Megadeth is an American thrash metal band from Los Angeles, California. They were formed in 1983 by guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson, shortly after Mustaine's dismissal from his previous band Metallica. In 1985, the group released its debut album through Combat Records, an independent record label. The album's moderate commercial success caught the attention of bigger record labels. The band soon signed to Capitol Records and released their first major label album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?, considered highly influential in the underground metal scene. However, the frequent disputes between the band members and the issues with drug abuse earned the band a negative publicity during this period.
After stabilizing their line-up, Megadeth released a string of platinum selling albums, including Countdown to Extinction, certified double platinum and responsible for bringing Megadeth to public recognition. This period was marked by extensive worldwide touring, with the band establishing an international fan-base in the process. In 2002, Megadeth was temporarily disbanded because of Mustaine's arm injury. The band was re-established in 2004 without bassist David Ellefson, who took legal action against Dave Mustaine. Ellefson rejoined the group in 2010, and is featured on all recordings since then.
Megadeth is known for its distinctive, technical instrumental style that often features fast rhythm sections and complex arrangements; their songs convey gloomy lyrical themes including death, war, politics, and religion. A pioneer of the American thrash metal movement, the band is credited as one of thrash metal's "big four" along with Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer, who were responsible for the genre's creation, development and popularization. Since its inception, Megadeth has released fourteen studio albums, with six of them being certified platinum in the United States. With 50 million records sold worldwide and eleven Grammy nominations, Megadeth ranks as one of the most successful American heavy metal bands.
Early days (1983–84)
Dave Mustaine was the original lead guitarist for Metallica after they were formed in 1981. He was member of the band for nearly a year and participated in composing their early songs. However, before the start of the recording sessions of Metallica's debut album, Mustaine was dismissed from the band because of his excessive drug abuse and personal conflicts with members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Two months after being fired, Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson formed Megadeth in Los Angeles, California. Prior to establishing his new band, Mustaine's intention was to play faster and heavier music than his previous band.
According to Mustaine, the name Megadeth represents the annihilation of power, while in itself is a misspelling of the term megadeath. The band name came from a pamphlet Mustaine found on the floor of the bus he was on, having been fired from Metallica, which was produced by Californian senator Alan Cranston, reading: "The arsenal of megadeath can't be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to". Despite his enthusiasm, Mustaine had trouble finding the band's initial line-up. After hiring bassist David Ellefson immediately, they both examined about 15 drummers because they wanted to get a drummer who possessed unique skills. In the mean time, Kerry King from fellow contemporaries Slayer took duties on lead guitar. Mustaine and Ellefson eventually appointed drummer Lee Rauch, and after unsuccessfully searching for a lead vocalist for six months, they agreed that Mustaine should handle the vocal duties. Mustaine would also serve as the band's main lyricist and songwriter in addition to handling rhythm and lead guitar duties.
In 1984, Megadeth recorded a three-song demo tape, referred to as the 1984 Demo, featuring Mustaine, Ellefson and Rausch. The demo contained early versions of "Last Rites/Loved to Death", "Skull Beneath the Skin", and "Mechanix", which would eventually appear on their debut studio album. The band did a few live performances in 1984, before replacing Rausch with jazz fusion drummer Gar Samuelson. Furthermore, they added guitarist Chris Poland as a full-time member in December that year. After looking at a few labels, frontman Dave Mustaine decided to sign with the New York based independent label Combat Records because they offered him the highest budget for recording their upcoming album and starting a promotional tour.
Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! (1985)
In 1985, the band was given $8,000 by Combat Records to record and produce its debut album. After spending half of the album's budget on drugs, alcohol, and food, the band was forced to fire their original producer and handle the recording duties themselves. This situation negatively affected the sound quality of the record. Despite poor production, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! was released in the summer that year. The album was relatively successful in underground metal circles and caught the attention of major record labels. Despite the overall "foggy" sound, music biographer Joel McIver praised its "blistering technicality" and acknowledged that the album "raised the bar for the whole thrash metal scene, with guitarists forced to perform even more accurately and powerfully".
The album features "Mechanix", a song Mustaine had written during his tenure with Metallica. After he was dismissed from the band, Mustaine specifically told them not to use the music he has written. Despite this, Metallica recorded a different version of the song entitled "The Four Horsemen", featuring slower tempo and a melodic middle section. Another track from the album that drew controversy was Megadeth's version of Nancy Sinatra's classic "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'". The cover was recorded at faster pace with altered lyrics. The song sparked controversy during the 1990s when the its original author, Lee Hazlewood, deemed Mustaine's changes to be "vile and offensive" and demanded the song to be removed from the album. Under threat of legal action, it was removed from the records released between 1995 and 2001. In 2002, the album was re-released with a modified version of the song; the altered lyrics were censored because Hazlewood has not given permission to the band to release the cover in its original version. In the liner notes of the album's reissue, Mustaine was strongly critical of Hazlewood, noting that he received royalties for almost 10 years before objecting to the altered version.
In the summer of 1985, the group toured in North America for the first time, supporting Killing Is My Business... with Exciter. Guitarist Chris Poland joined Megadeth as the tour kicked off, but abruptly left the band and was replaced by a touring guitarist Mike Albert. Poland later rejoined Megadeth in October 1985, shortly before they began working on their second album with Combat Records.
Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? (1986–87)
The songs on Megadeth's second studio album were written and developed before the band officially began the recording process. Dave Mustaine had composed the music, while the other members helped with some ideas on the arrangements. The songs were written in a relatively short period at an old warehouse south of Los Angeles. According to Mustaine, the band was under great pressure to deliver another successful record at the time: "That sophomore offering is the 'be-all or end-all' of any band. You either go to the next level, or it's the beginning of the nadir."
