|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Years active||1983–2002, 2004–present|
|Past members||List of Megadeth band members|
Megadeth is a thrash metal band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1983 by guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson, shortly after Mustaine's dismissal from Metallica. A pioneer of the American thrash metal scene, the band is credited as one of the genre's "big four" along with Anthrax, Metallica, and Slayer, who were responsible for thrash metal's development and popularization. Megadeth plays in a technical style often featuring fast rhythm sections and complex arrangements; themes of death, war, politics, and religion are common in the group's lyrics.
In 1985, the group released its debut album through the independent label Combat Records. The album's moderate commercial success caught the attention of bigger labels, which led to the band signing with Capitol Records. The band's first major label album, Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?, was released in 1986 and was highly influential in the underground metal scene. Despite the album's prominence in thrash metal, frequent disputes between its members and issues with substance abuse earned the band negative publicity during this period.
After the lineup stabilized, Megadeth released a number of platinum-selling albums, including Rust in Peace (1990) and Countdown to Extinction (1992). These albums, along with touring worldwide, helped bring public recognition to Megadeth. The band temporarily disbanded in 2002 when Mustaine suffered an arm injury and re-established in 2004 without bassist Ellefson, who had taken legal action against Mustaine. Ellefson settled with Mustaine out of court and rejoined the group in 2010. Megadeth has hosted its own music festival, Gigantour, several times since mid-2005.
As of 2014, Megadeth has sold 50 million records worldwide, earned platinum certification in the United States for six of its fourteen studio albums, and received eleven Grammy nominations. The band's mascot, Vic Rattlehead, regularly appears on album artwork, and from 2010 in live shows. The group has experienced controversy over its musical approach and lyrics, including canceled concerts and bans of albums. MTV has refused to play two of the band's videos that the network considered to condone suicide.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1983–84: Early days
- 1.2 1985: Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!
- 1.3 1986–87: Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?
- 1.4 1988–89: So Far, So Good... So What!
- 1.5 1990–91: Rust in Peace
- 1.6 1992–93: Countdown to Extinction
- 1.7 1994–95: Youthanasia
- 1.8 1996–98: Cryptic Writings
- 1.9 1999–2000: Risk
- 1.10 2000–01: The World Needs a Hero
- 1.11 2002–03: Breakup
- 1.12 2004: The System Has Failed
- 1.13 2005–06: Gigantour
- 1.14 2007–08: United Abominations
- 1.15 2009–10: Endgame
- 1.16 2010–12: Thirteen
- 1.17 2012–present: Super Collider
- 2 Controversies
- 3 Artistry
- 4 Awards
- 5 Members
- 6 Discography
- 7 Footnotes
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
1983–84: Early days
Dave Mustaine was the lead guitarist for Metallica when the group formed in 1981. He was a member for nearly a year and participated in composing some of the group's early songs. However, before the start of the recording sessions of Metallica's debut album, Mustaine was dismissed over his substance abuse and personal conflicts with members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Two months later, Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson formed Megadeth in Los Angeles. Mustaine wanted the new band to play faster and heavier music than Metallica. According to Mustaine, the name Megadeth represents the annihilation of power. It is a misspelling of the term megadeath, meaning "one million deaths by nuclear explosion". The name came from a pamphlet by Californian senator Alan Cranston that Mustaine found on the floor of a bus he was on after being fired from Metallica. It read, "The arsenal of megadeath can't be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to."
Despite his enthusiasm, Mustaine had trouble finding additional members for the band's initial lineup. He and Ellefson examined about 15 drummers, hoping to find one who comprehended the meter changes in music. In the meantime, Kerry King from Slayer filled in on lead guitar. They eventually selected Lee Rausch as drummer, and settled on Mustaine as lead vocalist after unsuccessfully searching for one for six months. Mustaine also served as the band's main lyricist and songwriter, in addition to handling rhythm and lead guitar.
In 1984, Megadeth recorded a three-song demo tape, featuring Mustaine, Ellefson, and Rausch. The demo contained early versions of "Last Rites/Loved to Death", "Skull Beneath the Skin", and "Mechanix", all of which were to appear on the band's debut studio album. Megadeth performed in concert a few times in 1984 before replacing Rausch with jazz fusion drummer Gar Samuelson. Guitarist Chris Poland joined the group full-time that December. After considering a few recording labels, Mustaine had the band signed with Combat Records, a New York-based independent label that offered him the highest budget for recording an album and starting a promotional tour.
1985: Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!
In 1985, Combat Records gave the band $8,000 to record and produce its debut album. After spending half of the album's budget on drugs, alcohol, and food, the band members fired the original producer and finished the recording themselves. The resulting recording quality was raw and unpolished. Despite its low fidelity production, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! was relatively successful in underground metal circles when released that summer and caught the attention of major record labels. Music writer Joel McIver praised its "blistering technicality", and stated that the album "raised the bar for the whole thrash metal scene, with guitarists forced to perform even more accurately and powerfully". The record cover saw the debut of the band's mascot, Vic Rattlehead, who made regular appearances on the cover art of following albums.
Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! features "Mechanix", a song Mustaine had written during his tenure with Metallica. After he was dismissed, Mustaine told the band not to use the music he had written. Despite this, Metallica recorded a different version of the song entitled "The Four Horsemen", with a slower tempo and a melodic middle section. The album also included a cover version of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", recorded at a faster tempo and with altered lyrics. This version sparked controversy during the 1990s when its original author, Lee Hazlewood, deemed Mustaine's changes "vile and offensive". Under threat of legal action, it was removed from the pressings released between 1995 and 2001. On a bill with Exciter, Megadeth played its first North America tour in mid-1985, named the Killing for a Living Tour. Poland was in the band as the tour began, but abruptly left and was replaced by touring guitarist Mike Albert. Poland rejoined Megadeth in October, shortly before the group began its second album for Combat Records.
