Friday, May 25, 2012

'Deth Is Not The End

Here's to Megadeth, the most surprisingly long-lived and consistently amazing thrash metal band in history.  After the egomaniacal young guitar virtuoso Dave Mustaine was booted from Metallica in 1983, he channeled his desire for vengeance into a band whose speed and venom ran vertiginous circles around his former band.  Megadeth truly was a unique beast at that time, boasting two players of the punk / speed metal persuasion, and two others from a Jazz Fusion background.  No band as technically gifted as Megadeth aimed so squarely at the mosh pits.  While more progressive ensembles could boast comparable or superior skill, Megadeth was more interested in beating the audience senseless than dazzling them with time signatures.

A few things worked against them from the start, chief among them being rampant substance abuse.  Megadeth was collectively full of so many volatile chemicals that if shaken too hard they might actually have exploded.  Marry this to the unstable personalities of the band members themselves, and low recording budgets that only got lower as they were wasted on progressively more expensive drugs, and it's no wonder that their early material was so damn erratic.  But there's something about the sheer blinding insanity of it all that makes Megadeth Mark I a truly unique beast.

"Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!" was an astounding debut marred at the time by atrocious production (and that unspeakably poor cover art).  Thankfully, we youngsters can now buy the 2002 reissue from Loud Records that unearthed the masterpiece buried within.  It stands up better than most early thrash records (now that we can actually hear what the hell is going on), because Mustaine was the rare virtuoso shredder trying to do nothing more than whip the pits into a frenzy (Only early Testament comes close on this score).

The band's follow up "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" was more musically accomplished, but the songs were just a bit more boring.  Plus, Mustaine's vocals on that record are arguably his worst ever (and they're an aquired taste to begin with).  Still, "Woke Up Dead", "Peace Sells", and "Bad Omen" always get my blood pumping.  At this point band members started not showing up to gigs and pawning equipment for heroin, and disintegration followed.  Given this early history, nobody would have expected Megadeth to have lasted more than a few years at best before killing themselves.

Against all odds, Mustaine has carved out a 30 year career with a revolving door band line-up (consisting of whoever can stand to hang around him long enough to record a proper record).  After all of those burned bridges, changes of fashion, pointless feuds with other bands, and the occasional awful, awful record, Megadeth has remained my favorite metal ensemble for two reasons: Mustaine is a phenomenal guitarist, and he is nearly as gifted a songwriter.  I could play you five Megadeth songs back to back from various eras, and aside from the vocals you would never guess they were the same group.  Dave's written violent thrashers, emotional ballads, personal statements, political rants, spoken word craziness, and blatant radio pop.

Wanna explore some 'Deth?  You might as well start with their 2010 album Endgame, which is their best album in a decade and shows off how well their new sound blends shredding and violence with powerful songwriting.  You also can't go wrong with the 1992 high-water mark "Countdown to Extinction".  It's mostly mid-tempo, radio friendly metal (ala "Black Album" Metallica), but also Megadeth's most consistently well written record by a long shot.

Check out these great samples from YouTube, and throw the horns!

"Rattlehead" (from "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!")
"Sweating Bullets" (from "Countdown to Extinction")
"44 Minutes" (from "Endgame")

No comments:

Post a Comment