In the countdown of My Top 10 Favorite Bands (as ranked by me), we have made it to number 8. If you have missed any of the last bands ranked, be sure to check out the previous posts. Today’s band sees us make a return to the thrash genre, with a group whose DNA is forever shared with the number 9 band on this list…
Megadeth lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine, whether he likes it or not, will always be linked to Metallica, so it’s only fitting that he and his crew come in one spot ahead of the thrash quartet Mustaine was once a part of. Similarly to Metallica, however, my love for Megadeth comes from a very specific time slot of their existence, particularly from 1985 to 1992.
One of the biggest detriments against Megadeth comes in the form of the revolving door of musicians Mustaine chose to surround himself and bassist David Ellefson with. It was kind of hard to get a handle on the persona of the band with so many lineup changes, and I always preferred the original lineup of Mustaine, Ellefson, Gar Samuelson on drums, and Chris Poland on the opposite lead guitar (pictured above).
While they lacked continuity in the lineup department, they had it in terms of song structure and composition, mostly because Ellefson and Mustaine were the principle writers. The albums showed growth between releases but never strayed too far from the formula, something I really appreciated.
I hate to keep comparing Megadeth to Metallica, so allow me to once more compare Megadeth to Metallica. What separates one from the other is how much more fun Megadeth is to listen to. Much like when David Lee Roth formed a “spite band” after being ousted from Van Halen, Mustaine did the same. That is to say both Roth and Mustaine surrounded themselves with infinitely better musicians than their previous outfits boasted (Eddie Van Halen and Cliff Burton notwithstanding). The musicianship in Megadeth, even on the early albums, incorporated time signatures and modes far beyond the realm of Metallica’s limited spectrum, even in their prime. These are the things that separate the number 9’s from the number 8’s.
Best Album – Rust in Peace (1990)
It was a near dead heat between this and 1986’s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, as both albums offer the absolute finest Megadeth has to offer. Every song on this album is perfectly crafted from start to finish, as Rust in Peace is a master class in thrash metal songwriting. The changing modes and time signatures make sure that every listen to this record feels like the first time. Hell, I still get excited every time I hear the opening riff to “Hangar 18.” If Master of Puppets is the Old Testament of thrash, consider Rust in Peace its New Testament counterpart.
Worst Album – Risk (1999)
Risk. As in “if they thought putting all of these songs on an album was a good idea, that certainly was a risk!” HEY-O! I’ll be here all week. But seriously, folks, the 90’s were a weird time for a lot of bands who saw their heyday in the previous decades. Mustaine and Megadeth were actually one of the few outfits whose popularity not only stayed afloat in the 90’s, it thrived. The end of the decade, however, gave us Risk, an album that was a bit errr progressive and different. Fans and critics weren’t really in the mood for different though, as Mustaine’s choice of softer melodies didn’t mesh well with the public. Looking back, Risk has aged slightly better than originally thought, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to classic Megadeth.
Strongest Member – Dave Mustaine (Lead Singer/Guitar)
Was there ever any doubt? The strawberry haired mad scientist known as Dave Mustaine was and is the driving force in one of the most popular thrash bands in the history of the genre. You could talk about his keen ear for music or his wizardry on the frets of his guitar, but what puts Mustaine head and shoulders above his peers and bandmates is his aggressive, almost violent desire to be better than his former band, Metallica. Even when Megadeth was at the height of popularity, Mustaine found himself depressed at the fact that he could never catch Metallica. This militant need for perfection is what makes Mustaine one of the most underrated musicians of his era; a true genius at his craft.
Weakest Member – Dave Mustaine (Lead Singer/Guitar)
Whoa, plot twist alert! For everything amazing Mustaine did for Megadeth, it was his ego and paranoia (read: drug use) that at times almost caused the thrash outfit to unravel. Whether it be his constant firing of members not named David or his creative choices after the early 90’s, Mustaine represented a sort of Hindu Shiva for the band: one hand creates while the other destroys. Megadeth is clearly one of my favorite bands and Mustaine is a huge reason for this, but part of me feels that if he had just checked himself at times, Megadeth could have been even better than they already were.