Megadeth: Peace Sells ... 25 Years Later (Box Set Review)
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal & Jason Coldiron
Release Date: July 12th, 2011
Review Date: August 8th, 2011
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal:
I felt greatly honored and privileged today to receive the Megadeth Peace Sells...But Who's Buying 25th anniversary deluxe box set, along with the deluxe 2-CD set. I held the box upright with the artwork facing me, and the mere sight of it was stunningly amazing. The original Peace Sells artwork has been modified into a holographic 3-D design, the kind that appears to move when you change your angle of viewing. Vic Rattlehead forms the foreground in this 3-D design, and the holography adds a great amount of punch to it because if you slowly turn your head away from the box, Vic appears to be following you. I was pretty freaked out when it first 'happened', because at first, honestly I wasn't aware that the design is holographic. I was under the impression that it was just plain 3-D. I was in awe of the box already, and I hadn't even opened it yet.
When I was finally done admiring the artwork, I opened the box and inside it I found a plethora of items. I'll describe them to you now, one by one.
Vinyls: This was the item I was most looking forward to. Included in this box is a set of 3 vinyls. If the artwork on the outside of the box didn't blow your mind, the elaborate pieces of art on this double-gatefold surely will. The front of the gatefold is a giant close-up of Vic's face, while the inside of it has the entire landscape of the cover artwork, in full detail. To say that it looks absolutely killer would be an understatement. This vinyl package is a true piece of art every Megadeth fan should be able to appreciate. Coming to the vinyls themselves, the first of them is the 2008 reissue of the original album. I placed it onto my turntable with a huge amount of excitement and started playing it. Its crisp, warm sound was quite captivating. This was the first time I was getting to listen to the 2008 vinyl reissue, and it sounded great to me. Whether or not it matches or surpasses the quality of the original 1986 vinyl issue, I have no way of knowing. But I certainly enjoy the way it sounds, and I even feel that it sounds much, much better than any CD or mp3 version of the album ever has or ever will. I can hear things I never heard on the mp3 versions, and it gives me such an 'in the room' type of feeling that if I amp up my audio output, it would almost feel as if the band is standing in front of me and playing, right here.
The real gems though, are the other 2 colored vinyls in the package. This is the Megadeth live at the Phantasy Theatre Cleveland 1987 2-disc set, a previously unreleased live concert recording. Disc 1 is white in color while Disc 2 is transparent. In Dave Mustaine's own words, Megadeth was unpredictable in those days when it came to live performances. This is perfectly evident when you listen to this recording, which really captures the boundless energy and fury of the Megadeth of those times. The set of songs they played at this show left me in sheer amazement, because most of these tunes haven't been played for a long, long time, or at least aren't played on a regular basis, and I'm overly glad that I'm getting to revisit the times when the band actually played these songs. I would absolutely give my left arm to see the same set played by the current Megadeth line-up. People often accuse Megadeth of releasing live audio or video recordings with overdub, but there is definitely no such thing as overdub on this recording. It sounds exactly the way I had expected it to. All in all, the high quality 180-gram 3-vinyl set meets my expectations and this alone should go a long way towards tempting a Megadeth fan into buying this box set.
CDs: Next item is the 5-CD set, which comes in a very nice gatefold as well, with yet more Peace Sells artwork awesomeness, and consists of the following discs:
The original album has been remastered specifically for this 25th anniversary release, and upon comparing it to the 2004 reissue, I like the 2011 version much more. The remastering has allowed Ellefson's bass to sound a bit more prominent this time around, because of lesser compression, and the overall sound is a lot more raw, with a 'classic' sort of feel to it. This makes it a fitting inclusion in this 25th anniversary edition. The 2004 reissue I just talked about is also included in this package as disc 2, and even though the 2011 version sounds better in my opinion, it's still good to have the 2004 issue in your collection, just to compare and find out the difference for yourself. Disc 3 has all of the Randy Burns mixes. The 2004 reissue had three of these mixes as bonus tracks, so you would be already aware of how it sounds as compared to the original mix. But the mixes for the other five tracks are rare, and previously unreleased. Disc 4 is the live concert CD, another previously unreleased item in this box set, and as I said above, definitely a live recording you would want to own as a fan. And finally, disc 5 has high-res .wav files of the 2011 remaster and the live recording. I quite enjoyed listening to these different versions of the album, as they depict the journey this album underwent through its various releases over the years.
