Megadeth is a thrash metal band from the US formed in Los Angeles in 1983.
Counted among the most influential of the genre along with Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, with whom they form the so-called “Big Four”, the group was founded by guitarist Dave Mustaine after being estranged from Metallica due to his quarrelsome nature and his drug abuse.
In the course of their history, Megadeth has changed style several times, passing from the thrash of the beginnings to melodic heavy metal and then, for a short period, to hard rock with industrial rock contents returning to thrash sounds starting from the 2000s. In 1990 they released the album Rust in Peace , regarded by specialized critics and the public as the best of their career and which quickly went platinum reaching number 23 on the US Billboard 200; the subsequent Countdown to Extinction(1992) repeated the success reaching the second position in the US ranking, the best result ever achieved by the group.
During its career the group has sold over 38 million records worldwide, with five consecutive albums certified platinum or multi-platinum in the United States of America alone; The band also garnered eleven Grammy Award nominations in the Best Metal Performance category.
In 2013 Mustaine founded his own independent record label, called Tradecraft, under which SuperCollider and Dystopia were released.
The Story of Megadeth – The Early Years
“After being fired from Metallica, all I remember is that I wanted blood. Theirs. I wanted to be faster and heavier than them “Dave Mustain
Dave Mustaine, after being kicked out of Metallica due to personal quarrels with James Hetfield and his tendency to abuse alcohol and drugs, decided to look for musicians to form a new group.
The new project was christened with the name Megadeth, taken from a newspaper article on the aftermath of an atomic explosion that Mustaine read on a bus on his way back to Los Angeles, after leaving Metallica, and would refer to the destructive potential of a warhead. nuclear power capable of causing the death of at least one million people.
Shortly after Mustaine began putting together the members, first the bassist Matt Kisselsten and the drummer Dijon Carruthers but, in a short time the same Kisselsten is replaced by David Ellefson, who also brought a friend of his to complete the guitars, Greg Handevidt. After the first appearances in San Francisco clubs, Handevidt and Carruthers left the group; some rumors claimed that Dijon, the first drummer of the group, was fired due to his baldness.
After the entry of drummer Lee Rausch into the line-up, Mustaine and Ellefson could not find either an unemployed guitarist or a singer; for this reason, they choose to contact Kerry King, already in Slayer and, unable to solve the problem of the voice, Dave decided to also become the singer of the group. This lineup also lasted very little, as Rausch joined Dark Angel while King quarreled with Mustaine for personal incompatibility, thus abandoning the project to devote himself only to Slayer.
Killing Is My Business … And Business Is Good! (1984-1985)
In 1984, Gar Samuelson on drums and Chris Poland on guitar took over, both from the fusion group The New Yorkers: this will be Megadeth’s first official line-up. The following year, Megadeth released their first album, Killing Is My Business … And Business Is Good! through Combat Records.
The record features elaborate overtones full of thrash, speed metal, and punk elements, but shows its shortcomings at the production level. The band in fact spent half of the $ 8,000 granted by the label on drugs and Mustaine will be forced to fire the producer for lack of money and choose the path of self-production.
The album features the song Mechanix, composed by Mustaine during his stay in Metallica and originally titled The Mechanics (Metallica also reworked the song, titled The Four Horsemen, included in the album Kill ‘Em All ). Among the songs, there is also a cover in speed metal version of the famous song by Nancy Sinatra These Boots Are Made for Walking, which is judged “vile and offensive” by the composer Lee Hazlewood and, after a lawsuit, the leader of Megadeth is prevented from inserting the song in the 1995 reissue and is forced to pay royalties to the author (however in 2002 the problem was circumvented by inserting “beeps” within the track).
In the summer of 1985, the group embarked on a promotional tour of the record in Canada and the US, supporting Exciter.
Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying? (The Megadeth Story: 1986-1987)
Chris Poland at the end of the tour decided to leave the group and then return already in October of the same year. During his absence, session player Mike Albert temporarily took his place.
Upon his return, the line-up composed material for the second album, completing it by March 1986, without however being satisfied with the final result, due to the limited financial means provided by the record company. For this reason, Megadeth decided to leave Combat and was also given the opportunity to sign for the major Capitol Records.
The new record company also bought the rights of the album on which Megadeth was working, hiring Paul Lani to perform a new mix of the disc, and this is how in November 1986, after more than a year from the start of the recordings, it arrives on the market Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying? , considered one of the most influential thrash metal works.