1986–87: Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?
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According to Mustaine, the band was under great pressure to deliver another successful record: "That sophomore offering is the 'be-all or end-all' of any band. You either go to the next level, or it's the beginning of the nadir." The songs were developed in a relatively short period at an old warehouse south of Los Angeles before recording began. Mustaine composed the music, while the other members helped with ideas on the arrangements. Megadeth's second studio album was produced on a small budget of $25,000 from Combat Records. Not satisfied with these financial limitations, Megadeth soon left Combat and signed with Capitol Records. Capitol bought the rights to the upcoming album and hired producer Paul Lani to remix the earlier recordings. Released in late 1986, Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? had clearer studio production and more sophisticated songwriting. Mustaine wanted to write socially aware lyrics, unlike mainstream heavy metal bands who were singing about "hedonistic pleasures". The record was noted for its political commentary and saw Megadeth expand its fanbase. The title track was the album's lead single and was accompanied by a music video that received regular airplay on MTV.
In February 1987, Megadeth was added as the opening band on Alice Cooper's Constrictor tour. The following month, the band began its first world tour as a headlining act in the United Kingdom. The tour continued in the United States with Overkill and Necros as the supporting acts and lasted 72 weeks. During the tour, Mustaine and Ellefson considered firing Samuelson over his excessive drug abuse. According to Mustaine, Samuelson had become too much to handle when intoxicated. Drummer Chuck Behler traveled with the band for the last dates of the tour as the other members were afraid that Samuelson would not be able to continue touring. Meanwhile, guitarist Chris Poland had occasional quarrels with Mustaine, as he was accused of selling the band's equipment to buy heroin. Due to these problems, Samuelson and Poland were asked to leave Megadeth in 1987. The same year, 16-year-old guitarist Jeff Loomis of Sanctuary auditioned for the band. Mustaine complimented Loomis on his playing, but rejected him because of his age. Poland was initially replaced by Jay Reynolds of Malice, but as the band began working on its next record, Reynolds was replaced by his guitar teacher, Jeff Young, by which time Megadeth was six weeks into the recording of its third album.
1988–89: So Far, So Good... So What!
With a major-label budget, the Paul Lani-produced So Far, So Good... So What! took over five months to record. It was notorious for problems that occurred during production, partially due to Mustaine's ongoing struggle with drug addiction. Mustaine later said, "The production of So Far, So Good... So What! was horrible, mostly due to substances and the priorities we had or didn't have at the time." Mustaine clashed with Lani on several occasions, beginning with Lani's insistence that the drums be recorded separately from the cymbals, an unheard-of process for rock drummers. During mixing, Mustaine and Lani became estranged, and Lani was replaced by producer Michael Wagener, who remixed the album.
So Far, So Good... So What! was released in January 1988 and was well received by fans and critics. The album featured a cover version of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K."; Mustaine altered the lyrics, later stating he had simply heard them incorrectly. To support the album, Megadeth embarked on a world tour, opening for Dio in Europe, and later joining Iron Maiden's 7th Tour of a 7th Tour in the United States. In August 1988, Megadeth appeared at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in the United Kingdom performing to an audience of more than 100,000. One of these shows also featured a guest appearance by Metallica drummer (and Mustaine's former bandmate) Lars Ulrich. The band was added to the Monsters of Rock European tour, but left after the first show due to Ellefson's drug problems, for which he was treated immediately.
Shortly after the Monsters of Rock appearance, Mustaine fired both Behler and Young and canceled the scheduled Australian tour. "On the road, things escalated from a small border skirmish into a full-on raging war", Mustaine later recalled, "I think a lot of us were inconsistent [on the 1988 tour] because of the guy we were waiting for after the show." During the tour, Mustaine had been noticing problems developing with Behler and brought in drummer Nick Menza to act as Behler's drum technician. As with Samuelson before him, Menza was to be ready to take over if Behler could not continue with the tour. Menza replaced Behler in 1989. The dismissal resulted from Mustaine's suspicions that Young was having an affair with Mustaine's girlfriend, an allegation Young denied.
The band was unable to quickly find a suitable replacement for Young. During this time, Megadeth recorded a cover version of Alice Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy" as a three-piece band. The song later appeared on the soundtrack to the Wes Craven horror movie Shocker. The video for this song was directed by Penelope Spheeris, who recalled the filming as a "Herculean task" as Mustaine was unable to play guitar because of his drug addiction. In June 1988, Megadeth appeared in Spheeris' documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. The documentary chronicled the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of the late 1980s, mostly focusing on glam metal. Mustaine later recalled the movie as a disappointment, as it aligned Megadeth with "a bunch of shit bands". While auditions for the new lead guitarist were being held in March 1989, Mustaine was arrested for driving while intoxicated and possessing narcotics after crashing into a parked vehicle occupied by an off-duty police officer. He entered court-ordered drug rehabilitation soon after and became consistently sober for the first time in ten years.
1990–91: Rust in Peace
With Mustaine sober, Megadeth continued searching for a new lead guitarist. Among those who auditioned were Lee Altus of Heathen and Eric Meyer of Dark Angel. Meyer had been invited to join the band following Chris Poland's departure, but chose to remain in Dark Angel. Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash had been jamming with Mustaine and Ellefson and, though it seemed that he was being drafted into Megadeth, he remained with Guns N' Roses. Dimebag Darrell of Pantera was offered the job, but he refused to join without his brother, Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul. Having already hired Nick Menza, the band turned Darrell down.
