So Far, So Good... So What!

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So Far, So Good... So What!
An image of a shell-studded, combat-clad soldier whose melted face leers menacingly from beneath a crude helmet. Amidst the ruins of a nuclear holocaust, he stands poised with a powerful weapon behind the distant planet Earth.
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 19, 1988 (1988-01-19)
StudioMusic Grinder, Los Angeles
GenreThrash metal
Megadeth chronology
Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?
So Far, So Good... So What!
Rust in Peace
Singles from So Far, So Good... So What!
  1. "Anarchy in the U.K."
    Released: February 17, 1988
  2. "Mary Jane"
    Released: May 12, 1988

So Far, So Good... So What! is the third studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth, released on January 19, 1988, by Capitol Records. It was the band's only album recorded with drummer Chuck Behler and guitarist Jeff Young, both of whom were fired from the band in early 1989, several months after the completion of the album's world tour. So Far, So Good... So What! features music performed at fast tempos with technical ability; lyrically, frontman and guitarist Dave Mustaine addresses a variety of topics, including nuclear holocaust and freedom of speech.

So Far, So Good... So What! was well-received by critics upon its release, although retrospective analysis has been less favorable. It managed to enter the top-thirty of the Billboard 200 (although it received no commercial radio play), and charted in several other countries as well. The album was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA, and indicated Megadeth's forthcoming emergence from the underground scene.[1]

Background and production[edit]

Guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson had been both fired from the band following the conclusion of the Peace Sells tour for disruptive behavior, including Poland's habit of pawning band equipment to pay for drugs.[2] Samuelson was immediately replaced by his drum technician, Chuck Behler[3] (although Slayer's Dave Lombardo considered joining).[4] However, a new guitarist would take longer to emerge. At first, the band hired guitarist Jay Reynolds from the band Malice,[5] but Reynolds was not up to the task of recording, and was subsequently replaced by his guitar teacher, Jeff Young. Dave Mustaine has since stated his regret for the way he handled Reynolds's firing.[6] Other guitarists considered included Slash from Guns N' Roses.[7]

Work on the album started while Reynolds was in the band, but continued after the induction of Young. To mix the album, the label turned to Paul Lani, who had remixed the band's previous album, Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?.[8] Mustaine was initially skeptical, but later became very irate with Lani's "eccentricities" and his way of handling things. To mix the album, Lani relocated himself and Mustaine to Bearsville Studios, near Woodstock, New York, ostensibly for the purpose of inspiration.[9] Mustaine decided that he had his limits when he, having just awakened and made coffee, noticed Lani outside in his underwear feeding an apple to a deer. Mustaine flew back to Los Angeles later that day and fired Lani, who was replaced by Michael Wagener. Mustaine has since criticized Wagener's "pedestrian" mixing efforts, citing the album's "muddy feel", in particular.[10] Mustaine was able to recruit Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones to perform guitar parts on "Anarchy in the U.K."[11]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to music critic J. D. Considine of Spin, So Far, So Good... So What! displays music performed at "volumes approaching the threshold of pain".[12] This was the first album where another band member other than Mustaine contributed to writing, with bassist David Ellefson contributing to either lyrics or music on half of the album's songs. The album features fast guitar solos, multiple tempo changes and technical dexterity.[13] Mike Stagno of Sputnikmusic observed that the album offers the classic "take no prisoners" style which is commonly associated with Megadeth; however, he noted that the sound does not differ much from the other underground metal bands from that period.[14] Jim Farber of Rolling Stone called Mustaine's vocals "bloodthirsty" and praised the musicianship for keeping rhythmic pace even at the "most anarchic moments".[15] Los Angeles Times journalist Dennis Hunt noted that the music was filled with extensive and "torrid" instrumentals and described Mustaine's singing as a combination of extreme shrieking and screaming.[16] Despite the positive overview, "Anarchy in the U.K." received some negative criticism, partially because it was perceived to lack the rebelliousness of the original version.[17]