The album achieved considerable success, being certified platinum by the RIAA. The album cover was entrusted to Ed Repka, who made his debut the band’s mascot, Vic Rattlehead. Although the themes of the album mostly concern horror, some songs like Peace Sells also show political themes. This last song immediately obtained good acclaim, first entering the musical rotation of MTV and subsequently among the best 40 metal songs of the VH1 broadcaster.
In February 1987, Megadeth embarked on a tour, supporting Alice Cooper on the Constrictor tour. This was followed first by a short tour with Mercyful Fate in the United States and another as the main attraction alongside Overkill and Necros.
However, drug abuse and lack of attention at work by Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson prompted Mustaine to fire them after the last show on the tour. The two were immediately replaced by drummer Chuck Behler, Samuelson’s technician, and guitarist Jay Reynolds, soon replaced by his guitar teacher Jeff Young, with whom the new album was composed in just six weeks.
Mustaine also stated in an interview that Poland, in order to buy drugs, sold part of his equipment. The song Liar is a direct dedication from the singer to the guitarist.
So Far, So Good … So What! (1988-1989)
The story of Megadeth continues with the release of their third album So Far, So Good … So What! in 1988, which contains great hits of the group such as the cover of the Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK (renamed Anarchy in the USA ) and the song In My Darkest Hour, dedicated to the memory of Cliff Burton, at the time bassist of Metallica, who died in a car accident in Sweden during the promotional tour of the album Master of Puppets.
The text speaks of a person who on the point of death remains alone, abandoned even by female affections, a condition that is often found in the songs of Megadeth.
The production of the disc will prove very tumultuous due to the drug addiction of the frontman and due to the dismissal of Paul Lani due to an unwelcome mix for the drums, replaced by Michael Wagener, who undertook the task of making a new one. In June 1988, Megadeth appeared in the documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years of Penelope Spheeris, documenting the scene hair metal of Los Angeles. Mustaine later stated in a 1991 interview that on that occasion the band was associated with “a bunch of shit bands”.
Megadeth started the promotional tour for So Far, So Good … So What!, first as support to Dio, later to Iron Maiden and, in August 1988, the band appeared at Monsters of Rock alongside bands such as Kiss, Guns N ‘Roses, and David Lee Roth, in front of a hundred thousand people. Following this appearance the band became part of the cast of the Monster of Rock European Tour, only to be immediately excluded after the first date.
The departure of Jeff Young and Chuck Behler just as happened previously with Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson, caused the cancellation of the tour in Australia, while Mustaine declared that from the small initial squabbles with the two, it had passed to a real one. war. In July 1989, Nick Menza, initially Behler’s drum technician, was hired and, unable to find a guitarist, the band recorded a cover of Alice Cooper, No More Mr. Nice Guy, which was included in the soundtrack of the film. Shocker, by Wes Craven.
Just around this time, Mustaine’s drug addiction reached its peak: in the summer of 1989, during the auditions to find the missing lead guitarist, the frontman was arrested for drunk driving and drug possession, blocking the group’s activity. just as he was about to enter the studio. Mustaine then decided to take part in a detoxification program.
Having solved the problems of his lead vocals, the band returned to search for a member of the six strings: after having “courted” well-known names in the metal world such as Dimebag Darrell ( Pantera ), Erik Meyer ( Dark Angel ), and Jeff Waters ( Annihilator ), in February 1990 the choice fell on Marty Friedman, ex-guitarist of Cacophony with a solo album behind him entitled Dragon’s Kiss.
The Story of Megadeth – Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction (1990-1994)
In March 1990 Megadeth entered the studio with new producer Mike Clink and gave birth to the album Rust in Peace, released on September 24, 1990, and obtaining excellent commercial success both in the United States and in the rest of the world. The sound of the album appears decidedly more technical, with even more complex rhythms than its predecessors, and the latest effort in chronological order of the Californian quartet is repeatedly indicated as a reference point in metal music.
Two singles were extracted from their new album, Holy Wars … The Punishment Due and Hangar 18, and a video clip were made for both. Rust in Peace sold a million copies in the United States and received a few Grammy Award nominations in 1991 and 1992. In the same year the group participated in the world tour Clash of the Titans along with Slayer, Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, Judas Priest, and Alice in Chains, which will prove to be a great success for the public, recording the “sold out” several times; soon after, the first home video, Rusted Pieces, was released.
