Reviewed on this page:
Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! -
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? - So Far, So Good... So What? -
Rust In Peace - Countdown To Extinction -
Youthanasia - Hidden Treasures -
The Craving - Cryptic Writings - Risk -
The World Needs A Hero - Rude Awakening - The System Has Failed - United Abominations - Endgame - Rust In Peace: Live
Dave Mustaine formed Megadeth after he was kicked out of Metallica for excessive drinking and drug use
[insert joke here]. Without debating who influenced whom (or how much both were influenced by NWOBHM bands like
Diamond Head), the two bands have a lot in common:
raging tempos, complex multi-part song structures, portentous lyrics and lots of palm-muted rhythm guitar chugging.
And like Metallica, over time Megadeth has deviated from the thrash metal blueprint it helped create, first slowing down its tempos and
then experimenting with lush production and ballads. Differences? Well, Mustaine has a terrible voice - tuneless, thin
and ragged - his approach to harmony isn't nearly as sophisticated, and whenever he tries to write a slow song it ends up
sounding like "Dream On." But when he sticks to bread-and-butter metal riffs he's tough to
Despite constant turnover, the band kept rolling through the 90s,
then broke up in early 2002 after an injury resulting in radial neuropathy left Mustaine unable to play guitar.
But physical therapy apparently did the trick, and a reformed Megadeth cranked out a new album in the fall of 2004 and soon returned to the road.
Dave Mustaine, guitar/vocals; David Ellefson, bass; Chris Poland, guitar; Gar Samuelson, drums.
Poland and Samuelson replaced by Jeff Young and Chuck Behler, 1988, who were replaced by Marty Friedman
and Nick Menza, 1990. Menza replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso, 1999. Friedman replaced by Al Pitrelli, 2001.
Band dissolved, 2002. Reformed in 2004 with Poland, Jimmy Solas, bass, and Vinnie Colaiuta, drums. Whole band replaced later in 2004: new lineup was Glen Drover, guitar; James MacDonough, bass; and Menza. Still later in 2004, Menza replaced by Shawn Drover. In 2006, MacDonough replaced by Jim Lomenzo.
Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! (1985)
Megadeth's debut shows a strong punk influence that soon faded away: relatively short, simple songs played at battering-ram
intensity, and Mustaine's growl is nowhere near Plant-inspired tenor theatrics.
But it's heavy metal, all right: there's no mistaking the precise doubled guitar lines and tinny arpeggiated soloing.
Mustaine's version of "Mechanix" - the same tune as Metallica's "Four Horsemen" with different words - maps out
his approach, thrashing so fast you can barely make out the individual notes, spitting out the words, and dropping
the instrumental middle section. Though quality headbanging riffs abound ("Skull Beneath The Skin"), he clings so rigidly
to the limited blueprint - the pseudoclassical piano intro "Last Rites" is the only change in the format - that there's
just not much to listen for (the title track, which repeats the one-line chorus at boring length).
A snarling cover of the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" got the
band in some legal hot water; some versions of the album have a censored version or may not include the track at all.
Produced by Karat Faye; this and the following album have Chris Poland on guitar and Gar Samuelson on drums.
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? (1986)
Complex multi-part song structures ("Good Mourning/Black Friday") are added to the raging tempos and portentous lyrics
("Peace Sells"), and it makes a big difference. Also, the riffs are better ("Wake Up Dead"), and Mustaine's lead technique
is better captured, with super-speedy repeating patterns that are actually interesting ("The Conjuring").
On the other hand, Mustaine's insistence on doing everything himself has its drawbacks: he would have done better to recruit an actual singer rather than relying on his own punchless, tuneless voice, and
bassist David Ellefson and Samuelson sound fine but don't get much to do. Plus, he didn't write an album's worth of material, so he fell back on a
cover of Howlin' Wolf's "I Ain't Superstitious" that's a waste of time, closely imitating Jeff Beck's version and adding a gratuitous
So Far, So Good... So What? (1988)
A failed shot at the same target; thrash metal ("Set The World Afire") with confrontational lyrics ("Liar", the pro-drunk
driving "502"), but nothing works apart from the epic opening instrumental "Into The Lungs Of Hell."