Marty Friedman filled the guitarist position, recommended by Ron Laffitte, a member of Capitol management. Laffitte had heard Dragon's Kiss, a solo recording by Friedman during his tenure in Cacophony. Mustaine and Ellefson were satisfied with Marty's playing style and thought he understood the nature of Megadeth's music. With Friedman in the group, the band completed what fans consider to be the definitive version of Megadeth. A revitalized Megadeth entered Rumbo Studios in March 1990 with co-producer Mike Clink to begin what was to be the band's most critically acclaimed album to date, Rust in Peace. For the first time in their careers, the band members remained sober while working in the studio, alleviating many of the problems they had had recording previous albums. Clink was the first producer to successfully produce a Megadeth album from start to finish without being fired. The recording of the album was documented in Rusted Pieces, a home video released in 1991 which contained six music videos and a filmed interview with the band.
Released in September 1990, Rust in Peace debuted at number twenty-three in the United States and number eight in the United Kingdom. Mustaine adopted a writing style with a rhythmically complex progressive edge, and the songs had longer guitar solos and frequent tempo changes. Described as a genre-defining work by Decibel, the album confirmed Megadeth's reputation in the music industry. It featured the singles "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "Hangar 18", both of which were accompanied by music videos and became live staples. Rust in Peace garnered a Grammy nomination in 1991 for Best Metal Performance, and was the group's third album to go platinum when certified in December 1994.
Early in 1990, Slayer proposed a major tour featuring American thrash metal bands. Megadeth accepted, and joined Slayer, Testament, and Suicidal Tendencies for the European Clash of the Titans tour. Following the success of the European installment, an American leg commenced the next year, featuring Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax, with Alice in Chains as a supporting act. The tour was considered a multi-headliner, as the three main bands alternated time slots. Apart from the Clash of the Titans tour, Megadeth played alongside Judas Priest in North America late in 1990, and appeared at the second Rock in Rio, held in January 1991.
1992–93: Countdown to Extinction
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The recording sessions for Megadeth's fifth studio album started in January 1992 at Enterprise Studios in Burbank, California. Max Norman was chosen to produce the album, as the band was pleased with his mixing of Rust in Peace. The band spent nearly four months in the studio with Norman, writing and recording what became Megadeth's most commercially successful effort, Countdown to Extinction. The album, whose title was suggested by Menza, features songwriting contributions from each band member. Ellefson explained that the band changed its approach to songwriting for this album, and started to write more melodic songs.
Released in July 1992, Countdown to Extinction entered the Billboard 200 chart at number two, and earned double-platinum status in the United States. The record saw similar success overseas and helped the band to develop a larger following outside the US. It received a nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 1993 Grammy Awards, while the album's title track won the Humane society's Genesis Award in 1993 for "spotlighting species destruction and the horrific sport of canned hunts". Ellefson later said that he and Friedman were upset that Megadeth did not win the Grammy: "It was such a bizarre moment, because it was as if the amount of work it had taken to ramp up to that hopeful night was literally gone in a second."
A world tour in support of the album was launched in late 1992 with Pantera and White Zombie as the supporting acts. The tour included a North American leg in early 1993 with opening act Stone Temple Pilots. One month into the leg, all remaining shows, including dates scheduled in Japan, were cancelled when Mustaine returned to substance abuse, ending up in a hospital emergency room. After a seven-week stint in rehab, Mustaine emerged sober again, and the band returned to the studio to record "Angry Again". The song featured the soundtrack of the 1993 film Last Action Hero and received a Grammy nomination in 1994.
During mid-1993, Megadeth performed at a number of shows with Metallica at European venues. The first was at Milton Keynes Bowl in England, and included Diamond Head. In July, Megadeth was added as the opening act for Aerosmith's Get a Grip Tour, but was removed from the bill after three shows. Aerosmith stated Megadeth was "dumped" because of Mustaine's erratic behavior, while Megadeth's label Capitol stated that it was due to "artistic restrictions". Following the canceled US tour, Megadeth returned to the studio to record "99 Ways to Die", a song that appeared on The Beavis and Butt-head Experience, a compilation album released in November 1993 that featured songs intercut with commentary by the eponymous main characters of the animated series Beavis and Butt-head. The song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1995 Grammy Awards. During the same sessions, Megadeth recorded a cover version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", which appeared on the Black Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black; it was nominated for a Grammy the following year, but did not win.
Early in 1994, Megadeth reunited with producer Max Norman to work on the follow-up to Countdown to Extinction. With three members of the band residing in Arizona, initial work began at Phase Four Studios in Phoenix. A few days into pre-production, problems with Phase Four's equipment forced the band to look for an alternative studio. Mustaine insisted on recording in Arizona, but no suitable recording facility could be found. At the request of co-producer Norman, the band opted to construct its own recording studio inside a rented warehouse in Phoenix, later dubbed "Fat Planet in Hangar 18". While the studio was being constructed, much of the pre-production songwriting and arrangements were done at Vintage Recorders in Phoenix. On the advice of Norman, the tracks on Youthanasia were at a slower tempo than on previous records, about 120 beats per minute. The band had abandoned the progressive elements from its previous records and focused on stronger vocal melodies and more accessible, radio-friendly arrangements. For the first time, the members wrote and arranged the entire album in the studio, including basic tracks recorded live by the whole band. The album's recording was filmed on video and released in 1995 as Evolver: The Making of Youthanasia.
Following eight months in the studio, Youthanasia was released in November 1994; it debuted at number four on the Billboard 200, and charted in several European countries as well. The album was certified gold in Canada the day it was released, and was certified platinum in the US two months later. The group appointed fashion photographer Richard Avedon to enhance its image. Avedon had the band members exchange their jeans and t-shirts for a more conscious appearance. To promote the album, the band played a Halloween show called "Night of the Living Megadeth" in New York City, which was broadcast live on MTV. In November, the band performed on Late Show with David Letterman on two occasions, playing "Train of Consequences" on the first appearance and "À Tout le Monde" on the second.
