Formed by Dave Mustaine following his being fired from Metallica in the 80s, Megadeth has long since risen to be one of hard rock and heavy metal’s most revered bands. 1985 saw the release of their debut, Killing is My Business… and Business is Good! (hereafter simply referred to as “Killing is My Business.”)
On the group’s debut album, vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Dave Ellefson were joined by guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson (RIP). The album was released on Combat Records on a minimal budget, though exactly how much of the budget went to the recording process and how much went to drugs has long been the subject of debate. In either event, Megadeth’s debut, far and above, is their rawest and dirtiest work, which is part of why it holds such a special place in the hearts of the fans.
The album has been reissued/remastered a few times over the years. Original releases featured eight tracks, including a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” (hereafter referred to as “These Boots”) with modified lyrics which was removed following legal issues with the song’s writer, Lee Hazlewood, despite the latter having received royalties for years. A censored (bleeped) version of the song appeared on the 2002 remaster of the album, alongside three bonus demo tracks. For years, that was the best version of the album available (out-of-print copies of the original eight-track album now fetch a pretty penny).
Recently, Mustaine announced Killing is My Business… and Business is Good! The Final Kill, a new remastered version of the album. In addition to the seven main tracks, it features “These Boots” with recut/rerecorded vocals truer to the original version of the song, the three demos from the 2002 remaster, and several rare live bonus tracks Mustaine found on old VHS tapes in his collection. It’s been a long and interesting odyssey for Megadeth’s debut, but does this reissue truly claim its title of The Final Kill?
Before we get into the specifics of the remaster, let’s take a look at the songs on the album themselves. If you’re at all a Megadeth fan, many of these are familiar to you as true classics from Mr. Mustaine and company, raw and relentless. Highlights include “Last Rites/Loved to Deth,” the deceptive opener with its melodic classical intro which quickly erupts into a full-on metal assault, unrelenting thrashers like “The Skull Beneath the Skin” and “Rattlehead,” and the closing cut “Mechanix,” itself an older Metallica tune which that band turned into “The Four Horsemen” on their 1983 debut, Kill ‘em All. Subject matter on the songs ranges from everything from Christ’s crucifixion to Monty Python and the Holy Grail! While I wouldn’t say this is the best collection of Megadeth’s early “raw thrash” period (it’s largely eclipsed by its follow-up, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?) no fan will deny these songs and their place in the Megadeth discography.
The audio quality is a marked improvement over earlier versions of the album, with more subtle elements of the mix brought out which couldn’t be heard on prior releases. However, one must keep in mind the low-budget origins of the album and its recording process. No amount of remastering will ever have the audio quality quite as good as the later major label releases from the band, though long-time fans will generally be impressed with the upgrade in sound quality.
The recut version of “These Boots” does stick out due to the rerecorded vocals, but still manages to retain the raw feel of the band’s original version, albeit without the prior changed lyrics. As much as I’d love to see the proper version get an authorized reissue, at this point that seems unlikely. If nothing else is this superior to that laughably bad “bleeped” version from the 2002 remaster.
The live bonus tracks will be a major draw for those purchasing the album again. These were recorded from 1986-1990, and understandably, given their source from VHS tapes, audio quality varies and generally is not the best, but fans will still be enthused with what they hear here. Mustaine’s commentary/stage banter before and after the songs is worth the price of admission alone.
The three demos, as was previously stated, were on the 2002 remaster prior to this. It’s an interesting look at the development of these tunes, though they are demos never intended for commercial release, so fans need to keep their expectations in check before giving them a listen. No amount of remastering will ever make them sound “good.”
This is the version of Killing is My Business you should own. Even if you invested in the earlier versions of the album, the low price and wealth of bonus material coupled with a new (and long overdue!) remaster make it worth owning. Highly recommended!