Booklet: Besides the vinyls and CDs, the other items ensure that the box never ceases to amaze you. You'll find a 15-page booklet which starts out with liner notes by Lars Ulrich, Dave Mustaine and producer Dennis Wolfe. Yes, liner notes by Lars Ulrich, for a Megadeth album. Who would have imagined that? He expresses himself wholeheartedly as he writes about his love for the album, and the impact it had in his life when he first heard it 25 years ago. Mustaine also chimes in with a look back to the Peace Sells days. I enjoyed reading these liner notes, and the rest of the booklet is filled with band photos, live shots, pictures of things like backstage passes and flyers, and of course, the lyrics, credits and track listing. The liner notes and the lyrics tell a story, and because of this, the vinyl listening experience is almost like reading a book, a feeling that's definitely absent when you hold the booklet included with a CD, which is pretty much a miniature version of the real thing.
Extras: Also included are two of Megadeth's Capitol Records press photos from 1986, two vintage flyers, and a Japanese ticket stub, all packed inside a folder glorified with the Peace Sells artwork. As a person who is on the constant lookout for things I can put up on my walls, I wasted no time in decorating one of my walls with these photos and flyers. If you have a similar penchant for heavy metal memorabilia, you'll be in heaven when you see these pictures for yourself.
So those are the contents of this box set. By now, you might have been wondering, "When is this review going to end? Is this a bottomless box?" Well, fear not, for it's not a bottomless box but it's more than certainly worth the price you'd pay for it. If you're a Megadeth fan and have a turntable, I would strongly recommend this box to you, purely for the vinyls if not for the other stuff. And as you can tell from the description above, if you don't happen to be a collector or listener of vinyls, you still have plenty of reason to savor this box.
All in all, a fantastic package, and one that's more than worthy of being the 25th anniversary edition of a legendary album that not only turned out to be a career-defining album for Megadeth, but still stands firm as an album that had a monumental impact in defining the genre of thrash metal as we know it today.
Other than the box set, the deluxe 2-CD set is also an option for those of you who're only interested in buying the unreleased music in CD format. It consists of the 2011 remastered version of the album, and the live concert CD.
As far as a review of the music itself is concerned, you need to look no further than Jason's review below, as he gives you an older fan's perspective, and definitely has a different opinion than mine when it comes to some of the items in the box.
By Jason Coldiron:
I had been waiting anxiously for my advanced copy of the 25th anniversary edition of Megadeth's monumental and historic metal masterpiece, "Peace Sells... but who's buying." After a mix-up with UPS, I finally got my beloved and highly anticipated package in the mail. Having the opportunity to look back and write about an epic album like this has had me excited for a couple of weeks.
Why? Let's start with the obvious: This is one of the greatest metal albums ever, hands down. When it was originally released in 1986, I was old enough to like it and be into it, but young enough not to fully understand what an impact the album would have on the music world and, more importantly, on the metal world. Thinking about it now, I wonder if anyone knew back then how big this would turn out to be. Little could we have all known that this album would shine a light on thrash metal and help make it more relevant to the music conversation. Or that it would be sampled by MTV (the opening bass line of the title track) and be used on no fewer than three of their shows. I especially remember that for a couple years this was the transition music that always followed Kurt Loder's news brief leading back into whatever show I was watching at the time (usually 'Remote Control'). This is an album that created buzz at the time of its release and now, 25 years later, is even more important to metal history.