Live support for Youthanasia began in South America in November 1994 and spanned eleven months. Throughout 1995, the band visited Europe and North America, joined by a number of opening acts, including Corrosion of Conformity, Korn, and Fear Factory. The tour culminated in an appearance at the Monsters of Rock festival in Brazil, co-headlining with Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. In January 1995, Megadeth appeared on the soundtrack of the horror movie Demon Knight with the song "Diadems". In July, the band released Hidden Treasures, an EP featuring songs that originally appeared on movie soundtracks and tribute albums.
1996–98: Cryptic Writings
Following the expansive world tour in support of Youthanasia, Megadeth took time off late in 1995. Mustaine began work on MD.45, a side project with vocalist Lee Ving of Fear; the duo hired drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, who had played in Alice Cooper's band for the South American Monsters of Rock tour earlier that year. Marty Friedman constructed a studio in his new home in Phoenix and completed his fourth solo studio album, released April 1996.
In September 1996, Megadeth went to London to work on songs for the next album. The writing was closely supervised by new manager Bud Prager, who also contributed musical ideas and lyrics for the songs; many lyrics and song titles were changed at his request. Regarding Prager's writing influence, Mustaine later wrote, "I figured maybe this guy [Prager] could help me get that intangible number one record I so badly wanted." The album, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, was Megadeth's first collaboration with country pop producer Dann Huff, who had met Mustaine in 1990.
Cryptic Writings was released in June 1997. The album peaked at number ten on the Billboard 200, and was Megadeth's sixth consecutive studio album to be certified platinum in the United States. Its lead single, "Trust", became Megadeth's highest charting song on the Mainstream Rock Tracks, reaching number five. "Trust" was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards. Even though all four singles from the album entered the top 20 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, press response to the album was mixed. The Los Angeles Times noted the album for carrying diverse compositions, and described it as a "rousing balance" between the older material and experimental tunes. When asked about the eclectic nature of the album, Mustaine said that it was divided into thirds, one part of which was based around faster and more aggressive material, another "radio-orientated music like Youthanasia", and the final third had more melodic material.
After more than a year since the band's last concert, Megadeth returned as a live act in June 1997, beginning a world tour with the Misfits and later touring in the United States with Life of Agony and Coal Chamber. In July, Megadeth participated in Ozzfest '98 but, halfway through the tour, Menza reportedly discovered a tumor on his knee and left for surgery. Jimmy DeGrasso, who had collaborated with Mustaine in MD.45, was hired in Menza's place for the remainder of the tour. Though initially meant to be a temporary replacement, DeGrasso joined the band permanently after the conclusion of the tour. Mustaine later said that he dismissed Menza from the band because he believed Menza had lied about having cancer.
Following the band's success on mainstream radio with Cryptic Writings, Megadeth opted to work again with Dann Huff on its eighth studio album. In January 1999, the band began writing, supervised by manager Bud Prager, who was credited with co-writing five of the album's twelve songs. With high expectations following the chart success of "Trust", Prager convinced Mustaine to grant Huff even more control over the album's recording, a decision Mustaine later said "backfired".
Risk, released in August 1999, was both a critical and commercial failure and led to backlash from many longtime fans. Although its two predecessors had incorporated rock elements alongside a more traditional heavy metal sound, Risk was virtually devoid of metal. Speaking about the band's musical direction, Dave Mustaine said: "We hit the nadir of our career with Risk, and I vowed after that we were going to get back to our roots. It took a little bit of time to do that." Despite this, Risk reached gold status in the United States. The album's lead single, "Crush 'Em", appeared on the soundtrack for Universal Soldier: The Return, and was used as an entrance theme for NHL hockey games and professional wrestling events.
On July 22, 1999, former drummer Gar Samuelson died at the age of 41 in Orange City, Florida, of liver failure. Three days later, during Megadeth's performance at Woodstock 1999, Mustaine dedicated the song "Peace Sells" to Samuelson's memory. In July 1999, Megadeth recorded a cover version of the Black Sabbath song "Never Say Die" for the second Nativity in Black tribute album. The group began a world tour in support of Risk in September, playing alongside Iron Maiden during the European leg. Three months into the tour, Friedman announced that he would leave the band, citing musical differences. Mustaine later stated, "I told [Marty] after Risk that we had to go back to our roots and play metal, and he quit." In January 2000, Megadeth enlisted guitarist Al Pitrelli, formerly of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, as Friedman's replacement.
In April, Megadeth returned to the studio to work on its ninth studio release. However, one month into production, the band was given the opportunity to join the Maximum Rock tour alongside Anthrax and Mötley Crüe. Megadeth put recording on hold and toured North America throughout the second quarter of 2000. Early into the tour, Anthrax was removed from the bill, allowing Megadeth to play an extended co-headlining set. The tour, however, was greeted with poor ticket sales.