In January 1992 the group returned to the studio with new producer Max Norman, who asked them to turn to shorter, more commercial songs; for the first time, all members participated in the making of the album, to the point that Nick Menza himself will propose the title of the album. On July 14, 1992, Megadeth released Countdown to Extinction, which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart and quickly achieved double platinum status in the United States, as well as some Grammy nominations. In November 1992, the band’s second video, Exposure of a Dream, was released, containing the videos extracted from the latest album.
The band began a tour in support of the new record alongside Pantera, Suicidal Tendencies, and Stone Temple Pilots as their opening band. These concerts, however, marked a return to drug addiction for Dave Mustaine, who was forced to stop the tour to rehabilitate; once recovered, Megadeth continued their tour, playing on a date with Metallica: on this occasion the leader of Megadeth declared that the disagreements between the two bands were now resolved. The Californian quartet also began a second tour in support of Aerosmithbut, due to some disagreements related to the contractual conditions imposed by the latter, the Megadeth were removed from the event after only seven dates.
Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings (1994-1999)
The story of Megadeth continues in early 1994 when the group hired producer Max Norman and built a private recording studio, later dubbed Fat Planet in Hangar 18, in which to work on the creation and arrangement of the new album. The images from this operation were preserved and, subsequently, used for the making of a new video, entitled Evolver: The Making of Youthanasia.
After eight months in the studio, on November 1, 1994, Youthanasia was released, which immediately debuted in the upper parts of the Billboard charts, quickly achieving platinum status in the US and gold in Canada. The album, due to pressure from the new producer, turned out to be even more commercial than its predecessor, retaining, on the one hand, a metal core, but on the other giving more prominence to the vocal lines and melody.
Megadeth abandoned the thrash look that had characterized it until now, in favor of a more refined one and, to promote the new work, they embarked on an eleven-month tour with the support of Corrosion of Conformity, Flotsam, and Jetsam, Korn and Fear Factory. The culmination of this phase is participation as the main attraction at Monsters of Rock in Brazil and obtaining a sixth Grammy Award nomination.
In March 1995 Youthanasia was re-released in Europe, accompanied by a collection of covers and b-sides, Hidden Treasures. After this last tour of support, Mustaine temporarily shelved Megadeth dedicating himself to the parallel project MD.45, and shortly after he took over the reins of Megadeth by hiring a new manager, Bud Prager, already known for his past collaboration with Foreigner. It will be to the latter who, like his predecessor Max Normann, will be attributed the even more evident turn of the band towards commercial rock, convincing it to work with producer Dann Huff, a former member of Giant.
In September 1996 Megadeth began to work on the new album, which was originally to be called Needles and Pins. The songwriting phase was supervised by Prager, who also suggests lyrics and titles for the new songs [ no source ]. Regarding these choices, Mustaine would later declare that he considered the newly acquired producer the man capable of making him create the “number one” album he was looking for so much. Due to issues related to the album cover, however, the band will be forced to change the title and cover of the album, in which the mascot Vic Rattlehead does not appear.
Cryptic Writings was released on June 17, 1997, debuting at the tenth position on the Billboard 200, earning gold disc for the sixth consecutive time for a Megadeth album. Trust was the first single from the album and the first to reach the top position on Mainstream Rock Songs, also garnering a nomination for the 1998 Grammy Awards in the Best Metal Performance category. Subsequently, the album produced other songs capable of populating the Top 20 on Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, such as Almost Honest (at position 8), Use the Man (at position 15), and A Secret Place. (to position 19).
A year after their last stage appearances, Megadeth began a tour with the Misfits in 1997 and, subsequently, alongside Life of Agony and Coal Chamber in the United States. In July 1998 the band took part in the Ozzfest but, halfway through the tour, drummer Nick Menza discovered he had a tumor in his knee which forced him to abandon the project to be treated. The musician Jimmy DeGrasso was called to replace him, first only temporarily, then joining the formation permanently when Mustaine declared that Menza had lied about his tumor.
Risk and decline (1999-2000) – The Story of Megadeth
In the interviews following the end of the tour, Mustaine began to talk about a real revolution in the group’s sound and a record that would have had no precedent. His words took shape in 1999 with the release of Risk, considered the biggest misstep of the lineup.