Mustaine replaced Poland and Samuelson with Jeff Young and Chuck Behler, but apparently didn't think too much of them:
rhythm guitar and drums are buried in the mix, and most of the time you can only hear Mustaine's tuneless lead
vocals and guitar shredding. But the biggest problem is a lack of solid tunes; the chaotic cover of the Sex Pistols'
"Anarchy In The U.K." is one of the catchiest bits, and "Hook In Mouth" is a pathetic attack on the P.M.R.C. - a metal band
should be concerned with worldwide devastation and bathing in baby's blood, not with parental advisory stickers.
Rust In Peace (1990)
Talk about a rebound: the band immediately leaped to its peak. The record gets off to a screaming start with the furious, incredibly
heavy "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "Hangar 18," and almost never lets up thereafter.
"Rust In Peace... Polaris" is one of Mustaine's most memorable and complicated tunes, "Tornado Of Souls" has one of the best hooks I've ever heard, and there's no lame cover. Even the lesser numbers ("Lucretia," "Take No Prisoners") maintain the intensity
level, with a parade of rat-a-tat riffs and arpeggiated solos... the tempo only slows on the interlude "Dawn Patrol" (with a bass line that later appeared on Metallica's "The God That Failed").
For range and depth it doesn't compare to Master
Of Puppets or even Chaos A.D., but it's the best pure speed metal album I've heard; produced by Mustaine and Mike Clink.
The new lineup - with Marty Friedman on guitar and Nick Menza on drums - sounds great, and they stuck together for several years.
Countdown To Extinction (1992)
Well, I know who bought one of the ten million copies of The Black Album.
"Captive Honour," "Psychotron" and the menacing "Symphony Of Destruction" - probably Megadeth's biggest hit -
have a mid-tempo, low-end sock recalling "Sandman," while the pro-biodiversity title track has a middle section with
two lead guitars playing harmony in thirds, a Metallica trademark. And just like Black, this got the band on heavy
MTV rotation and became their biggest seller. But they didn't turn their back on thrash, as evidenced by the near-punk
"High Speed Dirt" (a paean to skydiving) and the multi-part closer "Ashes In Your Mouth." And the songwriting is strong,
with heavy punches landing ("Skin O' My Teeth") far more often than missing ("Foreclosure Of A Dream").
A consolidation of the previous record's stylistic shifts.
The songs are slower and less complicated, but they're nearly all built on killer licks ("Addicted To Chaos"),
and Menza keeps the clean sound from getting clinical.
The soloing is more intricate and entertaining than ever, and Mustaine's voice has improved a bit so he can sing actual notes
instead of just growling ("A Tout Le Monde"). His lyrics are still inconsistent but at best they're sharply self-revelatory ("Train Of Consequences").
Fortunately, when the words are weakest (the tour-weary whine "The Killing Road"), the compositions are strongest.
Produced by Mustaine and Max Norman.
Hidden Treasures (rec. 1991-1994, rel. 1995)
An ungenerous but nontrivial collection of odds and ends from soundtrack and tribute albums.
The three covers - Alice Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy,"
Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," and the Sex Pistols' "Problems" - aren't rearranged, they're just taken at a slightly faster tempo and topped with Mustaine's unenviable vocals, though I'll admit that "Problems" is miles ahead of the band's previous
That leaves just five originals, but they're very solid: "Angry Again" is a terrific, meanspirited battering ram of a tune;
"Go To Hell" packs a slew of riffs into a modest running time. I can't decide whether the slow, melodic "Diadem" is for real,
or a Bon Jovi parody, but either way it's different from any other Megadeth track I've heard.
Uneven, sure, but it's cheaper than collecting all the albums these tracks originally appeared on.
The Craving (MD.45: 1996)
For this one-off side project, Mustaine collaborated with Fear frontman Lee Ving, a boisterous vocalist halfway between
John Popper (he even plays some harmonica) and Wild Man Fischer. The off-the-cuff sound is
refreshing compared to the cleanliness of Megadeth's 90s albums ("Hearts Will Bleed"), and Ving's try-anything spirit leads
to some inspired moments (the paranoid "Voices") as well as inane ones (the endless catalog of shouted city names in "My
Town"). If Mustaine had brought his usual pile of killer licks to the party, the record would be a blast; as it is, he only
came up with a couple of winners (the hummable "Fight Hate"; the slightly asynchronous guitar lines in "Roadman")
and too many predictably crunching power chords ("Designer Behavior").
Most of the lyrics are by Ving and most of the music is by Mustaine, though Dave wrote some lyrics ("Day The Music Died")
and the whole band (including drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and bassist Kelly Lemieux) is credited with "Nothing Is Something."
