Has Megadeth become the top thrash metal band in the world?

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Has Megadeth become the top thrash metal band in the world?

(Image: LENXWAH)
Words by Harry Hartney

Bask in Megadeth's historical brilliance with the release of 'The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead'

Formed from the dusty departure of Dave Mustaine from Metallica in 1983, Megadeth rose to the Mount Rushmore of thrash. Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson combined technically sound and complex guitar work, speed and, well, talking about death to create some of the greatest works in thrash and the metal genre in general.

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Heralded as one of the most consistent bands in metal, Megadeth’s main competition came from their other peers within the ‘Big Four’ of metal: Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica. The sheer number of studio albums produced by the band could perhaps give them a slight edge over their opponents, with Megadeth having 15 (if you include Risk), Anthrax 12, Slayer 11, and Metallica 10. On top of this, the thrash group are releasing a sixteenth project, titled The Sick, The Dying…and the Dead! which is due to come out in September

What is clear to Megadeth is Mustaine’s spirit is infused with the band, so much so that they have traversed some 19 departures, without including the 40 odd session members that have contributed over the last 39 years. The fact that – despite their infamous and notorious instability – Megadeth has continued to create consistently superb work is outstanding. The drive of Mustaine is what has given Megadeth the ability to reach the heights of Rust In Peace and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying.

Of course, Mustaine was not alone in this endeavour. Some of Megadeth’s finest works come from the combination of great musicians that he has assembled. Highlights include Marty Friedman, who was with the band during perhaps their most commercially dominant peak, 1990-2000. Hired as the lead guitarist, Friedman stole the show on songs like ‘Tornado of Souls’, ‘Hangar 18’ and ‘The Killing Road’, with epic, sweeping solos that he builds over the course of the tracks with perfection. Dave Ellefson, despite recent controversy, wrote brilliant basslines, the most famous of those being ‘Holy Wars’. This technical masterpiece was coined by the former Megadeth bassist as his “‘everything I’ve ever learned on the bass’ riff!”.

Of course, Megadeth’s famous early 1990s run of Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction, and Youthanasia is one of the most legendary three-album runs in not only metal but music in general. It was also their most commercially successful period, with Rust in Peace peaking at #23 on the US Charts, Countdown to Extinction at a staggering #2, and Youthanasia at #4. Considering the weight of influence Megadeth’s first three albums (Killing is My Business…and Business is Good!, Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? and So Far, So Good…So What?) had in pioneering and establishing thrash metal as a genre and movement, this three-album run could easily be extended to six.

Also crucial to note is the warm critical reception the group has achieved over time. Megadeth has received 12 Grammy nominations, including one win for Best Metal Performance in 2017 for ‘Dystopia’. For famous Japanese monthly heavy metal music magazine Burnn!, the combined efforts of Dave Mustaine and Megadeth have dominated, with a total of eleven awards received. Burnn! Awards won by Megadeth include Best Group of the Year and Mustaine for Best Songwriter of the Year in 1992, as well as Best Live Performance in Japan for 2007. Along with 50 million records sold across the globe, Megadeth’s success is indisputable.

While Megadeth, and Dave Mustaine, have had their fair share of controversies across their careers, their political influence held within their music is certainly important to note. One of the prime examples of this was the song ‘Countdown to Extinction’, the title track of the group’s acclaimed 1993 studio album. ‘Countdown to Extinction’, which focuses on issues of animal welfare, was awarded with the Humane Society’s Genesis Award.

Given the scope, range, influence and technical skill involved with the music of Megadeth, it is certainly not preposterous to consider them one of, if not the, top thrash metal bands of all time. With Dave Mustaine now arguably the face of metal, the power of a Megadeth live show has still not waned, dominating arenas across the globe. Of note is the famous Argentinian chant to ‘Symphony of Destruction’ that has taken all over the world: “MEGADETH, MEGADETH, AGUANTE MEGADETH”.

To read more on Dave Mustaine and Megadeth, click here.