Megadeth is an American thrash metal band, formed in Los Angeles, California. It was created in 1983 by Dave Mustaine (lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter), after he was expelled from Metallica, where he held the position of lead guitarist. Megadeth is one of the Big Four of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax.
Megadeth is known for its distinctive style on guitars, Mustaine’s peculiar way of singing, the musical complexity shaped by the great technique that his music contains, and the themes of his lyrics, often about anti-establishment, politics, war, and on occasion – romantic relationships.
Through its more than 30 active years, Megadeth has had a large number of official members, with Mustaine being the only permanent member, and the main composer. Bassist David Ellefson has participated in most of Megadeth’s albums and tours, being absent for only 8 years. In all this time, the band has released fifteen studio albums, three EPs, and two live albums.
Megadeth had a number of platinum and gold albums (six in a row in the United States), including the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated album Countdown to Extinction in 1992. The band has received a total of twelve Grammy Award nominations and earned one in 2017 for the song “Dystopia” from the self-titled album. In addition, it has appeared several times in the top 10 of the Billboard charts, selling more than 50 million copies worldwide.
The group disbanded in 2002 after Mustaine suffered a serious injury to the nerves in his left arm as a result of falling asleep on it, but after intense physical therapy, the guitarist reunited the band in 2004 and continues to lead it to this day. Since the disbandment, Megadeth has released 6 studio albums and has undergone constant line-up changes.
When Lars Ulrich searched for a permanent guitarist for Metallica in a local newspaper in 1982, Dave Mustaine answered and showed up at an audition, whereupon he was admitted to the band. The following year he was fired from Metallica for drunkenness and violence when the band was in New York. Mustaine took a bus to Los Angeles, and during a week-long trip, he got the idea for the band and the name Megadeth, which he saw in a magazine article about the nuclear war. Expression “Megadeath” means “a million dead“, but Mustaine chose to drop the “a” to make the name “their own“.
Dave Mustaine met bassist David Ellefson, who was eighteen years old at the time. Since both Mustaine and Ellefson are named David, Mustaine ended up calling Ellefson “Dave jr.” They considered calling the band “Fallen Angel” which was the name of an earlier project by Mustaine, but settled on Megadeth.
They later found a drummer, Lee Rausch, and an additional guitarist, Kerry King. The latter also played at some concerts, but soon returned to the thrash metal band Slayer of which he was originally a member. Guitarist Greg Handevidt came in for a few weeks. The next guitarist was Chris Poland, and together they recorded the demo Last Rites. Drummer Lee Rausch left the band and Dijon Carruthers became the new member shortly before Gar Samuelson took over. Megadeth’s first concert was held on February 15, 1984.
In early 1985, the band received $8,000 to record their debut album, which they produced themselves. “Killing Is My Business … And Business Is Good!” was recorded and released in May 1985. The album was well received by both the press and metal fans. Next year, Megadeth released “Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?” with the crew consisting of Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson, but they thought the record company Combat Records had given them small budget, and switched to Capitol Records, which bought the rights to the upcoming album. In November 1986, the album was released.
Guitarist Chris Poland struggled with substance abuse problems, and during the 1985 tour had to stand over, while Mike Albert took his place. Chris Poland was fired two years later on suspicion of stealing the band’s music equipment and selling it to fund his heroin addiction. Drummer Gar Samuelson also left the band, and was replaced by Chuck Behler. Now Megadeth was looking for a new guitarist and had several auditions. Jay Reynolds joined as a guitarist for some concerts during the 1987 tour, before Jeff Young took over as a permanent guitarist.
This lineup recorded the album “So Far, So Good … So What!” in 1988, but as soon as the next tour was over, both Jeff Young and Chuck Behler were fired.
Marty Friedman and Nick Menza then took over and this lineup lasted for eight years. Together they recorded four albums. In 1998 Nick Menza left the band due to a knee injury.
Albums “Rust in Peace” (1990) and “Countdown to Extinction” (1992), were both a success, followed by another well-received album, “Youthanasia” (1994).
After Youthanasia, Mustaine changes producer to Dann Huff, but the next album, called “Cryptic Writings” (1997) received relatively mediocre reviews in the heavy metal scene, but reached a wider audience. Megadeth’s music became popular on the radio for the first time.
Nick Menza was replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso. The album “Risk” he participated on was talked down by most fans and media, and was a commercial failure.
