MEGADETH (1983–PRESENT). Dave Mustaine (vocals, guitar), Matt Kisselstein (bass, replaced by David Ellefson), Lee Rausch (drums, replaced by Gar Samuelson, Chuck Behler, Nick Menza, Jimmy Degrasso, Vinnie Colaiuta, Shawn Drover).
Megadeth is one of the longest lasting of the speed/thrash metal bands of the early eighties, and although lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine has grown in talent, the essential Megadeth formula has not. They started in 1983, after Mustaine’s acrimonious and bitter departure from a prerecorded Metallica (disputes over songwriting credits continued for years after Mustaine left the band). Mustaine wished to build a band as hard and fast as Metallica and in Megadeth he found his true calling. The first record, Killing Is My Business … And Business Is Good!, was a thrash classic, showing that Mustaine had not slowed down a bit by the lack of his partners in Metallica, and with bassist Dave Ellefson, he had a reliable new band for the inevitable conquest of America.
The next two records, Peace Sells… and So Far, So Good…, gave new definition to what could almost be called “melodic thrash” with Mustaine’s gritty vocals and guitar pyrotechnics anchoring the band’s signature sound. (They also proved that a band could use the ellipses successfully, at least for several records.) However, as the nineties commenced, a sense of sameness began to creep into the music, and by Cryptic Writings, it seemed as though Mustaine was only going through the motions. Mustaine apparently had enough as well, and from 2002–04 the band was dormant until he decided to revive it with yet another slew of new members.
A key problem with Megadeth was consistency, and the band has gone through a bewildering array of personnel changes, with only bassist Ellefson lasting more than a few years (Ellefson was in the band for almost twenty years, 1983–2002), and culminating in the band’s break-up for two years from 2002–04. Today the band consists of Mustaine and three members who have only been in the band for a few years, and Ellefson has sued Mustaine over the ownership of the name Megadeth.
Mustaine revived Megadeth in 2004 for The System Has Failed and was back angrier than ever, but for different reasons than in the past. Apparently Mustaine has surprisingly become a born-again Christian and will no longer play some earlier songs live because of their lyrical content (Mustaine will apparently no longer cover the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” for the opening line about being the anti-Christ.) Mustaine has also evolved into a fairly conservative political commentator. In an interview with The American Spectator, Mustaine has railed against the United Nations (the source of the last Megadeth studio record United Abominations) for including nations like Syria on the UN Security Council and has written pro-Israel and explicitly Christian songs.
Mustaine is one of the most intriguing and frustrating men in heavy metal. He is without doubt a true innovator and one of the most successful guitarists and vocalists in metal history, but his inability to get through most interviews and his abrupt shifts in opinion make him almost unreadable. Perhaps that’s okay and fans should concentrate more on the music than on the man himself.
Discography: Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good! (Combat, 1985); Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? (Combat/Capitol, 1986); So Far, So Good… So What! (Capitol, 1988); Rust in Peace (Combat/Capitol, 1990); Countdown to Extinction (Combat/Capitol, 1992); Youthanasia (Capitol, 1994); Hidden Treasures (Capitol, 1995); Cryptic Writings (Capitol, 1997); Risk (Capitol, 1999); Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years (Capitol, 2000); The World Needs a Hero (Sanctuary, 2001); Rude Awakening Live (Sanctuary, 2002); The System Has Failed (Sanctuary, 2004); United Abominations (Roadrunner, 2007); That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires (Image Entertainment, 2007); Endgame (Roadrunner, 2009).