2000–01: The World Needs a Hero
After 15 years with the label, Megadeth left Capitol Records in July 2000. According to Dave Mustaine, the departure was due to the ongoing tensions between the band and Capitol management. The label returned the band's newest recordings and released a greatest hits record called Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years, which featured two new tracks, "Kill the King" and "Dread and the Fugitive Mind". In November 2000, Megadeth signed with Sanctuary Records. The band returned to the studio in October to finish the next album, The World Needs a Hero, which had been near completion before the band joined the Maximum Rock tour six months earlier. Following the overwhelming negative response to Risk, Mustaine fired manager Bud Prager and produced the album himself. The songs were by Mustaine alone, except for "Promises", which had contributions from Pitrelli. Two days before the album's official release, Megadeth featured in an episode of VH1's Behind the Music series; besides Mustaine and Ellefson, the episode showcased numerous past members, as well as Mustaine's old Metallica bandmates James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
The World Needs a Hero was released in May 2001, and debuted at number sixteen on the Billboard 200. The album was banned in Malaysia after the national government determined that the album's artwork was "unsuitable for the nation's youth". As a result, Megadeth canceled its planned concert on August 2 in the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur. The album marked the band's return to a more aggressive sound after the stylistic variations of the previous two, but critics felt it fell short of expectations. Mustaine compared the album to the first major turn of a huge ship at sea, trying to right itself and get back on course. The album's lead single, "Moto Psycho", reached number twenty-two on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
Touring in support of The World Needs a Hero began in the mid-2001 in Europe alongside AC/DC, followed by an American tour with Iced Earth and Endo in September. Mustaine let fans choose the setlist in each American city visited. The tour, however, was cut short following the September 11 attacks; all scheduled dates were canceled, including a DVD shoot in Argentina. Instead, the band played two shows in Arizona on November 16 and 17, which were filmed and released as Rude Awakening, Megadeth's first official live release. That year, Megadeth's first album, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!, was remixed and remastered using modern techniques; the reissue featured modified artwork and several bonus tracks.
In January 2002, Mustaine was hospitalized for the removal of a kidney stone and was administered pain medication that triggered a relapse of his drug addiction. Following his stay, Mustaine checked himself into a treatment center in Texas, where Mustaine suffered a peculiar injury causing severe nerve damage to his left arm. The injury, induced by falling asleep with his left arm over the back of a chair, caused compression of the radial nerve. He was diagnosed with radial neuropathy, which left him unable to grasp or even make a fist with his left hand.
On April 3, 2002, Mustaine announced in a press release that he was disbanding Megadeth as his arm injury rendered him unable to play guitar. For the next four months, Mustaine underwent intense physical therapy five days a week. Slowly, Mustaine began to play again, but had to "re-teach" his left hand. To fulfill contract obligations with Sanctuary Records, Megadeth released the compilation album Still Alive... and Well? The first half of the album contains live tracks recorded at the Web Theatre in Phoenix, while the second half contains studio recordings from The World Needs a Hero.
Following nearly a year of recovery, including physical and electric shock therapy, Mustaine began work on what was to have been his first solo album. The new material was recorded with session musicians Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmie Lee Sloas in October 2003, but the project was put on hold when Mustaine agreed to remix and remaster Megadeth's eight-album back catalog with Capitol Records. Mustaine re-recorded some parts that were altered without his knowledge in the initial mixing or missing.
2004: The System Has Failed
In May 2004, Mustaine returned to his solo project. Outstanding contractual obligations with the band's European label, EMI, resulted instead in the recording's release as a Megadeth album. Mustaine reformed the band, and contacted the fan-favorite Rust in Peace lineup to re-record backing tracks. While drummer Nick Menza agreed to return, both Marty Friedman and David Ellefson were unable to come to an agreement with Mustaine. Menza was sent home shortly after rehearsing began, a few days before the start of the tour in support of Megadeth's upcoming album. Mustaine stated that he was insufficiently prepared for the physical demands of a full US tour, and that "it just didn't work out". The resulting album was the first to not feature Ellefson. Chris Poland, who performed lead guitar on Megadeth's first two studio albums, was hired to contribute guitar solos to the new album; this was the first time the two had worked together since Poland's dismissal in the 1980s. Poland opted to serve only as a session musician, wanting to remain focused on his jazz fusion project, OHM.
The System Has Failed was released in September 2004. Critics heralded it as a return to form; Revolver gave the album a favorable review, calling it "Megadeth's most vengeful, poignant and musically complex offering since 1992's Countdown to Extinction". The album marked a shift toward the band's earlier sound; journalist Amy Sciarretto of CMJ New Music Report wrote that The System Has Failed contained "neo-thrash riffing with biting, politically charged lyrics". The album debuted at number eighteen on the Billboard 200, and was led by the radio single "Die Dead Enough", which reached number twenty-one on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Mustaine announced that the album would be the band's last and would be followed by a farewell tour, after which he would focus on a solo career.
Megadeth began the Blackmail the Universe world tour in October 2004, enlisting touring bassist James MacDonough of Iced Earth and guitarist Glen Drover of Eidolon and King Diamond. Five days before the first show, Menza was replaced by Shawn Drover, who stayed with the group as a regular member. The band toured the US with Exodus and, later in Europe, with Diamond Head and Dungeon. In June 2005, Capitol released a greatest hits compilation named Greatest Hits: Back to the Start, which featured remixed and remastered versions of songs chosen by fans from Megadeth's Capitol albums.
In the middle of 2005, Mustaine organized an annual heavy metal festival tour, dubbed Gigantour. Megadeth headlined the inaugural run with acts such as Dream Theater, Nevermore, Anthrax, and Fear Factory. Performances at the Montreal and Vancouver shows were filmed and recorded for a live DVD/CD set released in the second quarter of 2006. On October 9, 2005, following the successes of The System Has Failed and the Blackmail the Universe world tour, Mustaine announced on stage to a sold-out crowd at the Pepsi Music Rock Festival in Argentina that Megadeth would continue to record and tour. The concert, held at Obras Sanitarias stadium in Buenos Aires in front of 25,000 fans, was filmed and released on DVD as That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires in 2007.
