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Megadeth Reissues: Countdown To Extinction & Peace Sells... But Who's Buying

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Monday, August 16, 2004 @ 1:08 AM


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Remasters are my business, and business is good.

Attempting to fix or change recordings that music fans have developed a tangible attachment to over the years is perilous business indeed. Yeah, analog tapes are imperfect, yet even the most goal oriented musicians have to recognize at some point that certain vocals or instrumentation are always going to be just a touch underneath where they could have been in a perfect world. Those who don’t recognize this fact end up involved in long, drawn out studio debacles i.e. Chinese Democracy. Obviously, if a band wants to eventually make money and tour and get out of their parents’ basement, eventually some product has to reach the consumer. The question then becomes: once a record has been purchased by even one person and made available to the masses, should said band or vocalist ever come back in and redo parts or even the majority of it in the name of increasing the quality of the disc? Do painters get the same luxury? What about novelists?

There are interesting possibilities for this type of metal album remastering or rerecording—for example, if you take Dave Mustaine’s old band Metallica, wouldn’t it be cool to hear …And Justice For All re-released, only this time with someone actually playing BASS? Or what about improving St. Anger by reissuing it as a blank disc? I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve been dying to have the White Lion catalogue tinkered with ever so slightly so that “Wait” can provide just that much more of a visceral experience for the listener. But Megadeth? I don’t know. I kinda dug the originals. I wore out the cassettes. I especially loved the fact that Mustaine was booted from Metallica. It just made him that much cooler… well, until that fuckin’ movie Some Kind of Monster opened and the subsequent promotional interviews came out… I don’t know about you, but I could have done with a lot less info about whether or not Lars wanted to give Dave a hug or whether there is some kind of sexual subtext. It’s all peripheral… I guess… but it sure distracts the hell out of me anyway. I’m officially going to try to push away thoughts of where Lars comb-over prone head might end up in such a romantic entanglement, and I’m going to concentrate on the two best of these reissues for a minute. Here we go. Slurp, slurp…e ww, fuck… what the hell are those two doing???

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There are eight of these discs—basically everything except Killing Is My Business, which had been dealt with previously. If you are in any way economically challenged, buying this many discs at one time is most likely problematic at best. If you’re interested in getting a couple of these, but aren’t sure which, the two that would probably satisfy the discerning Megadeth listener the most would be Countdown to Extinction and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying. The reason being that both of these remasters have been altered--and yes, in some ways improved--with the least amount of disruption to the spirit of the original sound. By Megadeth standards, Countdown to Extinction may have been the most polished sounding release to begin with, so unlike the majority of these reissues, the task here seems to have concerned making Countdown appear slightly more raw. What is left are classic takes on “Symphony Of Destruction,” “Sweating Bullets” and “Foreclosure Of A Dream.” The guitars are slightly lower end on this disc, basically the changes are as they should be—improvements that don’t cause the listener to go, “What the fuck? Is that how the old one sounded?” The additional tracks on this are primarily demos for “Countdown to Extinction,” “Symphony” and “Psychotron.” These demos sound exactly as you would expect—early renditions with little production. A decent, almost Motorhead-like tune called “Crown of Worms” is also included and released for the first time in the United States. In addition, the liner notes have been expanded with Mustaine describing his disappointment at Countdown initially coming in at number two on the charts squarely behind Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. You remember that one, right? It was the song you first kissed your cross-eyed cousin to while you sat on your grandpa’s flatbed truck during that Saturday night hay ride so long ago. Those were the days, huh?

Peace Sells primarily works because the bass is prominent and clear. The drums are also established as a separate force rather than simply being included in the slightly more jumbled wall of sound that most fans know from the cassette days. “Good Mourning/Black Friday” is one of the highlights as is “Devil’s Island” and “Wake Up Dead.” Yep. Some of the vocals have been redone, and there is a guitar effect in “The Conjuring” that makes a couple of lyrics in front of one of the bridges nearly inaudible. The drums at the beginning of “Peace Sells” although very distinct here, regrettably sound a little less powerful than in the original. At the end of this disc, there are four bonus tracks, which are demos from the Combat Records days right before the band signed to a major. “Wake Up Dead,” “The Conjuring,” “Peace Sells” and “Good Mourning/Black Friday” are all included as they were recorded with original engineer Randy Burns.

Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying and Countdown to Extinction seem to be the two discs in this project that succeed the best at staying true to the original sound while using technology to bring out some of the effects that were initially lost due to low budget production. Make no mistake though, if a listener is completely adverse to the idea of the sounds of their youth being altered in any way, then it’s not going to make any difference how good these remasters are—they won’t be appreciated. The fact is that Mustaine has taken some unprecedented chances with regard to rerecording vocals and in some cases switching up the sequence of certain lyrics—most notably on Rust in Peace—which require long time fans to approach these creations with an open mind. Although remastering for profit isn’t anything new, the way Megadeth fans respond to this type of massive sonic overhaul of an entire catalogue is sure to be viewed by other bands as well as the recording industry. What it comes down to essentially concerns whether or not metalheads are willing to shell out fifteen bucks for records that they most likely already own (in a form they may prefer) simply for some extra tracks and the chance to have their memories of their beloved music changed even if ever so slightly. I’ll discuss a couple of the less successful titles later, but basically these reissues are quality products of varying degrees, but it would be ridiculous to believe that their mere release doesn’t come without significant potential risk to the legacy of the band. Only time will tell what that legacy will ultimately be.

Dave’s Selling… Are You Buying?

Countdown to Extinction: * * * ½

Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying: * * *

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