Let's get to the geeky stuff about this box set: The CD's include the original album re-mastered, the Dave Mustaine 2004 reissue version, a Randy Burns remix edition of the album, a previously unreleased 1987 live concert version of the album and a hi-res audio disc of the original album. As for the vinyl- it comes with the original album (re-mastered) and the 1987 concert. The non-music extras include a 20 page book of great stuff highlighted by liner notes from Dave Mustaine and Lars Ulrich, and several rare recreations of Megadeth ticket stubs and concert fliers. This is all topped off with an amazing 3D interpretation of the album cover featuring Vic rattlehead jumping out of the art. This is a picture that is so intense it makes me feel like Vic is attacking me from across the room wherever I am. I do not recommend staring at this album cover while you are high (but I highly advise listening to the album while high).
The extras: Liner notes from Mustaine and Ulrich are a mixed bag, but very interesting and compelling nonetheless. The notes from Mustaine describe a man who is broke and poor and wants to share his mind with the world. He tells of how the album, and especially the title track, came to be. He shares the story of how he got the title from the cover of a 'Reader's Digest' (the same one referred to years later on Sweating Bullets). He tells how he took the headline and it quickly became, "Peace Sells..."
Ulrich's notes aren't going to be appreciated by a lot of people. Yes, it is cool that he thinks the album is great, stands the test of time and so on. He tells the story of how, "My Last Words" became his favorite Megadeth song. He even says some incredibly nice things about Mustaine. He correctly identifies the album as one of the all- time greats, but at the end of the day he is still the guy that kicked Mustaine out of Metallica and, as such, his words ring hollow to me.
The other extras are cool, but they are almost too cool to be cool. By this, I mean that the vintage ticket stubs and posters are awesome. They are amazing actually. They are the kind of thing I would love to see on the walls at the Hard Rock cafe or at the Rock N' Roll hall of fame or something. They would look awesome on the wall of my house as well. Unfortunately, I would not feel right about putting them there. I would feel like I was putting priceless paintings on my wall. Maybe someday I will feel comfortable enough to do that. For now, I think this stuff is going to stay in the box, only for viewing when I break out the album.
As for the music: Many many reviews have been written about this album over the years, but here comes my two cents. "Peace Sells..." was Megadeth's second album and first major label release. It would be easy to slap a label on this thing and call it a 'concept album.' I think that would be a cop-out. The truth is that the album tells a story. It makes you think. It takes you on a mental journey through the mind of a man who had hit bottom (Mustaine); A man who had put out one killer release, "Killing is My Business..." but still found himself broke and homeless at the age of 24. Finding salvation in his guitar, his voice and his music, he found a way out. He put his thoughts and ideas on paper, gave them music and they gained life. His ideas about faith, integrity, hopelessness and government distrust come out throughout the album, with the essence boiled down to its purest form in the title track as Mustaine proclaims, "if there's a new way, I'll be the first in line, but it had better work this time." This is a confession of sorts from a man who wanted more for himself in life. It is a statement of faith in the sense that he was willing to submit to a new idea, to something more... as long as it worked! Flash forward ahead 25 years. Mustaine has found success, fame and glory as one of the most important figures in metal history... and yet- I bet he still feels the same way. If there was a better way for everyone, I bet he'd still be the first in line to give up his riches if it meant a better world for all. I think that is what this album is all about. Mustaine wrote this album in a state of reflection as he looked at the world. Over the course of the album he tells his story. He states what he sees as wrongs in the world, but he doesn't necessarily offer solutions to the problems. More so, he is bringing attention to the things he doesn't like and is saying, "Hey, anyone got a better idea? No? Ok, we'll go with the status quo... for now." These are his lyrics, his message. This would be awesome enough on its' own, but it happens to be accompanied by something even greater. The message is the backdrop for some of the sickest metal riffs ever recorded, becoming a soundtrack for a hopeless generation of metal fans that want something more, while clinging desperately to what they have. "Peace Sells... but who's buying?"
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