Megadeth's second studio album was produced using a small recording budget provided by Combat Records. Not satisfied with the financial limitations of their current label, Megadeth soon left Combat and signed with Capitol Records. Capitol bought the rights to their upcoming album and hired producer Paul Lani to remix the earlier recordings. Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? was recorded with a budget of $25,000 and released in the fall of 1986. It contained clearer studio production and more sophisticated songwriting. This record was noted for its political commentary and saw Megadeth expanding their fan-base. The group's front man Dave Mustaine explained that Megadeth tried to write socially aware lyrics, unlike mainstream heavy metal bands who were singing about "hedonistic pleasures". The title track was chosen as the album's lead single and was accompanied by a music video. It received regular airplay on MTV and was noted by music critics for its cynicism towards the economic situation in the United States.
In February 1987, Megadeth was added as the opening band on Alice Cooper's Constrictor tour. In March the same year, Megadeth began their first world tour as a headlining act in the United Kingdom. The tour carried on in the United States with Overkill and Necros as the supporting acts and lasted for 72 weeks. During the tour, Mustaine and Ellefson considered firing Samuelson because of his excessive drug abuse.
Mustaine claimed that Samuelson had become too much to handle when intoxicated. Drummer Chuck Behler traveled with the band for the last dates of the tour because the other members were afraid that Samuelson would not be able to continue touring. On the other hand, guitarist Chris Poland had occasional quarrels with Dave Mustaine, because he was accused of selling the band's equipment to buy heroin. Due to problems stemming from substance abuse and problematic behavior, Gar Samuelson and Chris Poland were asked to leave Megadeth in June 1987. The same year, then 16-year-old guitarist Jeff Loomis of Sanctuary and, later, Nevermore, auditioned following the departure of Chris Poland. Afterwards, Mustaine complimented Loomis on his playing, but rejected him because of his age. Poland was initially replaced by Jay Reynolds of Malice, but as the band began working on their next record, Reynolds was replaced by his guitar teacher Jeff Young. By the time Young joined the band, Megadeth were six weeks into the recording process of their third album.
So Far, So Good... So What! (1988–89)
With a major label recording budget, the recording process of the Paul Lani-produced So Far, So Good... So What! took over five months. It was notorious for the various problems that occurred during the production, partially due to Mustaine's ongoing battle with addiction. Mustaine later said, "The production of So Far, So Good... So What! was horrible, mostly due to substances and the priorities we had or didn't have at the time." Mustaine also clashed with Lani on several occasions, beginning with Lani's insistence that the drums be recorded separate from the cymbals, an unheard-of process for rock drummers. During the mixing process, Mustaine and Lani had an estrangement, and Lani was replaced by producer Michael Wagener, who remixed the album.
So Far, So Good... So What! was released in January 1988 and was well received by fans and critics. The album featured a cover version of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK", with lyrics altered by Mustaine, who later admitted to simply hearing them incorrectly. To support the album, Megadeth embarked on a world tour, opening for Dio in Europe in February 1988, later joining Iron Maiden's 7th Tour of a 7th Tour in the United States. In August 1988, Megadeth appeared at the renowned Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in the United Kingdom performing to an audience of 107,000 people. One of these shows also featured Metallica drummer (and former band mate) Lars Ulrich, who made a guest appearance. The band was soon added to the "Monsters of Rock" European tour, but dropped out after the first show due to David Ellefson's drug problems, for which he was immediately treated.
Shortly after the Monsters of Rock appearance, Mustaine fired both Behler and guitarist Young and canceled their scheduled 1988 Australian tour. "On the road, things escalated from a small border skirmish into a full-on raging war", Mustaine later recalled. "I think a lot of us were inconsistent (on the 1988 tour) because of the guy we were waiting for after the show". During the tour, Mustaine had been noticing problems developing with Behler and brought drummer Nick Menza in to act as Behler's drum technician. As with Gar Samuelson before him, Menza was to be ready to take over for Behler in the event that he could not continue with the tour. Menza became Behler's replacement in July 1989.
Young's firing resulted from Mustaine's suspicions that he was having an affair with Mustaine's girlfriend at the time, an allegation denied by Young. The band was unable to quickly find a suitable replacement for Young. During this time, Megadeth recorded a cover version of Alice Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy" as a three-piece band. The song later appeared on the soundtrack to the 1989 Wes Craven horror movie Shocker. The video for this song was directed by Penelope Spheeris, who recalled that filming the video was a "Herculean task" since Mustaine was unable to play guitar because of his drug abuse.
In June 1988, Megadeth appeared in Spheeris' documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. The documentary chronicled the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of the late 1980s, mostly focusing on glam metal. In Megadeth's 1991 Rusted Pieces VHS, Mustaine recalls the movie as a disappointment, aligning Megadeth with "a bunch of shit bands". While auditions for the new lead guitarist were being held in March 1989, Mustaine was arrested for driving while intoxicated and possessing narcotics after crashing into a parked vehicle occupied by an off-duty police officer. He entered court-ordered drug rehabilitation facility soon after and became consistently sober for the first time in ten years.
Rust in Peace (1990–91)
After Mustaine found sobriety, Megadeth continued their search for a new lead guitarist. Among those who auditioned were Lee Altus of Heathen and Eric Meyer of Dark Angel. Meyer had been invited to join the band following Chris Poland's departure, but declined in order to remain in Dark Angel. Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash had been jamming with Mustaine and Ellefson and, though it appeared that he was being drafted into Megadeth, he remained with Guns N' Roses. Dimebag Darrell Abbott of Pantera was also offered the spot; Abbott, however, said he would not join the band without his brother, Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott. Having already hired Nick Menza, the band was forced to turn Abbott down.
Marty Friedman would eventually fill the empty guitarist place in Megadeth. Friedman was recommended by Ron Laffitte, a member of the Capitol management. Laffitte had previously heard Dragon's Kiss, a solo recording by Friedman during his tenure at Cacophony. Mustaine and Ellefson were satisfied with Marty's playing style and thought he understood the nature of Megadeth's music. With Friedman's acquisition, the band completed what the fans considered to be the "definitive" version of Megadeth. A revitalized Megadeth entered Rumbo Studios in March 1990 with co-producer Mike Clink to begin working on what would become their most critically acclaimed album to date, Rust in Peace. For the first time in their career, the band remained sober while working in the studio, alleviating many of the problems they did had recording previous albums. Clink was also the first producer to successfully produce a Megadeth album from start to finish without being fired. The recording process of the album was documented on Rusted Pieces, a home video released in 1991 which contained six music videos and a filmed interview with the band members.