In February 2006, bassist James MacDonough left the band over what he called "personal differences". He was replaced by James LoMenzo, who had worked with David Lee Roth, White Lion, and Black Label Society. The new Megadeth lineup made its live debut headlining the Dubai Desert Rock Festival in the United Arab Emirates, alongside Testament. In March, Capitol released a two-disc DVD titled Arsenal of Megadeth, which included archive footage, interviews, live shows, and many of the band's music videos. Due to licensing issues, movie soundtrack videos and videos not released by Capitol Records were not included. The second installment of Gigantour launched in the third quarter of 2006. Megadeth headlined the tour with Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch Enemy, and Overkill. The 2006 edition included three dates in Australia, with Soulfly, Arch Enemy, and Caliban as supporting acts.
2007–08: United Abominations
In May 2006, Megadeth announced that its eleventh studio album, United Abominations, was near completion. Originally scheduled for October 2006, Mustaine later revealed that the band was "putting the finishing touches on it", and postponed the release to May of the following year. Mustaine commented on the release, "Metal needs a really good old-school record again. I believe I have delivered." United Abominations was the band's first studio release to feature members Glen Drover, Shawn Drover, and James Lomenzo. The album features a new version of "À Tout le Monde", entitled "À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)". The 2007 version is a duet with Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil; it was recorded at a slightly faster tempo than the original version and contains an extended solo.
Released in May 2007, United Abominations debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200, selling 54,000 copies in the first week. In March 2007, Megadeth initiated a tour in North America as an opening act for the newly reformed Heaven & Hell. The group performed with Down for Canadian shows and with Machine Head for the dates in the US. This was followed by a summer festival tour through Europe. Late in the year, Megadeth returned to the United States as the headline act on its Tour of Duty tour. In November, Megadeth brought Gigantour to Australia, with a lineup that consisted of Static-X, DevilDriver and Lacuna Coil.
In January 2008, Glen Drover quit Megadeth, stating that he was tired of the frequent touring and wanted to spend more time with his family. He also cited personal issues with other band members. Drover was replaced by Chris Broderick, formerly of Nevermore and Jag Panzer. Broderick was initially contacted by Mustaine's management company at the end of 2007 and was asked if he would be interested in auditioning for Megadeth. After an informal meeting at Mustaine's house, Broderick was officially introduced as the band's new guitarist. Mustaine complimented Broderick's playing skills and called him "the best guitarist Megadeth has ever had". Broderick's former Nevermore bandmate Van Williams congratulated Megadeth on "getting one hell of a good player, more importantly they're getting a great guy to hang out with and a true friend".
The new lineup made its live debut at Helsinki Ice Hall, on February 4. The 2008 edition of Gigantour was launched shortly after, with 29 scheduled dates throughout North America. Mustaine wanted a shorter lineup of bands to allow each a chance to perform well. The third installment of the tour featured In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job for a Cowboy, and High on Fire. Megadeth continued the Tour of Duty tour in South America and Mexico throughout May and June. A compilation album called Anthology: Set the World Afire, which featured material from all Megadeth albums to that point, was released in September 2008.
In February 2009, Megadeth was scheduled, along with Testament, on the "Priest Feast" European tour with Judas Priest as headliners. At this time, Metallica, who had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, invited Dave Mustaine to attend the ceremony; Mustaine was informed that he would not be inducted to the Hall of Fame because such honors were granted only to those members who received recording credit on a Metallica album. Mustaine congratulated the group respectfully, but honored his commitment to the European tour with Judas Priest. In April, Megadeth and Slayer co-headlined Canadian Carnage. This was the first time they had performed together in more than 15 years. Machine Head and Suicide Silence opened for the four shows that occurred later in June.
In May 2009, Megadeth finished recording its twelfth album, Endgame. According to Mustaine, the name paid homage to Alex Jones' 2007 film of the same name. The release date for Endgame was announced on the Megadeth official website as September 9, 2009, and Metal Hammer was the first to review the album track-by-track. Megadeth began its Endgame tour in October, and finished it in December. The tour featured a number of supporting acts, including Machine Head, Suicide Silence, and Warbringer. In January 2010, Megadeth was set to embark on the American Carnage tour with Slayer and Testament, but the tour was postponed due to Tom Araya's back surgery. Several weeks later, Megadeth's "Head Crusher" was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards, marking the band's eighth Grammy nomination in 19 years.
In March 2010, Megadeth embarked on the Rust in Peace 20th Anniversary Tour, which took place in North America and had support from Testament and Exodus. During the tour, Megadeth played Rust in Peace in its entirety. Prior to the start of the tour, original bassist Ellefson rejoined Megadeth after eight years. In an interview for Classic Rock, he stated that Shawn Drover contacted him, informing him that bassist LoMenzo was leaving the band, saying, "if ever there was a time for you and Dave [Mustaine] to talk, now is it".
Megadeth, along with Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, collectively known as the "big four" of thrash metal, agreed to perform on the same bill during the mid-2010. These performances were part of the Sonisphere Festival and were held in a number of European countries. One such performance, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria, was filmed and released as a video album entitled The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria. These shows continued the following year in the United States. The first took place in Indio, California, and was the only scheduled show in the United States at the time, although a second American production was held at Yankee Stadium in New York City shortly afterwards.
In July 2010, after the conclusion of the European "big four" shows, Megadeth and Slayer commenced the first leg of the American Carnage Tour, where Megadeth played Rust in Peace in its entirety, while Slayer performed its album Seasons in the Abyss, both of which were released in 1990. From these shows onward, Vic Rattlehead started making sustained onstage appearances, to improve the visual facet of Megadeth's live performances. Shortly afterward, the two bands united with Anthrax for the Jägermeister Music Tour in late 2010. During the final show of the tour, Kerry King joined Megadeth on stage at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Hollywood to perform Megadeth's "Rattlehead". It was the first time that King had performed onstage with Megadeth since the latter's early shows in 1984. Megadeth and Slayer again shared the stage for the European Carnage Tour in March and April 2011. Megadeth also headlined the fourth annual Rockstar Mayhem Festival in July and August the same year.
