

Lowell was a musician who was also a tinkerer. He ended up building his own pickups, and eventually started building his own guitars in his woodshop. This was in the early ’40s, so it was really around the birth of the electric guitar. Lowell knew Adolph Rickenbacker and Les Paul, and I believe he knew Leo Fender. It's not like it is today. At the time, there wasn't a ton of competition—they shared their information.

Given how new the concept was, how did Kiesel make his pickups?

Back then, there were no machines designed to wind pickups, so he took the motor out of his wife's sewing machine and used it to make a winder. When his wife needed to sew, he just put the motor back in the machine. In fact, he ended up teaching his wife Agnes how to wind pickups and she was very instrumental in producing them early on. The original pickup was very similar to a PAF and the sewing machine is still in the Carvin archives today. Lowell also started making Hawaiian electric steel guitars and marketed them in Popular Mechanics. He took out tiny, little ads and began taking orders for his Hawaiian guitars and pickups.

Kiesel's original pickup winder from 1946 used a sewing machine motor and still exists in the Carvin archives.

Who were his early customers?

Lowell originally went the traditional route by trying to market his pickups to dealers. He quickly learned that being a guitar enthusiast is one thing and being a businessman is another. A lot of dealers back then would rip you off if they could. He thought, "Why do I need to go to these people and take less money when I can just market this myself?" That's how Kiesel Electronics started in 1946, though the name changed to Carvin soon after—a combination of the names of his two eldest sons Carson and Gavin. Then he started the mail-order catalog and sold amps, pickups, and steel-string Hawaiians. He was also a dealer for Fender and other brands at the time.

This mid-'70s SS75B featured solid maple construction and a Bigsby vibrato.
How did selling guitars from other companies evolve into Carvin making and selling their own guitars?

He went to Hofner and started importing parts—necks and semi-hollowbody components. Those were the first electrics Lowell made in the ’50s. Then he went into full-blown production in the ’60s when his son Mark Kiesel came onboard. By the ’70s, Mark started designing guitars, while Carson was put in charge of electronics, amp design, mixers, and pro sound.

How long did Lowell Kiesel stay with the company?

Lowell stayed involved in pickup design into the early ’70s. His sons and grandkids run the company now.

What was the genesis of the 11-pole pickups?

When you bend a string, you won't lose any signal beyond the coverage of a particular pole piece. Even in our covered pickups, we pot in wax and maintain the 11 poles. To our knowledge, Mark Kiesel was the first to design an 11-pole pickup.

Carvin's AP11 single-coil pickups showcase the company's 11-pole design. These modern pickups are designed to be identical to Carvin's original AP6 pickups from the '50s and '60s.

Who designs your products today?

Carson is the CEO and head engineer, and he oversees all production as far as electronics, amps, and pro sound. Mark is in charge of all guitar designs, including pickups, and he also designs new headstocks and bodies. Additionally, Mark oversees the quality of production and new ideas.

Lowell and Mark Kiesel in the Carvin factory in 2006. Lowell passed away on December 29, 2009 at age 94.

Is it safe to assume your custom guitar methodology is popular with your customers?

Yes, and Mark prides himself on offering the biggest available selection to the public. With some custom shops, you're paying a huge premium and waiting months and months for a guitar. Mark decided that if you want to buy a custom instrument, you're not going to pay more than you would for a factory-built model off the wall.

What is the average wait for a custom guitar ordered from your website?

Average wait is four to six weeks.

What happens if the customer changes his/her mind?

Whether pre-built or custom-ordered, customers have ten days to evaluate it from the day they receive it. A guitar can be sent back for any reason, or sent in for a modification if you want to change something.

And if a guitar comes back, what happens to it?

If a guitar comes back, it goes into inventory. It's no different than going down to a Guitar Center where dozens of people have played a particular guitar—except in our case, it's only one. If it comes back, we give it a fresh set of strings and a setup. Since we have a number of ways of selling direct to the public—including the factory showrooms in Hollywood, Santa Ana, and San Diego—it will go to one of our stores or online in the Guitars-in-Stock section of our website.

What percentage of guitars come back?