The lyrical themes on the album explore a variety of subjects, from nuclear holocaust ("Set the World Afire") to revisionism and censorship ("Hook in Mouth").[16] Still, the majority of the songs are accompanied by the same sentiment of disillusion and nihilism as their previous two albums.[18] Unlike traditional topics related to heavy metal music, the song "In My Darkest Hour" contains emotional lyrics which deal with loneliness and isolation.[19] Dave Mustaine revealed that he tried to write about subject matters that were in touch with reality, including social issues and taboo topics.[16] The lyrics on Megadeth's cover of "Anarchy in the U.K." were slightly mistaken because Mustaine claimed he had heard them incorrectly.[20]


The album's first track, "Into the Lungs of Hell", is an instrumental composition which features synthesized horns, winds and percussion.[21] "Set the World Afire" is the first song Dave Mustaine wrote for Megadeth after being fired from Metallica. He was a member of Metallica from 1981 to 1983, and was dismissed just before Metallica recorded its debut album Kill 'Em All. He later said that he wrote the lyrics during his journey home from the departure. Inspiration for the song came from a newspaper he read while on the bus back to California. The initial lyrics were written with a borrowed pencil on a cupcake wrapper, leading some fans to refer to "Set the World Afire" as "the cupcake song".[22] The beginning of the song contains a sample of "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire", a 1941 song by The Ink Spots.[23]

"Anarchy in the U.K." is a Sex Pistols cover, which quickly became a staple of the band's live set.[24] Over the years, the song was dropped from the set list because of its [perceived] anti-Christian viewpoint.[25] "Mary Jane" tells a story about a young witch buried alive by her father near the Loon Lake cemetery in Minnesota. According to the legend, anyone who dared to disturb her grave was doomed to a prompt death.[26] The song features descending guitar lines and begins with Mustaine summoning her spirit during the introduction.[27]

"502" is about breaking laws and driving fast cars. The title is a reference to the police code in California for drunk driving; Mustaine himself would be arrested for drunk driving in March the following year when he crashed into a police car.[12][28] "In My Darkest Hour" was written by Mustaine shortly after the death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. Mustaine had found out through word of mouth, as his former bandmates never contacted him about the tragic event that occurred in Europe. He later recalled that he was extremely unhappy that day and wrote the song in one sitting.[29] "Liar" is a diss song directed at past member Chris Poland, who Mustaine claimed was stealing guitars and selling them for heroin money.[20] "Hook in Mouth" declaims censorship and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). Mustaine elaborated that the lyrics were aimed at those who were "fucking around with our constitutional rights and trying to take away our freedom of speech".[30]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Los Angeles Times[13]
Rock Hard10/10[31]
Rolling Stone[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[32]
The Village VoiceB−[34]

The album received positive feedback from music critics at the time of its release. In a contemporary review, Holger Stratmann from Rock Hard hailed the album as "the new masterpiece of Megadeth" and asserted that the band had created a great follow-up to their highly acclaimed Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?[31] Jim Farber of Rolling Stone also gave the album a favorable review, saying it propelled the group "right at the top of the thrash-rock heap". He concluded his review by saying, "amid today's narcoleptic pop scene, albums like So Far, So Good ... So What! offer a disruptive noise that's welcome indeed".[15] Writing for Spin, J. D. Considine felt that the record showed a "genuine maturity" for the band.[12] In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau reacted toward the album with tepid positivity, and wrote that Megadeth garnered "its modest portions of profit and respect" with their latest studio release. He praised "Anarchy in the U.K.", commenting that Mustaine covers the Sex Pistols "like a champ".[34]

Retrospective reviews, however, tend to be more critical of the album. AllMusic's Steve Huey criticized the album for lacking "the conceptual unity and musical bite" of its predecessor. According to him, the album "wants to sound threatening but mostly comes off as forced and somewhat juvenile", citing the cover track as an example.[17] Conversely, Adrien Begrand from MSN Music opined that the record was "somehow ignored" in the band's discography.[20]


