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So Far, So Good...So What!

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  • `Rust In Peace’ is usually hailed as Megadeth’s crowning glory, but there are still a fair number of Thrash fans who prefer the album’s heavier predecessor `So Far, So Good…So What!’.

    `So Far, So Good…So What!’ saw Megadeth as a band at it’s most dangerous. Dave Mustaine was hitting the heroin and the booze like they were going out of business. Half the band had been sacked, and the producer replaced. Capitol Records were becoming concerned about the behaviour of the band, and sent them on tour so they couldn’t do any more damage in the studio. They need not have worried, as `So Far, So Good…So What!’ rapidly went platinum on its release.

    Despite the obvious success of the album, Dave Mustaine had always been dissatisfied with the way `So Far, So Good…So What!’ turned out, so he went into the studio in 2004 and remixed it, along with much of the rest of Megadeth’s back catalogue. He disliked the sometimes muddy mix, which detracted somewhat from the power of the album. There were also a few small details either hidden or missing from the album. The remixing is like an archaeologist scraping dirt and dust from a prehistoric skeleton. It was always obvious what was there, but once the detritus is cleared, sharp, clean edges are revealed, details unveiled, and it all seems more complete.

    The instrumental first track “Into The Lungs Of Hell” is one of the best lead off tracks on any Thrash album anywhere, bettered by Slayer’s “Angel Of Death”, but not by much else. Thrash instrumentals are generally about lead guitarists showing off, and in Mustaine and Jeff Young, Megadeth had talent aplenty to display. The lead guitar throughout the song is sharp, bouncing from one man to the other in what sounds like a frantic guitar duel. There is an undefinable quality to the song, giving it a feel like a reinterpreted Classical composition. The remix added a triumphal brass fanfare to the beginning of the song that was absent on the 1988 release. To be honest, the horns don’t add a hell of a lot to the guitar-fuelled maelstrom, but they made MegaDave happy.

    “Set The World Afire” was the first song Mustaine wrote on his departure from Metallica, but he did not use it until he was happy with it. The first riff sounds like it would have fitted onto `Kill `Em All’ quite neatly, but the rest of the song shows Mustaine’s songwriting metamorphosing and developing. The lyrics are suitably cheesy, a song about nuclear war, which it was just about compulsory for every 1980s Thrash band to have at least one of (Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire”, Kreator’s “Fatal Energy”, Carnivore’s “World Wars III and IV”, Sodom’s “Nuclear Winter”, Nuclear Assault’s `Game Over’ album etc.).

    The cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK” actually features Steve Jones from the Pistols on guitar, but apparently he played so poorly that his guitar work was deliberately buried deep in the mix. Legend has it he turned up drunk, plugged his guitar in and just started playing, without tuning his guitar. Inexplicably, Mustaine messed with the lyrics, swapping the line “I want to destroy the passer by” with “I want to destroy, possibly”, along with a couple of other minor alterations.

    “In My Darkest Hour” is far and away the best song on the album, and the remixing adds another layer of vindictive menace to it. Mustaine wrote the lyrics of the song in a single sitting on hearing the news that friend and former Metallica band mate Cliff Burton had been killed. It is his best lyrical effort, bar none. The song uses a building narrative structure with no verses or chorus to detract from the momentum. The rhythm guitar follows a series of relatively simple riffs that swell to an almighty crescendo. The leads hold a certain angle grinder type quality, which only appear on this album.

    “Liar” and “Hook In Mouth” follow a similar venomous lyrical streak, which unfortunately Mustaine abandoned after this album in favour of conspiracies, aliens and witches. Oh well… The solos on “Hook In Mouth” in particular are impressive as Mustaine and Jeff Young trade licks perfect for air guitar aficionados to imitate. Surprisingly, Young’s solos are the heavier of the two.

    The weaker tracks “Mary Jane” and “502″ and the inclusion of the Sex Pistols cover pad the album out somewhat. None of them are particularly poor songs, but they seem to have been written and recorded like the band was on autopilot. Still, Megadeth circa 1988 on autopilot was still a hell of a lot better than a lot of stuff being palmed off on Metal fans at the time.