For 2004 re-release, Mustaine scrubbed Ving's vocal tracks, an absurd act of egoism: idiosyncratic as he is, Ving is a real
singer, which Dave isn't... hold out for the original record.
Cryptic Writings (1997)
Produced by Dann Huff, and he adds some unusual instrumentation -
harmonica on "Have Cool, Will Travel"; something that sounds like an electric sitar on "A Secret Place" - and production
gimmicks (a sample of the Searchers' "Needles And Pins" at the start of the anti-drug "Use The Man") as the sound moves a bit farther toward mainstream rock. And after years of avoiding the trap, Mustaine has started writing about relationships, to which he brings his usual jaundiced eye ("Almost Honest," "I'll Get Even"). What's really surprising, though, is how stock all the licks sound: from the single "Trust" (essentially a rewrite of "Angry Again") to the old fashioned
thrasher "Vortex," nothing makes you sit up and take notice, and only the funk-inflected "Mastermind" sounds like an attempt to do something new.
From composition to execution, the band's least original and rewarding effort.
Produced by Huff again, and he takes a much fuller approach, with tons of overdubs including prominent violin ("Insomnia")
and massed backing vocals. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing he's also the brains behind the disco beat on "Crush 'Em,"
which plays as a weird homage to Kiss's "I Was Made For Lovin' You." Even the few
straightforward thrashers ("Prince Of Darkness") suffer from this treatment, while the midtempo numbers ride deep into
the valley of corporate rock ("Breadline"). When overproduction meets a recycled lick, you're really in trouble ("The
Doctor Is Calling," with a keyboard doubling a riff I swear is from Black
Sabbath; "Wanderlust," which borrows from Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain").
DeGrasso is on drums, the rest of the band is the 90s standbys.
The World Needs A Hero (2001)
A new guitarist (Al Pitrelli) and a new producer (Bill Kennedy), but it's the old Megadeth sound, much simpler
and heavier than Risk (the rip-roaring "Motor Psycho"). Nothing's as fast as the early thrash material, but when
Mustaine comes up with great hooks the sound is as good as ever: the catchy, high-powered "Disconnect";
the riff-packed mini-suite "Dread And The Fugitive Mind."
Unfortunately, most of the songwriting is perfunctory, as if Mustaine was under pressure to crank out another
Rust In Peace but his heart wasn't in it. "Return To Hangar," a pile of familiar-sounding licks in search of a song,
exemplifies the bankruptcy of the approach, while the endless "When" is an inferior rewrite of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil."
The ballad "Promises" - with a full string section - borrows from Aerosmith's "Dream On"
again, while Mustaine sings with a nasal groan much like Axl Rose circa "November Rain."
Rude Awakening (2002)
A double live album, covering the band's output from "Mechanix" through "Return To Hangar." As you'd expect, the band
knocks out the tunes with power and precision ("Hangar 18"; "She-Wolf" with a lengthy but focused jam),
and there are a couple of welcome surprises on the set list ("Angry Again").
But the live atmosphere spotlights Mustaine's vocal limitations, and because they save most of the
Rust/Countdown material for the end of the show, there are some lengthy stretches dominated by late 90s
dreck ("1000 Times Goodbye"). And the two-hour, 24-song format makes it distressingly clear how little the band's approach has
varied throughout its existence, once you normalize for production and personnel changes. Still, a good way to get nearly
all the band's best songs in one place.
The System Has Failed (2004)
After recovering from radial neuropathy, Mustaine put together a new version of the band, with the long-missing Poland (though Dave still takes most of the solos) but for the first time,
without Ellefson. Along the same retro-metal lines as World Needs A Hero, only more so: there are no slow tunes at all, the guitars sound dirtier,
and Mustaine's vocals are as tuneless as they were on Killing Is My Business ("The Scorpion"). Sadly, the compositions are even less
memorable, as one song after another sounds instantly familiar ("Die Dead Enough," which raids the James Bond theme). In this company, "Of Mice And Men" (with nearly
the only vocal harmonies on the disc, over a grinding riff) and the multi-part "Truth Be Told" (synth courtesy of Tim Akers)
stand out, but you're not going to see them on a greatest hits album.
Lyrically, the record's a mix of vague social protest ("Kick The Chair") and attacks on a former associate - generally assumed to be either Ellefson or
Lars Ulrich - who's accused of being a turncoat ("Back In The Day") and sell-out ("Something I'm Not").
Produced by Mustaine and Jeff Balding; the rhythm section is Jimmie Lee Sloas (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta.