The sound of the band had radically changed, metal was completely abandoned in favor of a melodic rock strongly contaminated by industrial rock such as the single Crush’Em. The record was cut short by critics and fans and for the first time, Mustaine was “punished” for trying at all costs for the winning formula. The album became a total commercial failure, selling 500,000 copies in the US (the lower sales result since Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?. However, some music critics have argued that the disk has some songs of modest value such as Prince of Darkness, Breadline, and Seven.
This led the Capitol to leave the group, making them “complete” their contractual obligations, the following year, with the publication of a collection, Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years, with a decidedly ironic title given the situation. Mustaine will blame the failure on the producers and on Marty Friedman who participated in the composition of almost all the pieces of Risk. The latter was removed from Megadeth after various disagreements with the leader and his place was taken by Al Petrelli, famous for having played with groups such as Asia, Alice Cooper, Widowmaker, and Savatage.
The World Needs a Hero and the Breakup (2001-2002)
In 2001, The World Needs a Hero was released by Sanctuary Records, an album where Mustaine abandoned his recent musical experiments, given the poor commercial results. The album was received modestly and sales proved the group’s choice to return to the metal right. From the following tour, the group’s first live album was also released, entitled Rude Awakening. Sales then began to pick up but suddenly, on April 4, 2002, news broke that the band was disbanded due to a problem with Dave Mustaine’s wrist. In reality, there are those who argue that the dissolution was caused by the non-payment of debts, deriving from copyright, by Mustaine himself towards the bassist Dave Ellefson, for which a lawsuit will also be filed later.
Reformation, The System Has Failed (2004-2007)- The Megadeth Story
After a period of therapy to solve his problem, Mustaine announced his return and reconstituted the group, safely enlisting Chris Poland (the group’s early guitarist who has since become music teacher), bassist Jimmie Lee Sloas and session-man Vinnie Colaiuta , world-famous session player for the first time in his career grappling with metal.
With this new lineup, the group released their tenth album The System Has Failed in 2004. Given the moderate success of the album, both in terms of sales and popularity, Mustaine decided to embark on a tour with a new line-up, giving life to Gigantour, a musical event that in his ideas should have constituted a valid alternative to Ozzfest. This event will be attended by groups such as Dream Theater and Nevermore. Furthermore, by choosing ESP for the supply of the instruments, all the records recorded in the band’s studio were reissued by his will, in collaboration with the former Capitol label.
After the tour, Mustaine decided to hire new permanent members: James Lo Menzo on bass and brothers Glen and Shawn Drover ( Eidolon ), respectively on guitar and drums.
On March 6, 2007, the DVD That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires was released, featuring the bass guitarist James MacDonough, formerly of Iced Earth. The concert was filmed at Obras Stadium in Buenos Aires during the Blackmail the Universe Tour.
United Abominations and Endgame (2007-2010)
On May 15, 2007, a new album called United Abominations was released, described by Dave Mustaine with these words: “I love this album, it’s so hard you could use it to cut glass!”. The disc continues the political theme dealt with in the previous album and contains a remake of À tout le monde made with Lacuna Coil singer Cristina Scabbia, entitled À tout le monde (Set Me Free).
Following the departure of Glen Drover, on January 14, 2008, Mustaine announced the entry of guitarist Chris Broderick into the group. A little later Megadeth’s fourth greatest hit was released, entitled The Anthology, a 2CD box set containing the group’s best hits.
In 2009 the group embarked on a long European tour participating in the Priest Feast with Judas Priest and Testament. On June 18, 2009, Mustaine announced the title of his twelfth studio album, Endgame, released on September 15 of the same year for Roadrunner Records.
The band also took part in the Canadian Carnage tour, where they were the main attraction along with Slayer, accompanied by Machine Head and Suicide Silence. On this tour, they also decided to play one of the songs from the new album for the first time, namely Head Crusher.
The album, closely linked to eighties thrash metal, had good commercial success, even becoming a gold record. The track Head Crusher was nominated for the Grammy Award in 2009 as Best Metal Performance. The group subsequently confirmed their participation in Big Four Tour with Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, reintegrating historic bassist David Ellefson into their ranks. The concert held in Sofia ( Bulgaria ) was immortalized on the DVD The Big 4: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria.
For the twentieth anniversary of the album Rust in Peace, the group decided to embark on a celebratory tour by performing the entire album with the addition of other songs taken from their repertoire. The concert held at the Palladium in New York, in which the band sold out, was chosen to be released on DVD, under the title Rust in Peace: Live.