In September 2010, the band released the DVD album Rust in Peace Live, recorded at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. Later that month, Megadeth released a song titled "Sudden Death" for the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. The song was commissioned by the publishers of Guitar Hero franchise, who wanted the track to feature dark lyrics and multiple guitar solos. It was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 2011 Grammy ceremony.
Megadeth returned to its own Vic's Garage studio to record its thirteenth album, to be produced by Johnny K, because Andy Sneap, the producer of Megadeth's previous two albums, was unavailable. The album was titled Thirteen and featured previously released tracks such as "Sudden Death" and "Never Dead". The album was released in November 2011, and charted at number eleven on the Billboard 200; its lead single "Public Enemy No. 1" received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, but did not win. Shortly after the album was released, Dave Mustaine stated that, after a four-year hiatus, there would be a new Gigantour tour in early 2012. The lineup consisted of Motörhead, Volbeat, and Lacuna Coil alongside Megadeth. After the conclusion of Gigantour, Rob Zombie and Megadeth announced a nine-date co-headlining US tour scheduled for May 2012.
2012–present: Super Collider
In September 2012, it was announced that the band would re-release Countdown to Extinction in honor of the album's 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Megadeth launched a tour in which the band performed the album live in its entirety. One such performance, filmed at the Pomona Fox Theater, was released as a live album called Countdown to Extinction: Live the following year. Additionally, another track from Thirteen, "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)", was nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, but lost to Halestorm's "Love Bites (So Do I)".
In August, the band announced the recording of its fourteenth album with producer Johnny K. At the start of 2013, Megadeth left Roadrunner Records for Mustaine's newly found label, Tradecraft, distributed through Universal Music Group. The album, Super Collider, was released in June and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, the band's highest chart position since 1994's Youthanasia. Critical reaction to the album, however, was largely negative.
Shortly after the release of Super Collider, Mustaine stated that he had already started thinking about a fifteenth Megadeth album. He said this was spurred by the then-recent death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, which gave him a sense of mortality. Mustaine elaborated, "You know, time is short. Nobody knows how long they're gonna live. You see what happened with Jeff Hanneman, so I wanna write as much as I can while I can."
The 2013 edition of Gigantour featured Black Label Society, Hellyeah, Device, and Newsted as opening bands. At the final show, Jason Newsted, Metallica's former bassist, joined Megadeth onstage to perform "Phantom Lord", a song Mustaine had written during his stint with Metallica. Early in 2014, Megadeth were slated to play the Soundwave festival in Australia, but pulled out over a disagreement with tour promoter, A. J. Maddah concerning the band's sideshows with Newsted. Icon, a 11-song compilation of Megadeth's Capitol-era material, was released as part of Universal Music's Icon series in February.
Mustaine has made numerous inflammatory statements in the press, usually regarding issues with former Metallica bandmates. The feud stemmed from his ejection from the band, how it was conducted, and disagreements on songwriting credits. Mustaine expressed his anger in the movie Some Kind of Monster, in a scene he later disapproved of as he felt he was misrepresented, and that it did not represent the full extent of what happened during the meeting.
During a live performance of "Anarchy in the U.K." at a 1988 show in Antrim, Northern Ireland, Mustaine drunkenly and confusedly dedicated the song to the "cause" of "giving Ireland back to the Irish!"[nb 1] Before the final song, Mustaine said, "This one's for the cause!" This triggered a riot and fighting between Catholics and Protestants among the audience. The band had to travel in a bulletproof bus for the remainder of the tour of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Mustaine later said that he had been misled by T-shirt bootleggers about the meaning of the expression "the cause". This incident served as inspiration for the song "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due".
Controversial and misinterpreted lyrics have caused complications for the band. For instance, in 1988 MTV deemed that the song "In My Darkest Hour" encouraged suicide and banned the video. The station banned the video for "À Tout le Monde" for the same reason, though Mustaine said the song was written from the perspective of a dying man saying his last words to his loved ones. According to him, MTV considered the videos for "Skin o' My Teeth" and "Symphony of Destruction" a "little bit too harsh" and refused to play them as well.
During a world tour in 2001, the Malaysian government canceled the band's show in the nation's capital because the authorities had a negative perception of the group's image and music. The government pointed the band's mascot Vic Rattlehead as inappropriate and told the members that they would be arrested if they performed. Dave Mustaine responded, "I recognize what the Malaysian government is trying to do, and it is admirable of them trying to protect the young people in the country. But it just shows the degree of ignorance and apathy that the government has toward the problem."
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In July 2004, Ellefson sued Mustaine for $18.5 million in Manhattan Federal Court. Ellefson alleged that Mustaine short-changed him on profits including tour merchandise and publishing royalties. The suit was dismissed in 2005, and Mustaine filed a countersuit alleging that Ellefson had used the band's name in an advertisement for musical equipment; the suit was settled out of court.
In 2003, after recovering from an arm injury that threatened to end his career, Mustaine became a born-again Christian. Minor controversy was sparked by Mustaine's announcement that Megadeth would not play certain songs live anymore due to his new identification as a Christian. In May 2005, Mustaine allegedly threatened to cancel shows in Greece and Israel with extreme metal bands Rotting Christ and Dissection due to the bands' anti-Christian beliefs. This caused the two bands to cancel appearances.
Influences and style
Traditional heavy metal bands such as UFO and Black Sabbath, New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) bands such as Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and Diamond Head, and punk rock bands such as the Sex Pistols and Ramones had a significant influence on Megadeth's sound. Hard rock bands such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin were also influential on the group's guitar style. Although the music has roots in punk, university professor Jason Bivins wrote that Megadeth followed the basic blueprint of Motörhead and Iron Maiden. He described the style as a mix of "the instrumental virtuosity of the NWOBHM with the speed and aggression of hardcore punk", while also drawing lyrical inspiration from the horror-obsessed punk band Misfits. Mustaine has also listed albums by the Beatles as recordings that influenced him.