United Abominations (2007)
Mustaine's thrashing as hard and fast as ever, and he comes up with lots of good licks, too: "Sleepwalker" and "Pray for Blood" are furiously cathartic, and the solos careen unpredictably ("Gears Of War"; "Burnt Ice").
But he's short of ideas: "Never Walk Alone... A Call To Arms" recalls "Holy Wars"; he remakes "A Tout Le Monde" as a duet with Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia.
Lyrically, Mustaine seems to be positioning himself as the Ted Nugent of thrash, spewing jingoist rhetoric (title track; "Amerikhastan") when he isn't spewing evangelical Christian doomsday prophecy ("Washington Is Next"; "Pray For Blood").
The new band is the Drover brothers - Glen on guitar, Shawn on drums - and James Lomenzo on bass, and they don't add much but they stay out of trouble, and give Mustaine plenty of room to do his business.
Produced by Balding, Mustaine and Andy Sneap.
The message of the opening twin-lead guitar showpiece "Dialectic Chaos" couldn't be clearer: Mustaine will keep thrashing until he can't thrash no more. And thrash he does, with results as powerful as they are predictable ("Head Crusher"; "This Day We Fight!").
The lyrics continue to cross anti-establishmentarianism ("Bite The Hand," with thrilling vamps) and conservative Christian conspiracy ("Endgame").
Unfortunately, he does deviate from the program for one of his trademark hideous ballads, "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go" (spoiler alert: it's saying goodbye).
Speed merchant Chris Broderick replaces Glen Drover; otherwise it's the same band as United Abominations. Produced by Mustaine and Sneap.
Rust In Peace: Live (2010)
Like it says. I support the recent trend of playing an entire classic album in concert: it helps differentiate a tour from the usual "half of the latest album plus greatest hits" formula, and usually you (and perhaps even the band) realize that at least one long-neglected tune is better than remembered. But I'm not a fan of releasing a live album drawn from the set, because it's basically a run through an album you already have (typically the songs aren't reimagined or rearranged, since that would confound the expectations of the audience who wants to hear the original thing in a live context).
Then there are six non-Rust songs, and they're equally unsurprising: "Symphony," "She-Wolf," "Peace Sells," and so on. In any case, the band attacks everything with vigor and every part sounds great - I suspect Dave's vocals at least were "sweetened" in the studio afterwards - but without sacrificing the immediate feeling of a live show.
And I had forgotten what a great song "Lucretia" is: equal parts crunch and intricacy.
Ellefson is back; Broderick and Drover remain.
Like Endgame only more so: the riffs are still effective ("New World Order"), but they're increasingly obvious ("Public Enemy No. 1").
As there's nothing new in the lyrics either ("We The People," not the Soul Searchers song), the whole exercise feels perfunctory even when it's working (the laser-sharp "Wrecker"). "Guns, Drugs & Money" exemplifies the situation: he rolls out the sort of climbing chromatic "spider riff" he's been writing since the 80s, spews unfocused paranoia over it, but I can't deny I still enjoy listening to it.
Mustaine puts it all together on "Fast Lane," though: furious main vamp, hypnotic bridge, and a freaky, left field guitar solo.
And he gets a gold star for avoiding slow love songs.
Same band as RIP: Live; produced by Mustaine and Johnny K, who also co-wrote several tunes ("Millennium Of The Blind").
Super Collider (2013)
Despite continued success as a live act, and despite the record industry sea change which makes album sales basically irrelevant, Mustaine keeps putting out albums, which must mean a) he's too stubborn to adapt; or b) he has artistic statements he's driven to make. Okay, Mustaine's definitely stubborn; the point is, does he have anything to say besides repeating the InfoWars-inspired conspiracy potpourri ("Dance In The Rain," with David Draiman) he's been dishing out for the past ten years or so? Spoiler alert: No, he sure doesn't, and what's worse, he's completely forgotten to write songs. Each tune has a simplistic vamp underneath Mustaine's tuneless vocals ("Kingmaker"), building to hapless would-be sing-along choruses (title track). There are precisely two points of interest (unless you count the Thin Lizzy cover "Cold Sweat") - a harmonized dual guitar bridge on "Off The Edge" and a bluegrass/metal crossbreed ("The Blackest Crow") that's half-way successful.
Same lineup and production team as the previous release.
Countdown To Extinction: Live (2013)
I guess we're only a half-dozen years away from Risk: Live.
Read more cryptic writings.