    As a bonus, four of the tracks originally mixed by producer Paul Lani have been included on the album. Lani struggled in producing the record, and was eventually replaced by Michael Wagener, who was responsible for the final 1988 production job. Even to the untrained ear, a number of problems are immediately obvious. All four songs sound very thin, even compared to the 1988 release. “Into The Lungs Of Hell” still has the horns of the introduction left in the mix, but throughout the song, the guitar lines drift in and out, like they were recorded outside on a windy day. Even a song as powerful as “In My Darkest Hour” sounds flat and a bit gutless.

    The original mix of `So Far, So Good…So What!’ suffered somewhat because of limitations on time, budget, technology, and probably substance impaired musical abilities, but it was the best that could be done at the time. Metal production in 1988 was far from the refined science it is now, and the leap in the power and scope of technology between 1988 and 2004 is enormous. `So Far, So Good…So What!’ was hailed as a flawed masterpiece on it’s original release, and has rightly remained a much admired work from a highly influential band.

    Posted on February 4, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This album has split fans for nearly 20 years. There are some out there that claim this as their favourite Megadeth release. Then there are those that see it as a blemish on the band’s record, a separator between two undoubtedly classic albums in “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” and “Rust in Peace”. So where do I stand? I’m going to be ultra boring and sit on the fence.

    While “So Far So Good…So What?” in my opinion is not as good as either of the other two aforementioned albums, it certainly has some value for any thrash fan. The problem with the album is a lack of consistency. Things start out tremendously promising with the instrumental “Into the Lungs of Hell” kicking things off in fine style. Straight away, it’s obvious that the musicianship is still of the highest quality even if the production is slightly lacking. “Set the World Afire” continues the good work, its shredding riffs making up for rather pedestrian drumming by newcomer Chuck Behler.

    But here’s where the problem starts. Just as on the previous two albums, the band recorded a cover version of a celebrated track. I really do feel that in each case (“These Boots” may be an exception but only just) the cover songs are the tracks that I dislike the most on each release. This time around, Megadeth recorded a version of the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK”. It’s completely out of place and in particular as track 3 on the album. Some fans claim to like this cover but most criticise its existence in general, its punk attitude not sitting well alongside some of the more sophisticated tracks.

    Yet the inconsistencies don’t end there. “Mary Jane” is another brilliant track with it’s ballad like qualities and fantastic lead guitar making it one of the highlights of the album. But then it’s followed by the truly atrocious “502″ which once again stalls the flow of the album. I’m sure the guys thought it was funny writing this track based on speeding in cars and avoiding the cops, but its silliness wears thin awfully quickly and I find it very hard to enjoy these days. And so the album runs on with a few great moments broken up by bad decisions and a few cringe-worthy songs.

    I don’t hate “So Far So Good…So What?” as a whole, but I do find it really difficult to enjoy about half of it. Whereas the album before it and even more so the one after it are filled to the brim with talent and quality, this one ends up being comparatively average.

    Posted on February 4, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This was Megadeth’s last album released in the 1980’s, and it is also considered by most fans to be their last true thrash album. “So Far, So Good…So What?” is my second favorite Megadeth album (second only to “Rust in Peace.”) I might be alone in this opinion, but I do prefer this C.D. to its predecessor, (Megadeth’s sophomore album “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?”). Every song on this disc (especially the instrumental) grabs me; this album is catchier and more contagious than “Peace Sells.”

    “So Far, So Good…So What?” hadn’t aged well, and it hadn’t stood the test of time, because when it was originally released, back in 1988, it came across sounding rather stale, because its production was pretty bad. Therefore, I think reissuing/remastering this album was a great idea. The result of the remaster made these songs sound better than ever! Like most of Megadeth’s remasters (they reissued their whole back catalogue), the rough and raw sound of the original C.D. is gone, here, but the sound quality is clearer, louder, and all-around MUCH better.

    “Into the Lungs of Hell” is the album’s opening song, and it is also the instrumental. The whole song is very catchy (especially the opening guitar sounds), and a few solos are also included. It’s not quite as good as Metallica’s “Orion,” but this song is still very good.
    “Set the World Afire” should be titled “Set Our Fret Boards Afire,” because this song begins with really fast, running, almost buzzsaw riffs. Three good guitar solos are tossed in, (but the first one is pushed to the back, because this song’s rhythm is so crunchy.)
    “Anarchy in the U.K.” is a cover of an old Sex Pistols song. Some people like this cover, some people hate it; personally, I don’t find anything wrong with it. It has catchy, chugging guitars and a nice sing-along chorus.
    “In My Darkest Hour” begins with soft strumming, but the electric guitars make a storming/pounding entrance pretty soon thereafter. This song becomes an almost skipping beat with trippy guitar playing, and it becomes quite speedy. Two more talented solos are included around the middle, as well.
    “Hook in Mouth” has chugging riffs, but there are a few subtle speed changes and the guitar work and song tempo become even faster.

