Formed in 1983, as a response to Dave Mustaine being kicked out of Metallica for drinking too much, Megadeth have always existed in their shadow. Several line-ups dissolved before the “classic” line-up featuring Marty Friedman solidified and released their most classic albums. Friedman left because Megadeth was becoming more commercial, and the door started revolving again. Dave Ellefson on bass has been the closest Mustaine has had to a constant fellow band member over the years, and the recorded output has been patchy as a result. Despite a tendency to voice conspiracy theories on stage, Megadeth continue to be a top notch live act.
Having passed through Metallica, Mustaine was hugely influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and bands like UFO and Led Zeppelin. Other influences include the Beatles and AC/DC. However, probably his biggest influence was the cloud he felt over his shoulder as Metallica continued to have more success than him.
Rust in Peace (1990)
This album was the moment that Megadeth stood as its own colossus and not merely the guy who was kicked out of Metallica. With Marty Friedman (ex-Cacophony) on lead guitar, technical Metal masterpieces like ‘Holy Wars’ and ‘Hangar 18’ seemed to flow effortlessly from a band that had finally found itself. If you see Megadeth live today, this is almost certainly the album most represented in their setlist. They would never reach these heights again, but they were dizzying while they lasted.
Peace Sells… But who’s Buying? (1986)
After ‘Killing is my Business,’ this, their second album, was their major label debut. Of course, the title track is an instant classic, but songs like ‘Wake up Dead’ and ‘Devil’s Island’ were also strong statements of intent. The cover of an old blues song (‘I Ain’t Superstitious’) was forgettable, and there was no denying that this stood closer to Kill ’em All than that year’s Master of Puppets, but this was still a strong opening statement that got the band on their way.
Countdown to Extinction (1992)
By 1992, Guns ‘n’ Roses were touring Use your Illusion and the “Black Album” was redefining commercial hard rock. Megadeth followed suit, with an album far more commercial and less heavy than the one before. Songs like ‘Countdown to Extinction’ and ‘Symphony of Destruction’ were built on simpler, more open riffs, and were an obvious play for mainstream success. Songs like ‘Skin o’ my Teeth’ and ‘Sweating Bullets’ kept things heavy though and the album was a strong one, debuting at number two and only being kept off the number one spot by Billy Ray Cyrus.
So far, so Good… so What! (1988)
After the Peace Sells line up disintegrated and before Friedman arrived to propel them in to the big leagues, Megadeth did one album with guitarist Jeff Young. Easily forgotten because of what followed, this is still a monstrous album, with dedication to Cliff Burton, ‘In my Darkest Hour,’ and tracks like ‘Mary Jane,’ ‘Liar’ and ‘Hook in Mouth,’ this was a super strong album that is well worth checking out.
By 2009, Metallica fans knew not to expect too much from any new material. This album burst out of the gates, surpassing all their 21st century output before it. New guitarist, Chris Broderick, played like his life depended on it, Mustaine wrote strong and topical songs, and Andy Sneap produced it to perfection. With ‘Head Crusher’ as the lead single, Endgame came out strong and went on to top the hard rock charts.
United Abominations (2007)
Glenn Drover was with Megadeth four years, and in that time he contributed to new songs on a best of, a live album, and this album. From start to finish, from ‘Sleepwalker’ through to ‘Gears of War,’ to ‘Burnt Ice,’ this album contained both Thrash songs and songs that leaned towards the more commercial side of Megadeth, but all of them strong. A remake of ‘A Tout Le Monde’ with Cristina Scabbia sharing vocals harked back to former days of glory and gave the album another lift. After a few rough years, this album was the start of a new high for Megadeth.
Megadeth followed the success of Rust in Peace by writing a more commercial album. It’s no surprise that the follow on was more commercial again. Despite the heaviness of tracks like ‘Train of Consequences,’ it’s a mixed bag, with songs like ‘A Tout le Monde,’ which every Megadeth fan should own, but also a number of forgettable tracks.
Cryptic Writings (1997)
As Grunge hit, and Metal music was pushed underground, Megadeth, like Metallica, responded by trying to be more ‘alternative.’ This album marked a leap into significantly more commercial waters, and while songs like ‘Trust’ and ‘Almost Honest’ are good music, they certainly are not Thrash Metal. As such, the reception from fans varies according to how much they liked the new style of music the band was creating. The follow up, Risk, was a creative nadir. There is no controversy about the fact that it represented a full on leap in to trying to be a mainstream rock band. Cryptic Writings doesn’t contain much flat out Metal, but it’s certainly the stronger of the two releases and one still held dear by many fans. Songs from this album still make it in to the live set.
The System has Failed (2004)
This album was a bit of a comeback for Mustaine, who had previously announced his retirement due to an injury that made him unable to play guitar. While the presence of Chris Poland on guitar (as a hired gun) was welcome news to long time fans, and overall, the return to a Thrashier sound was well received, the album has not aged well and doesn’t hold up to later releases, let alone the releases of their heyday.
Killer play list for your phone:
‘Mechanix’ (Killing is my Business… and Business is Good!)
‘Peace Sells’ (Peace Sells… but who’s Buying?)
‘Devil’s Island’ (Peace Sells… but who’s Buying?)
‘Set the World Afire’ (So far, so Good… So What!)
‘In my Darkest Hour’ (So far, so Good… So What!)
‘Hook in Mouth’ (So far, so Good… So What!)
‘Holy Wars’ (Rust in Peace)
‘Tornado of Souls’ (Rust in Peace)
‘Hangar 18’ (Rust in Peace)
‘Countdown to Extinction’ (Countdown to Extinction)
‘Symphony of Destruction’ (Countdown to Extinction)
‘A Tout le Monde’ (Youthanasia)
‘Almost Honest’ (Cryptic Writings)
‘Trust’ (Cryptic Writings)
‘Sleepwalker’ (United Abominations)
‘Washington is Next’ (United Abominations)
‘United Abominations’ (United Abominations)
‘Gears of War’ (United Abominations)