Released worldwide on September 24, 1990, Rust in Peace was universally acclaimed, debuting at number 23 in the United States and number 8 in the United Kingdom. Mustaine's writing style adopted a rhythmically complex progressive edge, with songs which contained longer guitar solos and frequent tempo changes. Described as a genre-defining work by critics, the album confirmed Megadeth's reputation in the music industry. It featured the singles "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "Hangar 18", both of which were accompanied by music videos and became live staples. Rust in Peace garnered a Grammy nomination in 1991 for Best Metal Performance, and was certified platinum in December 1994, becoming the group's third album to receive this award.
Early in 1990, the Slayer members came up with an idea to do a major tour featuring the American thrash metal bands. Megadeth accepted, and in October 1990, they joined Slayer, Testament and Suicidal Tendencies for the European Clash of the Titans tour. Following the success of the European installment, an American leg commenced in May 1991, featuring Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, with Alice in Chains as a supporting act. This tour was considered to be a multi-headliner, since all three bands would alternate time slots. Apart from the Clash of the Titans tour, Megadeth played alongside Judas Priest in North America late in 1990, and appeared at the second Rock in Rio, which was held in January 1991.
Countdown to Extinction (1992–93)
The recording sessions for Megadeth's fifth studio album started in January 1992, at the Enterprise Studios in Burbank, California. Max Norman was chosen to produce the album, after he successfully handled the mixing of Rust in Peace. The band spent nearly four months in the studio with Norman, writing and recording what would become Megadeth's most commercially successful effort, Countdown to Extinction. The album's title was suggested by drummer Nick Menza and features songwriting contributions from each band member. Bassist David Ellefson revealed that the band changed the songwriting on this album, and started to write songs that were a little broader and more melodic. "Our new mission was to create music that had more of a groove to it. Marty Friedman's writing was very melodic anyway, and the vocal lines moved into that direction, too, assisted by Max Norman, our producer."
Released on July 6, 1992, Countdown to Extinction entered the Billboard 200 at number two, and was eventually certified double platinum for shipping two million copies in the United States. The record saw similar success overseas and helped to develope a larger following of Megadeth outside the US. It received a nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards, while the album's title track won the Humane Society's Genesis Award in 1993 for "spotlighting species destruction and the horrific sport of canned hunts". David Ellefson later confessed that he and Marty Friedman were really upset because Megadeth had not won the Grammy Award: "It was such a bizarre moment, because it was as if the amount of work it had taken to ramp up to that hopeful night was literally gone in a second."
A world tour in support of the album was launched in December 1992 with Pantera and White Zombie as the supporting acts. The tour included a North American leg in January 1993 with opening act Stone Temple Pilots. One month into the leg, all remaining shows, including dates scheduled in Japan, were cancelled when Mustaine returned to substance abuse, ending up in the hospital emergency room. After a seven week stint in rehab, Mustaine emerged clean once again, and the band returned to the studio to record "Angry Again". The song was featured on the soundtrack of the 1993 film Last Action Hero and received a Grammy nomination in 1994.
During the summer of 1993, Megadeth did a number of shows with Metallica at European venues. The first show was at Milton Keynes Bowl in England, which also included Diamond Head as a performing act. In July, Megadeth was added as the opening act for Aerosmith's Get a Grip Tour, but were left from the bill after six shows. Aerosmith stated that they had "dumped" Megadeth because of Mustaine's behavior, while Megadeth's label Capitol explained that the band was dropped due to "artistic restrictions". Following their cancelled US tour, Megadeth returned to the studio to record "99 Ways to Die", a song that appeared on The Beavis and Butt-head Experience, a compilation album released in November 1993 that featured songs intercut with commentary by Beavis and Butt-head. The song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1995 Grammy Awards. During the same sessions, Megadeth recorded a cover version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", which appeared on Sabbath's tribute album Nativity in Black. The cover was nominated for a Grammy the following year, but failed to win the award.
Early in 1994, Megadeth reunited with co-producer Max Norman to begin work on the follow-up to Countdown to Extinction. With three members of the band now residing in Arizona, initial work began at Phase Four Studios in Phoenix. A few days into pre-production, problems with Phase Four's equipment forced the band to seek out an alternative studio. Mustaine insisted on recording in Arizona, but no suitable recording facility could be found. At the request of co-producer Norman, the band opted to construct their own recording studio inside of a rented warehouse in Phoenix, Arizona, later dubbed "Fat Planet in Hangar 18". While the studio was being constructed, much of the pre-production song writing and arrangements took place at Vintage Recorders in Phoenix. For the first time in their career, the band wrote and arranged the entire album in studio, including basic tracks recorded live by the whole band. The album's recording process was filmed on a video and released in 1995 under the title Evolver: The Making of Youthanasia.
Following eight months in the studio, Youthanasia was released on November 1, 1994; it debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200, and charted in several European countries as well. The album was certified gold in Canada the same day it was released, and was certified platinum in the US two months later. At the advice of producer Max Norman, the tracks featured on Youthanasia were recorded at slower tempo, approximately 120 beats per minute. The band had abandoned the progressive elements from their previous records and focused on stronger vocal melodies and more accessible, radio-friendly arrangements. The group appointed notable fashion photographer Richard Avedon to further their image. On the advice of Avedon, the band members exchanged their jeans and t-shirts for a more conscious appearance. To promote the album, Megadeth played a Halloween show called "Night of the Living Megadeth" in New York City, which was broadcast live on MTV. Later in November, the band was invited to perform on the Late Show with David Letterman on two separate occasions; they played "Train of Consequences" for their first appearance and "À Tout le Monde" for the second.
