Rust in Peace by Megadeth: 25 Album Facts

Dive deep inside Dave Mustaine’s thrash classic.

Thrash master Dave Mustaine and his mighty metal cohorts in Megadeth detonated Rust in Peace on September 24, 1990.

Coming out shortly after Anthrax’s Persistence of Time and predating Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss by a few weeks, Rust served as one of the last, very best big bangs of thrash metal’s first era. Just about a year later, Metallica by Metallica (aka “The Black Album”) would change everything forever.

So let’s honor Megadeth themselves, Rust in Peace itself, and that final blaze of thrashtastic glory with a roundup of facts, figures, and ferocious horn-throwing in honor of the album’s 25th anniversary.

Neil Young famously sang that “rust never sleeps.” Megadeth proved that it also never stops rocking.

1. Rust in Peace is the second Megadeth album title to contain the word “peace.” The first was their 1986 breakthrough, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?

2. In terms of what was selling and who was buying this time around, Rust in Peace peaked at #23 on the Billboard albums chart and, to date, has moved more than one million copies.

3. Dave Mustaine originally named Megadeth after a term he saw in an anti-nuclear war pamphlet by Senator Alan Cranston. His inspiration for this album title came from a bumper sticker he spied in California: “Nuclear Weapons – May They Rust in Peace.”

4. Rust in Peace earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance. Other nominees included Anthrax (Persistence of Time), Judas Priest (Painkiller), and Suicidal Tendencies (Lights… Camera… Revolution!). Metallica beat them all with their cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy.”

5. Prior to recording Rust in Peace, Dave Mustaine fired Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young.

6. Mustaine’s search for a guitarist proved arduous. He considered many players before offering the gig to Dimebag Darrell Abbott of Pantera. Alas, Abbott said he’d join Megadeth only if his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, could come along, too. Mustaine only wanted Dimebag, so the deal was off. That was cool, though, as both Abbots felt newly committed to the group’s harder and heavier fresh direction.

7. Cacophony guitarist Marty Friedman, who in 1988 released a solo album, Dragon’s Kiss, eventually got the nod. At first, though, Mustaine long overlooked Marty because of that album cover.”I was ready to forget playing and just produce,” Dave said. “We tried and tried to find people, and Marty’s CD had been sitting there the whole time and I saw a picture of him. Honestly, I love the little guy, but he looked like a poser to me, because his hair was two different colors.”

8. “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” was the first single from Rust in Peace.

9. The highly charged political and religious “Holy Wars” lyrics are popularly thought to address “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland, an age-old conflict between Catholic locals in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and England-backed Protestant armed forces.

10. Dave Mustaine got pulled in to “The Troubles” when he saw bootleg Megadeth shirts for sale in Ireland. “I would want to get [the shirts] confiscated because that’s basically the way the band stays alive out there – by selling merchandise and records,” he recalled. “They said, ’Well, you can’t do that. Those guys are sellin’ T-shirts for The Cause.’ And I went, ’What the hell’s The Cause?’ And they go, ’Well, it’s the IRA.’ What’s this all about? And the guy goes, ’Well, Catholics are against the Protestants are against the Catholics, ya know.’ And to me, any religion that thinks it’s better than another religion is, is, is… like, full of it, ya know?

11. Not fully understanding the extent of “The Troubles,” during an Irish concert, Mustaine dedicated Megadeth’s “Anarchy in the U.K” cover to “The Cause.” The crowd rioted. “The next day,” he said, “we received threats and had to travel in a bulletproof bus. It turns out ’the cause’ was the way in which Irish would call the IRA. I never felt so stupid.”

12. Later on, Mustaine reconsidered his IRA position: “I had found out that the IRA wasn’t as apparently opposed to the English as I was told. Yet the way that was described to me was very watered down. So, I shot my mouth off while there, saying, ‘This one is for the cause! Anarchy in Ireland! Give Ireland back to the Irish!’ I caught a lot of flack from the English press, and I caught a lot from the Irish… and like I give a f–k for the IRA!”

13. The song’s “Punishment Due” aspect is a nod to Marvel Comics’ The Punisher.

14. The B-side of the “Holy Wars” single is “Lucretia,” an ode to notorious 15th century European noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia. Tales of her over-the-top hedonism and decadence, which include incest, sadomasochism, and murder, remain legendary.

15. “Hangar 18,” Rust in Peace’s second single, has become the signature song of the album.

16. The real Hangar 18 is a U.S. Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Conspiracy theorists hold that, after a 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico, alien bodies pulled from the wreckage were transported to Hangar 18 before being finally stored in Nevada’s Area 51.

17. That UFO government cover-up scenario plays into they lyrics of “Hangar 18.” It’s also the premise of the 1980 cult flick, Hangar 18.

18. “Hangar 18” reworks, with lightning speed, the strummed D-minor arpeggio from “Call of Ktulu,” the last song Dave Mustaine wrote when he was a member of Metallica.

19. “Hangar 18” actually inspired a schism between Dave Mustaine and Megadeth drummer Nick Menza. “I wrote the song and called it ’N2RHQ ,’ it was like the numbers on the side of a plane. It was a future-tech thing. It was kind of sci-fi where I would go someplace in the future into space. Not that I saw an alien. Menza is the guy who believes in UFOs. If you look at his website or if you listen to his solo music, it shows you where he’s at in his life. Nick said something that I found really juvenile and offensive. He told me that Jesus was an alien and he could levitate. That was the end of me taking Nick seriously – I believed in God ever since I was a kid.”

20. Megadeth recorded a sequel song, “Return to Hangar” on their 2001 album, The World Needs a Hero.

21. Slash indirectly assisted with Marty Friedman’s guitar solo on “Five Magics” by way of producer Mike Clink, who was also GNR’s engineer. “I was having a hard time nailing the fast thrashy pedaling rhythm part towards the end [of the solo],” Friedman said, “so Clink gave me one of Slash’s guitar picks that was lying around and then I nailed the part in one take. Magic!”

22. The iconic cover image of Rust in Peace is an exquisite painting of Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead wearing a business suit inside Hangar 18. He holds a green, glowing object—possibly a jewel, possibly a cosmic talisman, maybe even the alien’s heart—above a preservation pod containing a space alien’s body.

23. Also on the cover, five contemporary world leaders sit behind Vic, observing. They are: UK Prime Minister John Major, Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev, German President Richard von Weizsäcker, Japanese PM Toshiki Kaifu, and U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

24. Master metal artist Ed Repka painted the Rust cover. He also created the cover of Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? In addition, Repka painted the covers of the “Holy Wars” and “Hangar 18” singles.

25. Other bands to employ cover paintings by Ed Repka include 3 Inches of Blood, Atheist, Austrian Death Machine, Circle Jerks, Death, Municipal Waste, Possessed, Toxic Holocaust, and Venom.

Mike McPadden is the author of the book "HEAVY METAL MOVIES: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever!" (Bazillion Points, 2014).