The tour that followed the album's release was the first to feature new band members Chuck Behler and Jeff Young. Bassist David Ellefson said that previous members Gar Samuelson and Chris Poland were tired of constantly being on the road and their departure was inevitable. He further revealed that drummer Behler was appointed shortly before because the band feared that Samuelson would not be able to continue touring.[35] However, some problems occurred during the Australian leg of the tour. The band was forced to cancel some of these shows because of drug issues. Mustaine claimed that the group returned home because guitarist Young "ran out of heroin", which Young denied, stating that it was Mustaine who wanted to go back to Los Angeles and seek rehabilitation.[36] Both Young and Behler were eventually fired from the band in 1989.[37]

Megadeth started performing the album's songs live before the record was released. During 1987 they toured with other thrash metal bands such as Kreator and Overkill at a number of European venues.[38] The following year Megadeth appeared with more established heavy metal acts such as Dio and Savatage for some shows in North America.[39] They also headlined a European tour, with support from Testament and Sanctuary.[40] Later in 1988 the group made an appearance at the Monsters of Rock festival, but were dropped from the line-up after one show;[37] Megadeth was replaced by Testament.[41][42] Dave Mustaine explained that the band toured quite often because they were not receiving much media exposure: "We do a lot of shows and sell records by word-of-mouth". Los Angeles Times reported that So Far, So Good... So What! sold 400,000 copies one month after its release, becoming Megadeth's fastest selling album at that point.[16] The record eventually went platinum and indicated Megadeth's forthcoming emergence from the underground scene.[43]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Dave Mustaine, except where noted.[44]

Side one
1."Into the Lungs of Hell"(instrumental) 3:29
2."Set the World Afire"  5:48
3."Anarchy in the U.K." (Sex Pistols cover)Johnny RottenRotten, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Paul Cook3:00
4."Mary Jane"Mustaine, David Ellefson 4:25
Side two
5."502"  3:28
6."In My Darkest Hour" (6:26 on 2004 reissue)Mustaine, Ellefson 6:16
7."Liar" Mustaine, Ellefson3:20
8."Hook in Mouth" Mustaine, Ellefson4:40
Total length:34:26
2004 remixed/remastered edition bonus tracks
9."Into the Lungs of Hell" (Paul Lani mix)(instrumental)3:32
10."Set the World Afire" (Paul Lani mix) 5:53
11."Mary Jane" (Paul Lani mix)Mustaine, Ellefson4:08
12."In My Darkest Hour" (Paul Lani mix)Mustaine, Ellefson6:11
Total length:54:20


Production and performance credits are adapted from the album liner notes.[44]

Additional personnel
2004 remix and remaster
  • Produced by Dave Mustaine
  • Mixed by Ralph Patlan and Dave Mustaine
  • Engineered by Ralph Patlan with Lance Dean
  • Edited by Lance Dean with Scott "Sarge" Harrison
  • Mastered by Tom Baker


Chart (1988) Peak


Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[45] 40
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[46] 51
Finnish Albums (The Official Finnish Charts)[47] 5
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[48] 27
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[49] 57
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[50] 41
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[51] 37
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[52] 28
UK Albums (OCC)[53] 18
US Billboard 200[54] 28


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[55] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[56]
2004 release
Silver 60,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[57] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


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  2. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 167-168.
  3. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 167.
  4. ^ "DAVE LOMBARDO: How I Almost Joined MEGADETH In 1987". Blabbermouth. 19 January 2021. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  5. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 169.
  6. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 170-173.
  7. ^ "How Slash Almost Joined Megadeth: 'Mustaine and I Wrote Some Fucking Dark Riffs!'". Ultimate Guitar. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  8. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 173.
  9. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 177-178.
  10. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 179.
  11. ^ Mustaine 2010, p. 175-176.
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  17. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Megadeth: So Far, So Good... So What!". AllMusic. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  18. ^ Joyner 2002, p. 301.
  19. ^ Arnett 1996, p. 50.
  20. ^ a b c Begrand, Adrien (January 25, 2013). "Megadeth, 'So Far, So Good...So What!'". MSN Music. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  21. ^ Pillsbury 2006, p. 82.
  22. ^ "Dave Mustaine About His Cupcake Song". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-05-09. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
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External links[edit]