It's very small. The fact that we are not in every store, and market direct to the public—you have to know who we are. It is a bit of a challenge for us, so we have to be that much better. Not only do we have to make a guitar that is desirable, but make it so good that when you pick it up the first time, you don't want to put it down. The reasons guitars have come back recently are often due to an economic thing. The customer has bitten off more than they can chew—it’s not that they don't like the guitar.

Carvin's San Diego facility.

The guitars are made in San Diego?

Every solidbody, including the basses, are made here. We offer some semi-hollowbody guitars and hollowbody acoustic-electrics that are also made here.

How many people in the factory?

There are a 140 in the company. The guitar factory itself is not as large as people would think. We've had some people here for decades, and that is really key. They do important jobs like handpick and book-match the flame and quilt tops. We turn away a lot of wood because we have certain standards. Other companies may have a private stock or figured wood stashes they charge a huge premium for—for us, that's our everyday top.

How many people just working on guitars?

There are 30 to 40 people working solely on guitars. We have two people doing final setups so we can keep quality control down to two guys, and really focus on the attention to detail. During the difficult economic times, we had some tough choices to make—do we make someone wait another couple weeks for their guitar, or do we add another shift and run this place 24/7? In order to keep the quality under control, we did not add a second shift. In my experience, when you get someone who stays up all night, you kind of wonder about them. I prefer to have my guitar built by someone that dwells during the day. [Laughs.]

Unidentified Carvin employees operate the fretwire press (left) and sand the body of a guitar (right)
in the San Diego factory.

And your pickups are made here as well?

Every single pickup is wound and assembled in San Diego. We wanted to maintain that because that was how this company started. We have three or four people making our pickups and each of them knows how to make every single pickup we offer, which is currently about two dozen. That's tight quality control.

Carvin factory workers wind pickups (left) and spray finish (right) in the San Diego factory.

What is the most popular electric guitar you make?

The California Carved Top—and it comes in different models. There is the original CT6 with a deluxe flame top, which can be upgraded to quilted maple or other deluxe maple tops like spalted or burl. There’s also the CT3, which is all mahogany, and the CT4 that comes with a standard maple top. The CT6 is actually my personal guitar—the neck on that thing plays so beautifully, and the sound of that guitar is astounding.

Our semi-hollow electrics are also popular because they are not quite as hollow as an ES-335. It is a nice hybrid between a semi-hollowbody and a solidbody. We start with a solid piece of mahogany and core it out. It's simply a cored-out solidbody—no laminate or veneer sides—with an added maple top, so you don't have the feedback issues you often find with traditional semi-hollowbodies.

A Carvin employee hand-dresses the frets (left) while a CNC machine shapes the
neck profiles (right) for consistency.

What is the standard neck radius on the CT6?

It's a 12" radius. Though we do offer custom radius options, from 10" to 15", there is not much customization available if a Floyd bridge is chosen

How many guitars do you ship a month?

It's usually around 200, but it depends how backed up we are in production. Custom orders take priority, so that will impact production and what we can stock for the website and stores. For a number of years now, we have stretched out beyond the US and Canada with dealers getting us into stores in other parts of the world.

Tell me about your artist roster.

We've tried to maintain a roster that represents the best of the best. When you're talking about guys like Steve Vai, Alan Holdsworth, and Frank Gambale with his new signature model, we're very blessed we can please these guys with our products. They may not be mainstream radio artists, but they are players who inspire everyone who wants to play well. That means a lot to us because we want guys who are respected. One band we work with is As I lay Dying, and they were so excited to meet Frank Gambale. I didn't expect a younger band to be in awe of Frank Gambale, but his videos were very popular and influential in the ‘80s, and it’s obvious his influence hasn't changed—people still look up to him.

You manufacture some great sounding amps. Tell me about the process of amp design.

We try to maintain the models that have been popular over the years—the Vintage series in particular. They were very well received when we debuted them in ’94 or ’95, and artists like Joe Walsh have embraced them. The only change we’ve made since we released them is pulling the spring reverb tank to go with a digital one. The source for that tank was unable to provide the exact tank we had been using, so instead of re-engineering the amp, we decided to give it a go with a digital reverb.

Carvin amps throughout the years: (upper left) 1949 tube amp for lap steel; (upper right) 1960 #28-212-B; (lower left) 1980 VTX112; (lower right) current Vintage 16.

Your amps are also made in San Diego?