    “So Far, So Good…So What?” may not be as important, or influential as some other albums from this band, but it is still a great album, and definitely worth owning. This was always a great album, in fact, but it’s even better now that it has been remastered. As another reviewer said, if you own the original copy of this C.D., and you’re happy with its sound quality, you don’t need to dish out some more money for the remaster. But if you’re new, definitely buy the remaster, and don’t bother with the original.

    Posted on February 4, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Megadeth’s follow up to their highly influential “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” was an enigmatic album when first released in 1988, with frontman Dave Mustaine noticibly more interested in controled substances than songwriting (“502″ has some of the worst lyrics to ever appear in a Megadeth song), but on it’s own “So Far, So Good…So What!” is still a more than solid metal album, and now this newly released remastered disc finds the production quality cleaned up and sounding better than ever. “Set the World Afire” sounds better than ever, while the cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.”, along with “Liar”, “Mary Jane”, and “Hook in Mouth” still sound awesome. Oh yeah, there’s a little song on here called “In My Darkest Hour”, which many Megadeth fans consider one of the best songs in the entire catalogue, complete with a new acoustic intro. The bonus tracks, which include remixes of “Into the Lungs of Hell”, “Set the World Afire”, “Mary Jane”, and “In My Darkest Hour” are almost identical to their original counterparts with some different tempos and more riffage, but they are a nice little bonus. All in all, “So Far, So Good…So What!” may not be the best piece of material to come from Megadeth, but it still manages to pack a punch, even to this day. Just like the other Megadeth re-releases, don’t feel the need to shell out the cash for them if you own the originals, but for new fans now is your chance to hear Megadeth better than ever.

    Posted on February 4, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This is one of my favorite megadeth albums. Some classic Megadeth tracks are on here, but this album was always looked as one of megadeths worst because of the production. Now that this album is newly remixed and remastered by Dave Mustaine himself, it sounds like it was supposed to- great songwriting without all that reverb.
    This is Megadeth’s 3rd album, and it features their second recording lineup- Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, Chuck Behler, and Jeff Young.

    Into the Lungs of Hell: 9/10
    The instrumental introduction to the album, and a good one at that.

    Set the World Afire: 10/10
    This is the first song that Dave wrote after being fired from Metallica in 1983, originally titled “Megadeth”. This is one of the highlights of the album, with some cool lyrics and a great guitar solo from Jeff Young.

    Anarchy in the UK: 10/10
    A cover of the infamous Sex Pistols song. I think its really cool that Dave covered a punk song, because I’ve always thought that Megadeth had elements of punk in their sound.

    Mary Jane: 10/10
    This song includes more great guitar riffage and many tempo changes. Definately one of my favorites on the album.

    502: 8/10
    Well, you can tell that Dave was on Drugs when he wrote this song, with a lame imatation of a siren by dave, and some of the worst lyrics he’s ever written (Pull over sh**head, its the cops), but I still like the song, because it adds to the overall mood of the album.

    In My Darkest Hour: 10/10
    Definately the best on the album. It was also written after he found out about Cliff Burton’s death, when his understanding of “someone being there for you” was born. Some of Daves best lyrics are featured here. There is also a new intro on the Remastered version.

    Liar: 10/10
    A very underrated Megadeth song. The lyrics are about Chris Poland, former Megadeth 2nd guitarist, and are very clever, and crude as well!

    Hook in Mouth: 9/10
    Dave voice on this song is different than any other song on the album, raspier in a way. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. Anyway, some of Daves most clever lyrics are present, like when he spells “FREEDOM” and also attacks the PMRC with the clever metaphor of a hook in mouth. This song was also written around the time that Dave left Metallica.

    TOTAL: 76/80 = 5 stars

    Overall, I think that this album as a very raw feel that no other megadeth album has. Some songs are rawer than others, of course, but together they make up one of the best albums in the Megadeth catalogue. Definately pick this one up, even if you have the original!

    Posted on February 3, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now