Megadeth is one of the most successful thrash metal bands, and part of the “Big Four” of thrash. The driving force behind Megadeth is lead singer and guitarist, Dave Mustaine. Legendary metal bassist David Ellefson is also a founding member of the band. The band has found commercial and critical success with the albums Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?, Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction, and Cryptic Writings. Mustaine was also a founding member of Metallica, writing some of the material for their first two albums.
Megadeth’s debut album was Killing is my Business… and Business is Good, which was released in 1985 under Combat and Relativity Records. The lineup on that album was Mustaine, Ellefson, Gar Samuelson (drums), and Chris Poland (guitar). The album featured “Mechanix,” a Mustaine original from pre-Metallica days that is a sped up version of “The Four Horsemen” with different lyrics. Also on the album is the cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots,” “The Skull Beneath the Skin,” and “Looking Down the Cross.”
The debut album sold well for an independently released album, but not as well as future Megadeth albums. For their next album, Megadeth signed with Capitol Records to release Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, which was released in October 1986. The title track is a heavy metal anthem for the ages, led by Ellefson’s crunching bass line. “Wake Up Dead” was also released as a single. It is often referred to as one of the best heavy metal and thrash albums of all time. After the Peace Sells era, Samuelson and Poland were kicked out of the band for excessive drug problems.
In 1988, Megadeth released their best charting album to that date, So Far, So Good… So What?, which reached #28 on the Billboard 200. It featured “Set the World Afire,” Sex Pistols’ cover “Anarchy in the UK” featuring Steve Jones on guitar, and the single “In My Darkest Hour,” a song penned about former Metallica bandmate Cliff Burton. Guitarist Jeff Young replaced Poland for this album only, with Chuck Behler replacing Samuelson on drums.
Megadeth released their magnum opus work in 1990, Rust in Peace, considered one of the must-own thrash albums of all time. The album, produced by Mike Clink, ushered in the favorite lineup which added Nick Menza on drums and Marty Friedman on guitar. Two singles, “Hangar 18” and “Holy Wars” were released, and remain live staples.
Riding high on the momentum of “Rust in Peace,” the band recorded Countdown to Extinction in 1992. It reached #2 on the Billboard Top 200, being surpassed much to the chagrin of Mustaine by Billy Ray Cyrus’ Some Gave All, which featured “Achy Breaky Heart.” The album nonetheless was their most successful, achieving double platinum status. It spawned the singles “Sweating Bullets,” “Symphony of Destruction,” “Skin O’ My Teeth,” and “Foreclosure of a Dream.” The song “Countdown to Extinction” was also nominated for a Grammy. The album featured a more toned down, commercial sounding Megadeth that appealed to a wider array of fans, a trend that would continue over their next several albums.
In 1994, the band released Youthanasia, which followed the path towards a more mainstream sounding Megadeth. “Train of Consequences” and “A Tout Le Monde” were released as singles. It debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200.
With their stable lineup, the band embarked on their most radio friendly effort, Cryptic Writings, released in 1997. It featured the hits “Trust,” “Almost Honest,” “Use the Man,” and “A Secret Place.” The album debuted at #10, but came with some heavy concessions from Mustaine in the form of songwriting and lyrical content that were changed by producers. Nick Menza also left the lineup after Cryptic Writings.
Lusting after the “intagible #1 record” Mustaine had hoped for, he conceded even further based on the radio success of the singles from Cryptic Writings. In 1999, Megadeth released Risk, an album poorly received by fans but critically received average ratings. It featured the cringeworthy track “Crush ‘Em,” which was intended to be a sports anthem and included a disco-like beat. The album’s title was taken from a quote from Lars Ulrich, who stated that Megadeth needed to take more risks with their music. This was the response.
After the commercial failure of Risk, Marty Friedman left Megadeth for a solo career. The band quickly pulled a 180 from their previous album, and opted for a return to their heavier thrash sound. The result was the fairly received World Needs a Hero album of 2001. It was the last album to feature David Ellefson until 2011’s TH1RT3EN.
Following The World Needs a Hero, Megadeth disbanded as a result of Mustaine’s arm injury that left him unable to play the guitar. With intense physical therapy, he was in shape to record a new album, which was originally to be Mustaine’s debut solo album. Due to contractual obligations, Mustaine released the album as a Megadeth album instead. The result was The System Has Failed, which received positive reviews and much fan praise for its return to form. It featured the singles “Die Dead Enough” and “Of Mice and Men.” The album featured session players entirely, though Mustaine attempted to reunite the Mustaine-Ellefson-Menza-Friedman era Megadeth for this album.
Following the success of The System Has Failed Mustaine sought out new players for the next album. He recruited James LoMenzo on bass, Glen Drover on guitar (who was the touring guitarist for The System Has Failed), and Shawn Drover on drums. The new Megadeth lineup released United Abominations in 2007. The single “A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free)” was a remake of a song from Youthansia, but featured a faster tempo, along with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil on vocals. The album received good reviews from both fans and critics. Glen Drover parted ways with the band for personal reasons, and was replaced by Chris Broderick. The new lineup recorded the successful album Endgame in 2009, led by the singles “Headcrusher” and “The Right to Go Insane.” This album has been consistently voted as one of their best of the 2000’s.
Bassist James LoMenzo left Megadeth in 2010, being replaced by original bassist David Ellefson. The newly reunited band embarked on a 25th Anniversary Tour of “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” in 2011. Shortly thereafter, the band quickly recorded TH1RT3EN, which featured “Sudden Death,” “Public Enemy No. 1,” and “Whose Life is it Anyways.” In 2012, the band celebrated the release of their classic album with the 20th Anniversary Countdown to Extinction Tour.
In June 2013, the band released their album 14th album Super Collider, on their own Tradecraft label. The band is set to begin recording for new material in 2014. In the meantime, Dave Mustaine released his first wine from Mustaine Vineyards on March 26, 2014 called Symphony Interrupted Cabernet.
- 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)
- Hidden Treasures (1995)
- Cryptic Writings (1997)
- Risk (1999)
- The World Needs a Hero (2001)
- Rude Awakening (2002)
- The System Has Failed (2004)
- United Abominations (2007)
- Endgame (2009)
- Thirteen (2011)
- Super Collider (2013)
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