All our amps are made here. The old woodshop in the back, where the guitars are made, is split in two with half the room for guitars, and the other half for our cabinets. There’s another section of the building for guitar and bass amps, where we still do point-to-point soldering whenever we can on all the tube amps. We offer one solid-state amp that uses micro-components and the new realm of surface mount technology, but when it comes to guitar amps for us, it's still the old-fashioned way of assembling by hand.

You have a vast product line from guitar picks to 32-channel mixers, and studio mics to guitar amp stacks. How do you manage all that?

One of the things we employ with our model of manufacturing is what people call “lean manufacturing,” a model used by companies like Toyota. It monitors how stock gets depleted and we then build enough replenishment stock so we always know exactly how many days of inventory we have. We have an assembly line—a couple of them—and they assemble every single product that we make. Whether it's a mixer, power amp, or guitar amp, our people know how to make every single product. And not having a huge inventory has allowed us to react to sourcing parts during fluctuating economic times. We're never in a situation where we have to get rid of stock that is not moving.

Is there a Carvin Sound?

I've heard some players say that. You can be a replica of this or that—but if you clear all that away and ask yourself what a good sound is—a good amp can sound the way you want it to, if you dial it in correctly. This whole thing of amp modeling has cluttered the industry. If you take the time to actually adjust things, a good tube amp will respond to the things you do. If you turn the gain up and the volume down, you get a different response. With amp modeling, a player may not get the response they want because the amp tries to emulate what people thought a certain amp sounded like at a certain setting. We're not against modeling, but there is no substitution for plugging into a real tube amp. If you know how to use an amp as a player, there are things you can get out of it that are unexpected. To me, an amp is also an instrument you have to learn how to play.

Blues-rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd shares details on his rig, becoming a father, and how he’ll probably never get away from the comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Click below to listen to the tune "Never Lookin' Back" from The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band's new album, How I Go:
Kenny Wayne Shepherd is back in the spotlight with his new album How I Go. It’s been seven years since the straight-ahead studio rock record The Place You’re In was released. With live projects, documentaries, marriage, and fatherhood during the interim, Shepherd is now at the height of his creativity. How I Go displays the full range of his musical influences mixing Southern rock, heavy rock, blues, and good old rock ’n’ roll. It’s also a buffet of great guitar tones, so PG caught up with Shepherd to get in deep on the making of How I Go.

Congratulations on being a father.

It’s probably the most profound thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. It’s given me a renewed sense of motivation and inspiration to be the best parent I can be, as well as the best musician I can be. I want to give my kids something to be proud of.

How does that affect your craft as a songwriter and guitarist?

I want to set a good example in what I do. Everything I record and the way that I perform, I think, “Would my kids be proud of this? Would this be okay for them to see?” Are they going to grow up and say, “Man, I wish dad would have never done that!” [Laughing.] That’s where the responsibility comes into my mind in everything that I do.

What took so long to do another studio record?

I had three kids in the past four years, and that really affected my free time for writing and recording. Life has changed a bit, and there are different things going on with new responsibilities. I can’t just leave the house for a few months and go write a record. For this album, we went in the studio for two weeks, tracked the songs, and then a few months went by before we went into the studio again. So we recorded the album over the course of a year. It didn’t take a year to record it, but it was spread out.

What was cool about that is that it enabled me to live with everything. We would track something and I would live with it for like a month. I could listen to it and dissect it, really getting into the ins and outs of the song. Then I’d be able to go back in and know what I needed to do to make it better. Sometimes when you’re making a record, you’re really trying to hurry up and get it out by doing it all right then and there. Later on after the record is out, you go, “Hey, I could have done this a little different!” I really got to live with every one of these songs throughout the making of the record, and really focus on trying to make them as good as they can be.

Your vocals are strong on this record.

I appreciate that. I’m singing “Who’s Going To Catch You Now,” and “Cold,” and doing all the background vocals on everything else. Noah Hunt is such a great vocalist. He has such a different style of voice than I do. Mine is a little more pop rock, and his is way more soulful, bluesy, and southern rock. I’ve wanted to sing more, but I don’t necessarily want all the vocal responsibility in my band because he’s such a great singer. His voice is very much a part of my sound, so it’s kind of evolved into us both doing lead vocals.