Live support for Youthanasia began in South America in November 1994 and would span eleven months, becoming Megadeth's most extensive tour to date. Throughout 1995, the band visited Europe and North America, joined by a number of opening acts, including Corrosion of Conformity, Korn, and Fear Factory. The tour culminated with an appearance at the Monsters of Rock festival in Brazil, co-headlining alongside Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. In January 1995, Megadeth appeared on the soundtrack of the horror movie Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight with the song "Diadems". In the mid-1995, the band released Hidden Treasures, an extended play featuring songs that originally appeared on movie soundtracks and tribute albums.
Cryptic Writings (1996–98)
Following an expansive world tour in support of Youthanasia, Megadeth took time off late in 1995. Mustaine began work on MD.45, a side project with vocalist Lee Ving of Fear. Drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, who had been playing in Alice Cooper's band for the South American Monsters of Rock tour earlier that year, was brought in. Additionally, Marty Friedman constructed a studio in his new home in Phoenix and started working on a solo project; the work would result with his fourth studio album released in April 1996.
In September 1996, Megadeth went to London to work on songs for their next album, tentatively titled Needles and Pins. The writing process was closely supervised by their new manager, Bud Prager, who also contributed musical ideas and lyrics to the songs. Many lyrics and song titles were changed at the request of Prager. Regarding Prager's writing influence, Mustaine later wrote "I figured maybe this guy (Prager) could help me get that intangible number one record I so badly wanted". Due to a problem with the album's original artwork, the album cover was replaced with a voodoo symbol and the album was renamed Cryptic Writings.
Cryptic Writings was released in June 1997 through Capitol Records. The album peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200, and was Megadeth's sixth consecutive studio album to be certified platinum in the United States. Its leading single, "Trust", became Megadeth's highest charting song on the Mainstream Rock Tracks, reaching number five. "Trust" was also nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards. Even though all four singles from the album entered the top 20 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, press response to the album was mixed. Los Angeles Times noted the album for carrying diverse compositions, and described it as a "rousing balance" between their older material and some experimental tunes. When asked about the eclectic nature of the album, Mustaine explained that the record was divided it into thirds. "One part of the record was really fast and aggressive, one third of it was the really melodic, in between stuff, and the final third was really radio-orientated music like Youthanasia".
After more than a year away from the stage, Megadeth returned as a live act in June 1997, beginning a world tour with the Misfits and later touring in the United States with Life of Agony and Coal Chamber. In July, Megadeth participated in Ozzfest 98, but, halfway through the tour, drummer Nick Menza reportedly discovered a tumor on his knee and was forced to leave and undergo a surgery. Jimmy DeGrasso, who had previously collaborated with Mustaine in MD.45, was hired as a drummer for the remainder of the tour. Though he was initially meant to be a temporary replacement, DeGrasso joined the band permanently after the conclusion of the tour. Mustaine later said that he dismissed Menza from the band because he had lied about having cancer.
Following the band's success at mainstream radio with Cryptic Writings, Megadeth opted to work again with country pop producer Dann Huff in Nashville, Tennessee on its eighth studio album. In January 1999, the band began writing a new album, which was to once again be supervised by manager Bud Prager, who was credited with co-writing five of the album's twelve songs. With high expectations following the chart success of "Trust", Mustaine was convinced by Prager to grant Huff even more control over the album's recording, a decision which Mustaine would later regret, saying that it "backfired".
Risk, released on August 31, 1999, was both a critical and commercial failure and led to a backlash from many longtime fans. Although its two predecessors had incorporated rock elements alongside a more traditional heavy metal sound, Risk was virtually devoid of metal. Speaking about their musical direction from this period, Dave Mustaine said: "We hit the nadir of our career with Risk, and I vowed after that we were going to get back to our roots. It took a little bit of time to do that." Despite this, Risk reached gold status in the United States. The album's lead-off single, "Crush 'Em", appeared on the Universal Soldier: The Return soundtrack, and was temporarily used as an entrance theme for NHL games and pro wrestling events.
On July 22, 1999, former drummer Gar Samuelson died at the age of 41 in Orange City, Florida, of liver failure. Three days later, during Megadeth's performance at Woodstock 1999, Mustaine dedicated the song "Peace Sells" in Samuelson's memory. Also in July 1999, Megadeth recorded a cover version of the Black Sabbath song "Never Say Die" which appeared on the second Nativity in Black tribute album. They began their world tour in support of Risk in September 1999, playing alongside Iron Maiden during the European leg. Three months into the tour, longtime guitarist Marty Friedman announced that he would be leaving the band, citing musical differences. As Mustaine later explained, "I told (Marty) after Risk that we had to go back to our roots and play metal, and he quit". In January 2000, Megadeth enlisted guitarist Al Pitrelli, formerly of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, as Friedman's replacement.
In April 2000, Megadeth returned to the studio to start working on their ninth studio release. However, one month into production, the band was given the opportunity to join the Maximum Rock tour alongside Anthrax and Mötley Crüe. Megadeth put the recording on hold and toured North America throughout the second quarter of 2000. Early into the tour, Anthrax was dropped off the bill, allowing Megadeth to play an extended, co-headlining set.
The World Needs a Hero (2000–01)
After working together for 15 years, Megadeth and Capitol Records parted ways in July 2000. According to Dave Mustaine, their departure was imminent because of the ongoing tensions between the band and the Capitol management. The label gave back the band their newest recordings, and, in return, released a greatest hits record called Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years, which featured two new tracks, "Kill the King" and "Dread and the Fugitive Mind". In November 2000, Megadeth signed with new label Sanctuary Records. The band returned to the studio in October to put the finishing touches on their next album, The World Needs a Hero, which had been near completion before the band joined the Maximum Rock tour six months earlier. Following the overwhelming negative response to Risk, Mustaine fired manager Bud Prager and decided to self-produce the next album. The songs were entirely written by Mustaine, except for "Promises", which contained writing credits from guitarist Pitrelli. Two days before the album's official release, Megadeth was featured in an episode of VH1's Behind the Music series; except for Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson, the episode showcased numerous past members, as well as Mustaine's former Metallica band-mates James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
The record was released on May 15, 2001 and debuted at number 16 on the Billboard 200; however, the album was banned in Malaysia after the national government determined that the album's artwork was "unsuitable for the nation's youth". As a result, Megadeth cancelled its planned concert on August 2 in the country's capital Kuala Lumpur. Musically, the album marked the band's return to a more aggressive sound after the stylistic variations of their previous two records, but some critics felt the album fell short of expectations. Mustaine compared the album to the first major turn of a huge ship at sea, trying to right itself and get back on course. The album's lead-off single, "Moto Psycho", reached number 22 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts.
