Megadeth belongs right at the top of the thrash-rock heap. Like Metallica, Megadeth has taken the "Harder! Louder! Faster!" possibilities first suggested by Motorhead and Black Flag and pounded them into the most emphatic Eighties speed metal extant. On its third LP the band continues to prove that in the right hands, sheer density and force of riffs can work as hooks unto themselves. True, the openings of "Mary Jane" and "In My Darkest Hour" come treasonously close to conventional melody, but thankfully things turn ugly soon enough, culminating in some of lead guitarist Dave Mustaine's most strident, bloodthirsty vocals ever.
On So Far, So Good ... So What! Mustaine and stalwart bassist David Ellefson are joined by two new members guitarist Jeff Young and drummer Chuck Behler who prove as creatively belligerent as their predecessors. This is obvious right from the LP's opener, an instrumental that Young's serrated guitar riffs help turn into an overture to hell. From there things just get bloodier, but that doesn't mean all subtlety gets slaughtered in the process. The tricky tempo shifts in cuts like "Mary Jane" are carried off with deft rhythmic skill, and even what seems to be the band's most anarchic moment the guitar and drum jam at the end of "502" retains a sure sense of momentum.
Interestingly, the only misfire on the LP is the band's cover of a previous generation's anthem of chaos, the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." Megadeth all too faithfully copies the original, inviting an unflattering comparison. After all, speed metallers may be credibly rebellious, but they lack the passion and sweep of the original punks; their pummeling sound embodies alienation and anger without the punks' sense of transcendent exhilaration. Still, amid today's narcoleptic pop scene, albums like So Far, So Good ... So What! offer a disruptive noise that's welcome indeed. (RS 522)
(Posted: Mar 24, 1988)
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