Subsequently a new single was released, entitled Sudden Death, and created specifically for the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock; the cover of the single features the new image of Vic Rattlehead reminiscent of the beginning of the story of Megadeth.
The Story of Megadeth – Thirteen (2010-2011)
On November 17th, 2010 Dave Mustaine officially announces in Megadeth Cyber Army Chat Room that Megadeth would start recording for the thirteenth album in Vic’s Garage (Megadeth’s private studio) with already 5 songs almost ready. In an online chat with the members of the official fan club of the Mustaine group he explains that the album will follow the style of Endgame and in an interview Mustaine will add that the songs will be fast and “very very heavy”; the songs will be 12 as agreed in the contract. Johnny K. was hired as producer.
On June 3, 2011, it is announced that a new song, Never Dead will be included in the trailer for a new video game, NeverDead. On the occasion of the Italian date at the Big 4 Tour, Megadeth performed the then-unreleased Public Enemy No. 1.
On July 8th Dave Mustaine announced to the public the name of their thirteenth album, entitled Thirteen, and released on November 1st. On February 5, 2012, the famous US magazine Guitar World awarded the members of Megadeth some important awards: Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick best guitarists of 2011; Thirteen elected metal album of the year and Dave Mustaine ranked third best musician of 2011.
The Story of Megadeth – Super Collider (2013-2014)
On June 4, 2013, the fourteenth album Super Collider was released, preceded by the single of the same name on April 22.
On November 26, 2014, Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover announced the release of Megadeth through their official websites.
Dystopia – The Story of Megadeth (2015-present)
The story of Megadeth continues inn March 30, 2015, when Mustaine officially announced the entry into the lineup of drummer Chris Adler ( Lamb of God ) and on April 3 that of guitarist Kiko Loureiro ( Angra ).
On October 1, 2015, Megadeth released the single Fatal Illusion for listening, while the following day they announced their fifteenth studio album, titled Dystopia, and released on January 22, 2016. In the run-up to the release of the album, two other songs were also made available for listening. The first, The Threat Is Real, was released on November 27, 2015, in 12 “format to coincide with the Black Friday of Record Store Day, while the second, the eponymous Dystopia, was made available for listening by 7 January 2016. Videos were also made for both songs, linked to each other.
Dystopia had good success in the motherland, debuting in third place on the US Billboard 200, and was promoted by the related Dystopia World Tour: on the dates that Adler was unable to participate, due to his commitments with the Lamb of God, his place was taken by Tony Laureano, trusted session man in the group’s soundchecks. Subsequently, Dirk Verbeuren of Soilwork was hired as a new replacement, becoming an official member of the line-up from 15 July 2016.
In 2017, the album’s title track earned Megadeth their first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, after a string of eleven unsuccessful nominations in previous years.
On May 24, 2021, Megadeth announced Ellefson’s departure from the lineup following obscene footage that appeared on the network. To remedy the absence of the latter on the occasion of the North American tour which took place between August and September 2021, the group enlisted former bassist James LoMenzo as a session player.
Vic Rattlehead is the official mascot of the band which was created by Dave Mustaine himself at the very beginning of the story of Megadeth. Referring to American slang, “Rattlehead” is a mixed word that combines the nouns “rattle” (rattle) and “head” (head), metaphorically indicating the act of so-called headbanging.
Vic depicts, from the very beginning, a skull with metal plugs and obstructions in the ears and eyes, as well as hooks to close the mouth. All as an explicit reference to the sadistic procedure to which the victim of the song The Skull Beneath the Skin is subjected.
The mascot, like its counterparts Eddie the Head of Iron Maiden and Snaggletooth of Motörhead, appears on almost all the covers of the group but, unlike its colleagues, it often does not appear as an “icon” with which the public is led to identify, but in the guise of “antagonist”, the incarnation of the political-military institution that the Megadeth, in the furious and anarchic days of their childhood, intended to challenge and contest: the character often presents himself in a suit and tie as a politician, or as a mad scientist, or still appears, in impeccable military uniform, in the act of unleashing an atomic war.
The Story of Megadeth – Discography
- 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)
- Dystopia (2016)
- The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! (2021)
The End of the Story of Megadeth?
We have reached the end of this article, but is it the end of the story of Megadeth? As we saw earlier the answer is: ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Megadeth has sold over 38 million albums worldwide and is one of the rare underground metal bands to have achieved such success.
Let’s all hope that the story of Megadeth has many chapters yet to be written.