Touring in support of The World Needs a Hero began in the summer of 2001 in Europe alongside AC/DC, followed by an American tour with Iced Earth and Endo in September. Mustaine decided to let the fans choose the set-list in each American city they've visited. The tour, however, was cut short following the September 11 attacks; consequently, the band was forced to cancel all scheduled dates, including a DVD shoot set in Argentina. Instead, the band played two shows in Arizona on November 16 and 17, which were filmed and later released as Rude Awakening, Megadeth's first official live release. During this year, Megadeth's first album, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!, was remixed and remastered using more modern techniques; the reissue featured modified artwork and several bonus tracks.
In January 2002, Mustaine was admitted to the hospital for the removal of a kidney stone. While undergoing treatment, he was administered pain medication that triggered a relapse of his addiction. Following his hospital stay, Mustaine immediately checked himself into a treatment center in Texas. While at the treatment center, Mustaine suffered a peculiar injury causing severe nerve damage to his left arm. The injury, induced by falling asleep with his left arm over the back of a chair, caused compression of the radial nerve. He was diagnosed with radial neuropathy, also known as Saturday Night Palsy, which left him unable to grasp or even make a fist with his left hand.
On April 3, 2002, Mustaine announced in a press release that he was disbanding Megadeth, officially due to his arm injury which made him unable to play guitar. For the next four months, Mustaine underwent intense physical therapy five days a week. Slowly, Mustaine began to play again, but was forced to "re-teach" his left hand. In order to fulfill contract obligations with Sanctuary Records, Megadeth released a compilation album, Still Alive... and Well? on September 10, 2002. The first half of the album contains live tracks recorded at the Web Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 17, 2001, while the second half contains studio recordings taken from The World Needs a Hero.
Following nearly a year of recovery, including physical and electric shock therapy, Mustaine began work on what was to be his first solo album. The new material was recorded with session musicians Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Sloas in October 2003, but the project was put on hold when Mustaine agreed to remix and remaster Megadeth's eight album back catalog with Capitol Records. Mustaine re-recorded some parts that were lost over time, or altered without his knowledge in the initial mixing process.
The System Has Failed (2004)
In May 2004, Mustaine returned to his newest recordings, intended as a solo effort, but, due to outstanding contractual obligations with the band's European label, EMI, he was forced to release it as a Megadeth album instead. Subsequently, Mustaine decided to reform the band, and contacted the fan favorite "Rust in Peace line-up" to re-record backing tracks on his latest songs. While drummer Nick Menza initially signed on, both Marty Friedman and Dave Ellefson were unable to come to an agreement with Mustaine. Menza was dismissed shortly after he began rehearsing with the band again. Mustaine stated that the drummer was not prepared enough and "it just didn't work out". Nick was sent home just a few days before the start of the tour in support of Megadeth's upcoming album.
Regarding longtime bassist Ellefson's departure, Mustaine claimed that Ellefson slandered him, said that his arm injury was fake, and lied about him to the press. Although Mustaine did make him an offer, Ellefson declined. The resulting album was the first Megadeth recording not to feature Ellefson. Original lead guitarist Chris Poland, who performed on Megadeth's first two studio albums, was hired by Mustaine to contribute to the guitar solos of the new album. This was the first time the two musicians had worked together since Poland's dismissal from the band in the 1980s. Poland opted to serve as a studio musician only, wanting to remain focused on his own jazz fusion project, OHM.
On September 14, 2004, Megadeth released The System Has Failed on Sanctuary Records in the United States and EMI in Europe. Heralded as a return to form by critics, Revolver gave the album a favorable review, and called it "Megadeth's most vengeful, poignant and musically complex offering since 1992's Countdown to Extinction". This record marked a sonic shift towards their earlier sound; journalist Amy Sciarretto of CMJ New Music Report wrote that The System Has Failed contained "neo-thrash riffing with biting, politically charged lyrics". The album debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200, and was led by the radio single "Die Dead Enough", which reached number 21 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Mustaine announced that the album would be the band's last. The record would be followed by a farewell tour, after which he would focus on a solo career.
Megadeth began the Blackmail the Universe world tour in October 2004, enlisting touring bassist James MacDonough of Iced Earth and guitarist Glen Drover of Eidolon and King Diamond. While in rehearsal for the tour, drummer Nick Menza parted ways with the band, unable to prepare for the physical demands of a full US tour. He was replaced by Shawn Drover just five days before the first show; Drover would eventually stay with the group as a regular member. The band toured the US with Exodus and, later in Europe, with Diamond Head and Dungeon. In June 2005, Capitol Records released a greatest hits compilation named Greatest Hits: Back to the Start, which featured remixed and remastered versions of fan-chosen songs from their albums distributed through Capitol.
In the middle of 2005, Mustaine organized an annual heavy metal festival tour, dubbed Gigantour. Megadeth headlined the inaugural run with Dream Theater, Nevermore, Anthrax, and Fear Factory among others. Performances from the Montreal and Vancouver shows were filmed and recorded for a live DVD and CD, both of which were released in the second quarter of 2006. On October 9, 2005, following the successes of The System Has Failed and the Blackmail the Universe world tour, Mustaine announced on stage to a sold out crowd at the Pepsi Music Rock Festival in Argentina that Megadeth would continue to record and tour. This concert was held at the Obras Sanitarias stadium in Buenos Aires in front of 25 000 fans and was officially released on DVD as That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires in 2007.