I wish I sounded like Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker, but I don’t. I choose the songs where my voice works well and I sing those. For the songs where my voice doesn’t quite cut it, I don’t have a problem having someone else do it. I have standards that I want my music to meet and I want every aspect of my music to be as good as possible. If that means somebody else is doing the singing, then so be it. It doesn’t bother me one bit.

What was your approach to choosing the covers for the record?

I always like to do an artist that influenced me, somebody I respect, and choose their less obvious material. Over the course of my career I’ve been doing Hendrix’s “I Don’t Live Today,” which is not an obvious Hendrix cover. We did Peter Green’s “Oh Well,” which is a much less obvious song for Fleetwood Mac. And from Bob Dylan, we did “Everything Is Broken.” I like to go deeper into an artist’s catalogue and pick songs that I think we can do a great version of, but still stay true to the original.

Our producer Jerry Harrison came up with the idea of us covering Bessie Smith’s “Blackwater Blues.” It was kind of appropriate with all the struggles my home state of Louisiana has gone through since Katrina. It’s also good to have a nice up-tempo shuffle on there. Jerry also came up with Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which isn’t the first Albert King song that would come to mind for most people.

There’s some great wah work on that track.

Thanks. It’s a rockin’ track and it’s the first time I ever used a horn section on a record.

What about the Beatles cover?

“Yer Blues” was my idea. Three or four years ago I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. Out here we have a station that does a Breakfast With The Beatles program every Sunday where they play nonstop Beatles music “Yer Blues” came on and I was like, “Oh man!” I’d heard that song before but it hit me differently, and I could totally hear myself doing it!

I held on to that for three or four years. When we were making the record, we cut it live and then overdubbed the guitar. I was actually talking to Ringo recently—because I played on his upcoming record—and I told him we did that song and cut it live in the studio. He told me it’s the same way they cut it, which I thought that was really cool.

Give me a basic rundown of the gear you’re using.

Because what I had going was working really well, I kept it rather simple for this album. Most of my stuff is in storage in Louisiana and since we were in California, I mostly just used what I had out here. For amps, the majority of what you hear on this record is one of my original ’64 Fender blackface Vibroverbs with the original 15" speaker. I just got a brand new Fender ’57 Tweed Twin from the custom shop and I was beside myself with how incredible it sounded right out of the box.

I also used my Fender ’65 Reissue Twin, which is from one of the original runs of the ’65 Reissue Twins, when they were doing just 250 of them. I’m also using a Dumble Overdrive Special along with another amp Dumble built for me that he calls a Tweedle Dee Deluxe. If you saw it you would think it’s a Tweed Deluxe, but it’s actually his own circuit. It sounds absolutely phenomenal.

Is this a one of a kind amp?

Yes. The clean tones are just amazing and sparkling, and the clarity is unbelievable. When you crank it up, the overtones are just incredible—you don’t even need a pedal for that amp. You’re hearing the Overdrive Special on some of the solos, the Deluxe that he built for me on a lot of the rhythm parts, and the ’57 Tweed Twin is on a ton of stuff.

The first time I saw you on the G3 Tour years ago, you were crankin’ the Marshalls. What happened?

I’ve been using Fender amps almost exclusively for some time now. When I was using the Marshalls, I was blowing them up pretty much on a regular basis. There was also a little too much high end coming from them, and even when I had the treble turned all the way down, it was still tough to get rid of the high end. I liked them at first, but I ended up struggling with them.

Over the course of my career, the staple of my live show has been the blackface Twin Reissue. I usually run two or three of those depending on the size of the venue. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a great tone at a lower volume. The Twins would just be screaming sometimes, and they could overpower the venue. When Fender reissued the blackface Vibroverb with the 1x15, I started using a couple of those to help dial the wattage down. The Overdrive Special that I use in the studio is likely to become a primary part of my live touring rig, depending on how things shape up for this tour.

How about effects?

On the record I used two different wahs. I used my original Vox Clyde McCoy Wah and a Custom Audio Electronics Wah that Dunlop makes. Then I used the Analog Man King of Tone Overdrive pedal, an Ibanez TS808 handwired Tube Screamer, and an original TS808 that I have. I used an Analog Man Bi-Chorus pedal, and a Pigtronix Envelope Phaser. The Envelope Phaser was only used on one song in combination with the Analog Man Bi-Chorus.

