The Unofficial Guide to Megadeth
For about five years now, I have a been an avid Megadeth fan. By far, they are my favorite thrash band. I’ve seen them twice live (though I unfortunately missed the Rust in Peace show), and million times more on DVDs or youtube. On a personal level, they are the most influential band to my guitar playing and writing. Many of my favorite riffs were, in fact, created by frontman Dave Mustaine. And though he is the centerpiece of the band, more often than not, Megadeth is extremely capable on all fronts.
If you have never heard of Megadeth before, you have a lot of catching up to do. The band is best for delivering complex guitar parts, vivid lyrics, and heavy, hard-hitting metal. Of course, there is much more to Megadeth than only those aspects, but they are generally the highlights of the band. As I proceed to my album and song “best of” lists, the aforementioned characteristics will be the primary criteria in my judgment. As usual, we’ll start with the album countdown.
5) Endgame (2009)
Endgame is Megadeth’s latest and heaviest release. It is also the debut of their newest guitarist, Chris Broderick. As per usual, Mustaine is the primary songwriter and the band members give their input when required. The album contains amazing riffs and the best solos since the most popular Megadeth guitarist, Marty Friedman, departed from the band. Like most of the band’s albums, the guitar parts are highly technical, and are the key focus. The remaining instruments are merely supporters, and the vocals are the definite weak point. However, there are not as many guitar-based albums able to match the heaviness or technicality of Endgame.
4) Countdown to Extinction (1992)
This is Megadeth’s highest selling album, and the start of their journey to mainstream. That being said, it is not at all like typical radio music. But no doubt, this album is much easier for the general population to get into. It contains much more “verse-chorus-bridge” structuring, and some songs are hardly even metal. However, for the most case there is very little shying away from the complexity which Megadeth is capable of. There surely are basic hits, like “Symphony of Destruction” and “Sweating Bullets,” but there are songs that represent the band’s top game, such as “Skin O’ My Teeth” and “Ashes in Your Mouth”. Overall, Countdown to Extinction is a very good album. Its only minor weakness is its recurring incorporation of mainstream elements. Still, doing so hardly detracts from the high level of music which the band portrays in this album.
3) The System Has Failed (2004)
The first album released after Mustaine recovered from his arm injury is The System Has Failed. It is also the first well-received album since the band’s attempts at mainstream. And moreover, it is the first Megadeth album to exclude original bassist, Dave Ellefson. Despite the lack of a band, Mustaine put together a brilliant record with the help of his hired guns. Former band guitarist Chris Poland delivers solid solos, and the drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, gives an amazing performance. The album share numerous similarities with the classic albums, but with a more refined sound. It was the perfect way for Megadeth to return to the music scene.
2) Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? (1986)
After releasing an already strong debut album, Killing is My Business… and Business is Good!, Megadeth returned with an even stronger second album. Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? soon enough became a critically acclaimed classic by the band, with many metal musicians citing it as an influence. It is a heavy guitar album with many fast-paced riffs and drum lines. The bass, although overshadowed by the guitar, is highly commendable, especially with the fan favorite bassline from “Peace Sells”. Support is the main purpose of the drums, though there are some stellar rhythms in certain songs (particularly “Bad Omen”). Every song on the album can hold its own ground, though certain songs, mainly “Peace Sells,” have become icons in the metal world. Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? is an unforgettable, ageless album. There is only one Megadeth album which is debatably superior.
1) Rust in Peace (1990)
Not only do I consider Rust in Peace the best Megadeth album, but I also consider it the best thrash metal release. This is just in terms of musical content, because of course Metallica’s Master of Puppets has influenced far more bands. But when albums reach such a high level of musicality, preference plays a huge role in what one thinks is the best; Rust in Peace is my preference. It is no doubt the album that had the biggest impact on my approach to the guitar. But also, it is instrumentally technical all around. The bass gives unforgettable performances in songs like “Take No Prisoners” and “Dawn Patrol,” while the drumming is spectacular throughout. And although many disagree with me, I think the vocals are quite decent. After adjusting to Mustaine’s snarly tone, one can see that the vocals are well-phrased, and that Mustaine has decent range and control. And after all the album offers up front, the sweet aftertaste comes from the lyrics. Whether the songs be about war, relationships, politics, or literature, the lyrics are vivid and fluent, making the album much deeper. Rust in Peace is one of a small selection of albums which I believe goes beyond perfection.
Certain albums are best to be played through uninterrupted (mainly Rust in Peace). But for a band like Megadeth, it is acceptable, though not recommended, to take the scattered-song approach. For those who prefer doing so, here is a list of my personal favorite Megadeth songs. Starting from ten:
Megadeth “Top 10”
10) “Kick the Chair” (from The System Has Failed)
9) “Tornado of Souls” (from Rust in Peace)
8) “Take No Prisoners” (from Rust in Peace)
7) “In My Darkest Hour” (from So Far, So Good… So What!)
6) “Peace Sells” (from Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?)
5) “Ashes in Your Mouth” (from Countdown to Extinction)
4) “Five Magics” (from Rust in Peace)
3) “Wake Up Dead” (from Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?)
2) “Hangar 18” (from Rust in Peace)
1) “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” (from Rust in Peace)
Yes, I realize that there is no “Symphony of Destruction” on the list. Megadeth is revered as one of the greatest thrash metal bands to grace the scene; putting a mainstream hit such as “Symphony of Destruction” on a top ten list would be a misrepresentation of the true potential of the group.
That basically sums up my thoughts on Megadeth. Hopefully, this guide will help you in your journey through the music of this wonderful band.
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