In February 2006, bass player James MacDonough parted ways with the band for what he called "personal differences". He was replaced by bassist James LoMenzo, who had previously worked with David Lee Roth, White Lion, and Black Label Society. On March 16, 2006, the new Megadeth lineup made their live debut headlining the Dubai Desert Rock festival, held in the United Arab Emirates, alongside Testament.
On March 21, 2006, Capitol Records released a two-disc DVD titled Arsenal of Megadeth, which included archive footage, interviews, live shows, and many of the band's music videos. Due to licensing issues, movie soundtrack videos and videos not released by Capitol Records were not included on the DVD. The second installment of Gigantour was launched in the third quarter of 2006. Megadeth headlined the tour with Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch Enemy, and Overkill. The 2006 edition also featured three dates in Australia, with Soulfly, Arch Enemy, and Caliban as supporting acts.
United Abominations (2007–08)
In May 2006, Megadeth announced that their eleventh studio album, United Abominations, was near completion. Although its release date was originally scheduled for October 2006, Mustaine later revealed that the band was "putting the finishing touches on it", and postponed the release to May the following year. Commenting about their upcoming release, Dave Mustaine stated: "Metal needs a really good old-school record again. I believe I have delivered." United Abominations was the band's first studio release to feature members Glen Drover, Shawn Drover, and James Lomenzo. In March 2007, Dave Mustaine announced that the album will feature a new version of "A Tout le Monde", entitled "À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)". The 2007 version is a duet with Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil; it was recorded in slightly faster tempo than the original version and contains an extended solo.
United Abominations was released on May 15, 2007 and debuted at number 8 on the Billboard 200, with 54,000 copies sold in the first week. In March 2007, Megadeth had begun a tour in North America as an opening act for the newly reformed Heaven & Hell. They performed along with Down for Canadian shows and with Machine Head for the dates in the United States. This was followed by a summer festival tour through Europe. In the fall of 2007, Megadeth returned to the United States as the headline act on their Tour Of Duty tour. In the month of November, Megadeth brought Gigantour to Australia, with a lineup consisted of Static-X, DevilDriver and Lacuna Coil.
In January 2008, Glen Drover quit Megadeth to focus on his family. Drover confessed that he was tired of the frequent touring and wanted to spend more time at home. He also mentioned personal issues with other band members as reason for leaving Megadeth. Drover was replaced by Chris Broderick, formerly of Nevermore and Jag Panzer. Chris was initially contacted by Mustaine's management company at the end of 2007 and was asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a job in Megadeth. Broderick responded positively and was invited at Mustaine's house for informal meeting. After the meeting, Chris was officially introduced as the new Megadeth guitarist. Front-man Dave Mustaine complimented Broderick's playing skills and called him "the best guitarist Megadeth has ever had". Broderick's former Nevermore bandmate Van Williams congratulated Megadeth for their latest acquisition and said that they are "getting one hell of a good player, more importantly they're getting a great guy to hang out with and a true friend".
The new lineup made its live debut in Finland on February 4, 2008. The 2008 edition of Gigantour was launched shortly after, with 29 scheduled dates through North America. Dave Mustaine wanted a shorter lineup to allow each band a chance to put on a good show. The third installment of the tour featured In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job for a Cowboy, and High on Fire. Megadeth continued the Tour Of Duty tour in South America and Mexico throughout May and June 2008. A compilation album called Anthology: Set The World Afire, which featured material from all Megadeth albums to that point, was released on September 30, 2008.
In February 2009, Megadeth, along with Testament, was scheduled on the "Priest Feast" European tour with Judas Priest as the headliners. During this time, Metallica, who had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, invited Dave Mustaine to attend the ceremony. However, Mustaine was informed that he would not be inducted to the Hall of Fame with the justification given that such honors were granted only to those members who received recording credit on a Metallica album. Mustaine congratulated them respectfully, but instead honored his commitment made to the European tour with Judas Priest. In April 2009, Megadeth and Slayer co-headlined Canadian Carnage. This was the first time they had performed together in more than 15 years. Machine Head and Suicide Silence opened for the four shows that occurred later in June.
In May 2009, Megadeth finished recording their twelfth album and during the following month, the album's title was revealed to be Endgame. According to Dave Mustaine, the name "Endgame" is an homage to Alex Jones' 2007 film of the same name. The release date for Endgame was announced on the Megadeth official website as September 9, 2009, and the Metal Hammer website was the first to review the album track-by-track. Megadeth began its Endgame tour in October, 2009, and finished it in December the same year. The tour featured a number of supporting acts, including Machine Head, Suicide Silence and Warbringer. In January 2010, Megadeth was set to embark on the "American Carnage" tour with Slayer and Testament, both highly regarded bands of the thrash and heavy metal scene. The tour was scheduled to begin on January 18, but was postponed due to Tom Araya's back surgery. Several weeks later, Megadeth's "Head Crusher" was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards, making the band's 8th Grammy nomination in 19 years.
In March 2010, Megadeth embarked on their "Rust in Peace 20th Anniversary Tour" which took place in North America and had support from Testament and Exodus. During the tour, Megadeth played Rust in Peace in its entirety, commemorating the 20th anniversary of its release. In February 2010, prior to the start of the "Rust in Peace 20th Anniversary Tour", original bassist David Ellefson rejoined Megadeth after eight years. In an interview for Classic Rock, he stated that Megadeth drummer Shawn Drover contacted him, informing him that bassist James LoMenzo was leaving the band and that "if ever there was a time for you and Dave [Mustaine] to talk, now is it."
Megadeth, along with Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, collectively known as "the big four" of thrash metal, agreed to perform on the same bill during the summer of 2010. These performances were part of the Sonisphere Festival and were held at number of European countries. One such performance, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria, was filmed and released as a video album entitled The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria. These shows continued the following year in the United States. The first concert took place on April 23, 2011 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, and was the only scheduled show in the United States at the time. Shortly after that show, a second American show was held at Yankee Stadium in New York City.
