This article was originally meant to be a Blast from the Past article for the website, but on Monday 23 May 2016 we learnt the news that Nick Menza, legendary former drummer of Megadeth, had sadly died of a heart attack while playing live with OHM at the age of 51. As a drummer, Nick Menza was a beast. He is easily up there with the great drummers of metal, nearly getting picked for Slayer at one point. He was a drum tech for former Megadeth drummer Chuck Behler who Menza soon replaced him after Behler’s departure. Menza worked on Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction, Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings which all made heavy metal history. Dave Mustaine said of his former bandmate “As a player, Nick had a very powerful jazzy flair, unpredictable and always entertaining. And as great a drummer as he was, the time spent with him as a person, a bandmate, and a friend was even more fun.” But now let’s look at Menza’s finest work, the 1990 album Rust in Peace.
The album’s origins can be traced to a bumper sticker that Dave Mustaine saw on a car. The sticker read: ‘May all your nuclear weapons rust in peace’. Mustaine liked it so much he decided to use it for the album title and the rest is history. It’s undeniable that the album was a huge stepping stone for the band and by 1994 it was certified platinum in the US. But none of this would be possible without the music. Rust In Peace cemented its place in history by the time the first two tracks finished. ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’ and ‘Hangar 18’ are not only classics of the metal genre, but two of the hardest songs on Guitar Hero for those who played it…When you look at the most iconic Thrash Metal albums of all time, Rust in Peace is undoubtedly up there. Not only is it only one of the most important metal albums of the 90s, but one of the most important metal albums of all time. The line-up of Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, Nick Menza and Marty Friedman is often acknowledged as the definitive. With critics raving about Megadeth’s latest work Dystopia, an album which has been described by some as their best album since Rust in Peace , it is time to look at this classic which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.
I will happily argue that ‘Holy Wars’ is a perfect song until the cows came home. From the intro riff, the insane guitar work of Mustaine and Freidman (making his debut with the band along with Menza), memorable vocals and brilliant finale; it is one of the best songs of all time. Sometimes the simplest lyrics are the best and with “killing for religion, something I don’t understand” Mustaine bluntly addressed the problems engulfing the world. But there are other songs on it, the guitar work throughout the album (especially on ‘Hangar 18 and ‘Tornado of Souls’) have become the song of legend and along with ‘Holy Wars,’ have become staples of the live set. Even though these three songs are arguably the most famous from the album, the rest of the album deserves full credit. ‘Take No Prisoners’ is a catchy anthem, ‘Five Magics’ packs an incredible groove while ‘Rust in Peace… Polaris’ is a frantic delight while Ellefson’s bass skills and Menza’s drumming on ‘Dawn Patrol’ and ‘Poison Was The Cure’ are often cruelly overlooked. Menza really showcased his skills on this album, he never misses a beat and hits every note with such skill. Listening to this album will never be the same again.
The Megadeth vs Metallica debate will range on for eternity. While it is interesting to think about what would happen to Metallica if Dave Mustaine was never kicked out, both bands have achieved considerable amounts of success and made their own histories. With its iconic artwork, legendary songs, provocative lyrics and amazing musicianship, Rust In Peace is essential for all metalheads. Nine songs, nine pieces of gold. One man who undeniably helped develop Megadeth’s history was Nick Menza, he is a talent and one who will undoubtedly be missed. R.I.P.
Best Tracks: Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, Hangar 18 and Tornado of Souls
1. Holy War… The Punishment Due
2. Hangar 18
3. Take No Prisoners
4. Five Magics
5. Poison Was The Cure
7. Tornado of Souls
8. Dawn Patrol
9. Rust In Peace… Polaris
Rust in Peace Line-up:
Dave Mustaine – Lead vocals/Guitar
David Ellefson – Bass guitar/Backing vocals
Marty Friedman – Guitar
Nick Menza – Drums/Backing vocals