There’s a bunch of Octavia on this record.

I have an original Tycobrahe Octavia, and Chicago Iron, the company that reissues them, sent me one of theirs. A lot of times I was sending multiple effects to different amplifiers. I had the original Octavia going to one amp and the reissue going to another amp separately, and ran them in stereo at the same time.

Even though it’s the same tone, they’re still slightly different and combining the two gives a unique sound. It’s a slightly more unique sound than just using one pedal or the other, and having it come through two individual amps. I also did the same thing with the Fuzz Face. I have an original Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, one of the blue ones from the late ’60s or early ’70s. I also have one of the reissues and I ran those in stereo through two different amps. That was a pretty cool sound.

What did you use on the solo to “Yer Blues?”

That’s an old-school octave pedal that my engineer had. It’s always been one of those kinds of effects that I didn’t really like so much because I always liked the Octavia, which is the octave up. The octave pedal is an octave down, but it sounded cool and really fattened up the guitar tone for the rhythm part and the solo.

Which one did you use on “Come On Over?

That was the original Tycobrahe Octavia and I used it for the entire song, even as a rhythm sound. I don’t know if anyone’s ever done that since most people throw an Octavia on for a solo or something.

Is that the Dumble on the solo to “Anywhere The Wind Blows?”

Straight Dumble. [Laughing.] That’s my Dumble with some delay that was put on by my engineer. It’s just cranked up.

The record has a lot of colors. Every track has something different in terms of guitar sounds.

Thanks. I tried to make a tonally diverse record, although most of what you’re hearing is Stratocasters and a handful of different amplifiers. It wasn’t like I had 35 amps and 35 guitars. By most guitarist’s standards, I use a pretty modest collection of equipment, but the sounds I’ve achieved are a testament to that equipment and the diversity of the amps. There are so many sounds you can get out of them if you just tweak them a little bit.

What’s your main guitar?

The primary guitar for me in the studio is my ’61 Strat. I also used a ’59 hardtail Strat with a maple neck that I acquired while I was doing the record, using it on several songs. My signature series Strat was used on a bunch of songs, along with the clone of my ’61 that Fender made me. It’s an exact replica, so I can leave the original guitar at home, and take the clone on the road.

Are you still using the Monterey Strat?

I’ve been using it ever since I got it back in the ’90s and have been closing the show with it on “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” When we do fly dates, I’ve just been using my signature guitar because the Monterey is pretty valuable and I don’t want the airlines to lose it. But when I’m on the road touring with all my own equipment, that’s the one I pull out for the encore.

You’ve been framed as a Stevie Ray Vaughan guy. Do you get sick of that?

You can’t please everybody and there’s always going to be haters out there. They want to throw me in a category of being a Stevie Ray clone as if I can’t do anything beyond what he did. Those people obviously have never really given my music a fair listen. I’ve done tons of music that I don’t think Stevie Ray Vaughan ever would have done. I’ve never heard Stevie Ray Vaughan do anything like “Blue On Black,” and it was number one for 17 consecutive weeks on the rock charts.

I believe people are referring to your phrasing.

I’m an artist and I think I go way beyond my influence from Stevie, but he was almost single-handedly responsible for inspiring me to play guitar. There’s no denying that. If there wasn’t a Stevie Ray Vaughan, there probably wouldn’t be a Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He was my hero and he still is one of my heroes.

I just make music for myself and for the people who enjoy what I do—I appreciate the compliments from the people who do dig it. There’s always going to be a Stevie Ray Vaughan influence on what I do and I owe that to him for being such a big influence.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Gear Box

Fender ’61 Stratocaster
Fender ’59 Stratocaster
Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Stratocaster
Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterey Pop Stratocaster

’64 Fender Blackface Vibroverb
’65 Fender Twin Reissue
’57 Fender Tweed Twin
Dumble Overdrive Special
Dumble Tweedle Dee Deluxe

Vox Clyde McCoy Wah
Custom Audio Electronics MC-404 Wah
Analog Man King of Tone Overdrive
Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer
Analog Man Bi-Chorus
Pigtronix Envelope Phaser
Original Roger Mayer Tycobrahe Octavia
Chicago Iron Tycobrahe Octavia SE
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face

Ernie Ball Power Slinkys .011-.058

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.