In July 2010, after the conclusion of the European "Big Four" shows, Megadeth and Slayer had begun the first leg of the American Carnage Tour, where Megadeth played Rust In Peace in its entirety, while Slayer also performed their album Seasons in the Abyss, both released in 1990. Shortly afterwards, these two bands joint forces with Anthrax for the start of The Jägermeister Music Tour, which took place in the fall of 2010. During the final show of the Jägermeister Music Tour, Kerry King joined Megadeth on stage at the Gibson Amphitheater in Hollywood, California, to perform Megadeth's classic "Rattlehead", the first time that Kerry King had performed onstage with Megadeth since Megadeth's very early shows in 1984. Megadeth and Slayer would again share the stage for the European Carnage Tour in March and April 2011. Megadeth was also confirmed to headline the fourth annual Rockstar Mayhem Festival, held in July and August the same year.
In September 2010, Megadeth released a song entitled "Sudden Death" for the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. The song was commissioned by the publishers of Guitar Hero franchise, who wanted the track to feature dark lyrics and multiple guitar solos. It was eventually nominated for a Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category at the 2011 ceremony. Earlier that month, the band released their DVD album Rust in Peace Live, recorded at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles.
In an October 2010 interview for Crypt Magazine, drummer Shawn Drover stated plans for a thirteenth Megadeth album. Dave Mustaine confirmed that Megadeth would be recording their 13th album at their own Vic's Garage studio in California. It was announced that the record would be produced by Johnny K, because Andy Sneap, the producer of Megadeth's previous two albums, was not available. Mustaine subsequently revealed that the album would be entitled Thirteen and would feature previously released tracks such as "Sudden Death" and "Never Dead". On July 4, 2011, during their concert in Hamburg, Megadeth premiered a new song from the album named "Public Enemy No. 1". Thirteen was released on November 1, 2011, and charted at number 11 on the Billboard 200; its leading single "Public Enemy No. 1" received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, but did not manage to win the award.
Shortly after the album was released, Dave Mustaine stated that, after four years of absence, there would be a new Gigantour tour early in 2012. The line-up of the fourth annual edition consisted of Motörhead, Volbeat and Lacuna Coil alongside Megadeth. After the conclusion of Gigantour, Rob Zombie and Megadeth announced nine-date co-headlining US tour scheduled for May 2012.
Super Collider (2012–present)
In September 2012, it was announced that the band would re-release Countdown to Extinction, honoring the 20th anniversary of its release. To mark the occasion, Megadeth had begun a 2012 fall tour in which the band performed the album live in its entirety. One such performance, filmed at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, was released as a live album entitled Countdown to Extinction: Live the following year. Additionally, in December 2012, another track from Thirteen, "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)", was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 55th Grammy Awards, but ultimately lost to Halestorm's "Love Bites (So Do I)".
In August 2012, the band revealed that they would be returning to the studio with producer Johnny K to record their fourteenth album. In December 2012, Dave Mustaine revealed that the new album was under way and that three new songs were "tracked and almost done". In 2013, Megadeth parted ways with Roadrunner Records for Mustaine's label, Tradecraft, distributed through Universal Music Group. The album, entitled Super Collider, was released on June 4 and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, the band's highest chart position since 1994's Youthanasia. Critical reaction to the album, however, was largely negative.
Shortly after the release of Super Collider, Mustaine revealed that he had already started thinking about a fifteenth Megadeth album. According to Mustaine, this was spurred by the then-recent death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, which gave him a sense of mortality. Mustaine elaborated: "We're planning our next time to go into the studio to start demoing up our next record," and "You know, time is short. Nobody knows how long they're gonna live. You see what happened with Jeff Hanneman, so I wanna write as much as I can while I can."
In 2014, Megadeth were slated to play the Soundwave festival in Australia, but were pulled from the line-up after troubles arose concerning the band playing sideshows with Newsted and Mustaine's interactions with the tour promoter, A.J. Maddah.
Influences and writing style
Traditional heavy metal bands (Black Sabbath), members of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Diamond Head), along with punk rock bands (Sex Pistols and Ramones), played significant role in shaping Megadeth's sound. Hard rock bands such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin were also influential in forming the group's trademark guitar style. Although their music is rooted in punk, university professor Jason Bivins noted that Megadeth followed the basic blueprint of Motörhead and Iron Maiden. He described their style as a mix of "the instrumental virtuosity of the NWOBHM with the speed and aggression of hardcore punk", while also drawing lyrical inspiration from the horror-obsessed Misfits. Frontman Dave Mustaine had also listed a few albums by The Beatles and UFO as recordings that influenced him.
Dave Mustaine serves as the band's primary songwriter. The songs he writes are developed from a certain riff, and with further modifications, that riff becomes the central part of the song. He revealed that the song parts are separately composed, and then the band turns them into compact structure. Drummer Shawn Drover revealed that Mustaine had saved many riffs over the years and that some of their recent material is based on those demo recordings. Speaking about their writing routine, bass player David Ellefson revealed that the band is creating new material "in motion". He explained that making a record begins with throwing new ideas "back and forth", after which the band enters the studio and discusses the concept, direction, graphics, song titles, etc. While discussing the band's lyrics, Mustaine said that some of them were inspired from books. As fan of George Orwell's work, he had written a couple of songs based on his novels.
Musicianship and lyricism
Megadeth's music is characterized by its distinctive instrumental performance, featuring fast rhythm sections and complex arrangements. After forming Megadeth, frontman and guitarist Dave Mustaine decided to follow the thrash metal style of his previous band Metallica, with more emphasis on speed and intensity. Along with his snarling vocal style, the band developed a unique musicianship that was highly regarded in the metal community. When asked to describe Megadeth's guitar style, Mustaine answered: "When you go to a show and see a guitar player who just stands there, that's a guitar player. A thrash guitar player is a guy who plays like he wants to beat the guitar's guts out." Like their underground metal contemporaries from the 1980s, Megadeth's tunes contained harsh vocals, staccato riffing, tremolo picking and screeching lead guitar work, while their albums from this period were produced with low budget. The majority of their songs are recorded in standard guitar tuning, which Mustaine believes it provides better melody.