Mustaine is the band's primary songwriter. He develops songs starting with a particular riff that, with modifications, becomes the central part of the song. He has said that song fragments are composed separately, and then the band makes a compact structure of them. Drummer Shawn Drover stated that Mustaine had saved many riffs over the years and that some recent material is based on those demo recordings. Ellefson stated that the band constantly creates new material, and that making a recording begins with exchanging ideas after which the band enters the studio and discusses the concept, direction, artwork, and song titles. Discussing the band's lyrics, Mustaine said that many of the themes are derived from literature, such as the novels of George Orwell.
The music of Megadeth and its underground metal contemporaries from the 1980s featured harsh vocals, double bass drum patterns, staccato riffing, tremolo picking and screeching lead guitar work; albums from this period were produced on low budgets. After forming Megadeth, Mustaine followed the thrash metal style of his previous band, Metallica, with more emphasis on speed and intensity. Megadeth's music is characterized by its neat instrumental performance, featuring fast rhythm sections, complex arrangements, and "snarling" vocals. When asked to describe Megadeth's guitar style, Mustaine answered: "When you go to a show and see a guitar player who just stands there, that's a guitar player. A thrash guitar player is a guy who plays like he wants to beat the guitar's guts out." Most of the songs are recorded in standard guitar tuning as Mustaine believes it to provide a superior melody to alternative methods of tuning.
During the band's early days, Mustaine was the rhythm guitarist, while Chris Poland played lead. Although Poland performed only on Megadeth's first two albums, music journalists Pete Prown and Harvey P. Newquist credit him with making the music more colorful because of his jazz influences. According to former Metal Maniacs editor Jeff Wagner, the band's songwriting techniques peaked with the fourth album, Rust in Peace, which he described as a "flurry of precision and fluidity, making good on Megadeth's claim to being the world's state-of-the-art speed metal band". Musicologist Glenn Pillsbury stated the guitar work on the album was a mixture of Mustaine's "controlled chaos" and the "technical brilliance" of Marty Friedman. Studio efforts released in the mid- and late 1990s featured songs with compact structures and less complicated riffing.
Megadeth's gloomy lyrics often focus on death, war, politics, and religion. The lyricism centers on nihilistic themes, but occasionally deals with topics such as alienation and social problems. The earliest releases featured themes such as occultism, graphic violence, and Satanism. Nuclear warfare and government conspiracy were preoccupations on albums such as Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction. During Megadeth's commercial peak, Mustaine elaborated on less controversial themes such as addiction and personal relationships. For the lyrics on Cryptic Writings, Mustaine said that he wanted to write songs that had more appeal to a wider audience. The title of United Abominations is a satiric play on the name of the United Nations; Mustaine criticized the organization's ineffectiveness on a number of songs on that record. Later albums contained lyrics in a similar vein.
Having sold over 50 million units worldwide as of 2014, Megadeth is one of the few bands from the 1980s American underground metal scene to have achieved mass commercial success. Along with contemporaries Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, Megadeth is regarded as one of the core founding groups of thrash metal. These bands are often referred to as the "big four" of thrash metal, responsible for the genre's development and popularization. Loudwire ranked Megadeth third best thrash metal band of all time, praising the group's "provoking lyrics and mind-warping virtuosity". CMJ New Music Report called the band's debut album a seminal release and a representative of "the golden age of speed metal". Similarly, Billboard called the band's second album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? a "landmark of the thrash movement" whose lyrics it found still relevant. MTV also recognized the band as an influential metal act, highlighting the technical aspect of the early albums.
Megadeth is considered one of the most musically influential groups that originated in the 1980s. As part of the early American thrash metal movement, the band's music was a direct influence on death metal. Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris wrote that the mainstream success of Megadeth was one of the reasons for the expansion of extreme metal to countries where it had previously been unknown. The band's sound and album artwork influenced a number of thrash metal bands in the 21st century, including Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Megadeth has sold 9.2 million copies of its albums in the United States between 1991 and 2014.
- 1993: Doris Day Music Award – Countdown to Extinction
- 2007: Riff Lord – Dave Mustaine
- 2009: Golden God – Dave Mustaine
- Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, guitar (1983–2002, 2004–present)
- David Ellefson – bass, backing vocals (1983–2002, 2010–present)
- Shawn Drover – drums, percussion (2004–present)
- Chris Broderick – guitar, backing vocals (2008–present)
- Gar Samuelson – drums (1984–1987)
- Chris Poland – guitar (1984–1987)
- Chuck Behler – drums (1987–1989)
- Jeff Young – guitar (1987–1989)
- Nick Menza – drums (1989–1998)
- Marty Friedman – guitar (1990–2000)
- Jimmy DeGrasso – drums (1998–2002)
- Al Pitrelli – guitar (2000–2002)
- Glen Drover – guitar (2004–2008)
- James LoMenzo – bass (2006–2010)
- 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)
- Before the show in Antrim, Mustaine discovered that bootlegged Megadeth T-shirts were on sale in the venue. The seller explained to Mustaine that he was raising money for "The Cause". Mustaine felt supportive of the idea and unknowingly dedicated the last song to the organization, saying: "This one’s for the cause, give Ireland back to the Irish, anarchy in Antrim." The quote was inspired by Paul McCartney's song "Give Ireland Back to the Irish".
- Throughout Megadeth's history, more than 20 musicians have officially been part of the band. The members which are listed here appear on at least one studio album. For further details on the topic, see the List of Megadeth band members.
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