During their early days, Dave Mustaine was the rhythm-guitarist, while Chris Poland served as the lead guitarist. Poland performed on Megadeth's first two albums and made the music more colorful because of his jazz influences. However, the band's songwriting techniques peaked with their fourth album, Rust in Peace, described by former Metal Maniacs editor Jeff Wagner as a "flurry of precision and fluidity, making good on Megadeth's claim to being the world's state-of-the-art speed metal band." Musicologist Glenn Pillsbury noted that guitar work on the album was a mixture of "Mustaine's controlled chaos and the technical brilliance of Megadeth's other lead guitarist, Marty Friedman." Their studio efforts released in mid and late 1990s featured songs with compact structures and less complicated riffing.
In addition to their technical instrumental style, Megadeth's songs often convey gloomy lyrical themes focusing on death, war, politics and religion. Their lyricism is centered around nihilistic themes, but occasionally deals with topics like alienation and social problems. Their earliest releases featured themes such as occultism, graphic violence and "poetry about Satan". Nuclear warfare and government conspiracy were lyrical preoccupations on albums like Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction. During Megadeth's commercial peak, Dave Mustaine, the band's main songwriter, elaborated on less controversial themes such as addiction and personal relationships. While discussing the lyrical content on their seventh album Cryptic Writings, Mustaine explained that he wanted to write songs that were more appealing to wider audience. The title of the group's eleventh studio album United Abominations is a satiric misspelling of the United Nations name; Mustaine criticized their ineffectiveness on a number of songs from that record. Following albums contained lyrics in similar vein.
Megadeth are one of the few American underground metal bands from the 1980s that achieved mass commercial success. Along with their fellow contemporaries Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, Megadeth's music is considered essential in creating the core of thrash metal. These bands are often dubbed as the "big four" of thrash, responsible for the genre's development and popularization. Loudwire ranked Megadeth third among the best thrash metal bands of all time, praising the group's "provoking lyrics and mind-warping virtuosity". Billboard called their second album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? a "landmark of the thrash movement", whose lyrics are still relevant. Similarly, CMJ New Music Report labeled their debut album a seminal release and a representative of "the golden age of speed metal". MTV also recognized the band as an influential metal act, highlighting the technical aspect of their early albums. Since their inception, the band has sold over 50 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful acts in the heavy metal genre.
Except for gaining critical acclaim, Megadeth is considered as one of the most musically influential groups that originated from the 1980s. As part of the early American thrash metal movement, their music was directly responsible for the birth of death metal. Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris wrote that the mainstream success of Megadeth was one of the reasons for the expansion of extreme metal to places where it had previously been unknown. Their sound and album artwork had influenced a number of new generation thrash metal bands, including Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer.
Megadeth's founder Dave Mustaine is notorious for making inflammatory statements in the press, usually regarding feuds and problems with former Metallica bandmates. The feud between him and Metallica members stemmed from his ejection from the band, about the way it was conducted, and disagreements on songwriting credits. Mustaine emotionally expressed his anger after getting fired from the band in their movie Some Kind of Monster. Mustaine later said that he was misrepresented during that scene. He did not approve the clip because he felt it did not represent the full extent of what happened during the meeting.
During Megadeth's live performance of "Anarchy in the UK" at a 1988 show in Antrim, Northern Ireland, Mustaine drunkenly (and, as he later acknowledged, confusedly) dedicated the song to the "cause" of "giving Ireland back to the Irish!" Before the final song, Mustaine said, "this one's for the cause!". This triggered a riot among the audience between Catholics and Protestants, and a fight amongst the audience ensued. The band had to travel in a bulletproof bus for the remainder of the tour of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Mustaine later alleged that he had been misled by T-shirt bootleggers about the meaning of the expression "the cause". This incident served as inspiration for the song "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due".
Controversial and misunderstood lyrics have also caused problems for the band. For instance, the music video for "In My Darkest Hour" was banned from MTV in 1988 when the music channel deemed the song to be pro-suicide. The music video for "A Tout le Monde" was later banned by MTV, also interpreted as being pro-suicide. According to Mustaine, the song was written from the perspective of a dying man, saying his last words to his loved ones. According to Mustaine, MTV had also been refusing to play "Skin o' My Teeth" and "Symphony of Destruction" because they considered the videos to be "little bit too harsh".
During Megadeth's world tour in 2001, the Malaysian government had canceled their show in nation's capital because the authorities had negative perception of the group's image and music. The government specifically pointed the band's mascot Vic Rattlehead as inappropriate and told the members that they will be arrested if they appear onstage and perform. Dave Mustaine responded to this: "I recognize what the Malaysia government is trying to do, and it is admirable of them trying to protect the young people in the country. But it just shows the degree of ignorance and apathy that the government has toward the problem".
In July 2004, former bassist Dave Ellefson sued Mustaine for $18.5 million in Manhattan Federal Court. Ellefson alleged that Mustaine short changed him on profits and backed out of a deal to turn Megadeth over to him when they disbanded in 2002. Ellefson also accused Mustaine of locking him out of merchandise and publishing royalties. The suit was dismissed in 2005, and Mustaine filed a countersuit that was settled out of court.
In 2003, after healing an arm injury that threatened to end his career, Dave Mustaine has become a born-again Christian. Minor controversy was sparked by Mustaine's announcement that Megadeth will not play certain songs live anymore due to his new identification as a Christian. In May 2005, Mustaine also allegedly threatened to cancel shows in Greece and Israel with extreme metal bands Rotting Christ and Dissection due to the bands' anti-Christian beliefs. This caused the two bands to cancel their appearances.
- Studio albums
- Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! (1985)
- Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? (1986)
- So Far, So Good... So What! (1988)
- Rust in Peace (1990)
- Countdown to Extinction (1992)
- Youthanasia (1994)
- Cryptic Writings (1997)
- Risk (1999)
- The World Needs a Hero (2001)
- The System Has Failed (2004)
- United Abominations (2007)
- Endgame (2009)
- Thirteen (2011)
- Super Collider (2013)
- Official website
- Megadeth at AllMusic
- Megadeth discography at Discogs
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