After Risk, Marty Friedman left Megadeth in favor of the Japanese rock band Aikawa Nanase. He was replaced by Al Pitrelli, and “The World Needs a Hero” (2001) was recorded.
On April 3, 2002, Dave Mustaine told fans he had to leave Megadeth due to a nerve injury in his arm. The doctor had told him that he would never be able to play the guitar again. The rest of the band would not continue without Mustaine, and the band’s time was over.
As Mustaine received treatment for his arm, it got better and he started writing new songs that would become an album originally named “Blackmail the Universe“, but this name was changed to “The System Has Failed” (recorded with Dave Mustaine, Chris Poland, Jimmy Sloas, and Vinnie Colaiuta).
Megadeth then saw more changes in the lineup, this time consisting of Dave Mustaine (guitar and vocals), James MacDonough (bass) and the brothers Shawn (drums) and Glen Drover (guitar) from Eidolon.
In February 2006, bassist James MacDonough left the band. He was replaced by James Lomenzo of the White Lion and Black Label Society.
Megadeth released the studio album “United Abominations” on May 14, 2007. In June 2007, the band started its own tour called “Tour of Duty“, which continued as “Gigantour“.
On January 13, 2008, the band announced that guitarist Glen Drover was leaving the band to focus on the family. He was replaced by Chris Broderick (former member of Nevermore and Jag Panzer).
In January 2009, Megadeth began recording their new album “Endgame” in Dave Mustaine and Megadeth’s own studio, Vic’s Garage. In March, the band took part in the Priest Feast tour, which consisted of the heavy metal band Judas Priest as headliner and the thrash metal band Testament as the opening band.
In April, Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Mustaine was not part of it, but was invited.
On February 8, 2010, former bassist David Ellefson rejoined Megadeth. In June 2010, Megadeth played for the first time with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, the other three bands from the “Big Four“. This happened under the auspices of the Sonisphere Festival, a festival that travels around Europe in summer. The event first took place in Warsaw, Poland on June 16 in front of an estimated 80,000-1,000,000 fans. In total, The Big Four played in seven cities around Europe and the concert in Sofia, Bulgaria on June 22 was filmed for a DVD / Blu-ray release. Here, members of all four bands played the Diamond Head song “Am I Evil” as part of Metallica’s set.
Megadeth’s thirteenth studio album was produced by Johnny K, due to the fact that Andy Sneap, who had produced their two previous albums, was not available. The album was titled “Thirteen” and contained previously unreleased songs such as “Sudden Death” and “Never Dead.”
It was released in November 2011 and peaked at number eleven on the US Billboard 200 chart. The first single “Public Enemy No. 1” received a Grammy nomination for best hard rock / metal performance, which they lost to the Foo Fighters song “White Limo“.
Shortly after the album was released, Dave Mustaine commented that after four years of hiatus, Gigantour would return at the beginning of 2012, and would also include Motörhead, Volbeat and Lacuna Coil.
Album “Super Collider” was released on June 4, 2013 through Mustaine’s record label Tradecraft, and distributed through Universal Music Group after the band’s contract with Roadrunner Records ended. This album reached number 6 in the United States, as well as number 7 in Argentina and Norway, while in Canada and Finland it reached number 4. As part of the promotion of the new album, the band performed at the Gigantour with Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah and Newsted. At the end of the festival Megadeth performed with ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted “Phantom Lord“, an original Metallica song written by Mustaine when he was a member.
In November 2014, Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover announced their departure from the band. On March 28, 2015 it was announced that Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler joins Megadeth as studio drummer. Later on, Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro officially joined the band. Even though not a permanent member, Chris Adler appeared in the official photo of the band and played in concerts.
2016 album “Dystopia” has received very good reviews from fans of the band, claiming a return to the classic sounds of Megadeth. It debuted at number three on The Billboard 200 chart, making Dystopia the band’s second-highest album on this chart, after Countdown to Extinction, which peaked at number two in 1992.
On May 21, 2016, ex-Megadeth drummer Nick Menza died at a show with his new band OHM at Baked Potato in California. In front of a large number of fans, he suffered a cardiac arrest while the group played their third song. He was pronounced dead a few hours later.
Megadeth’s drum technician Tony Laureano alternated on drums with Chris Adler when the latter couldn’t play due to his commitment to the Lamb of God tour. Swedish band Soilwork’s drummer Dirk Verbeuren later joined Megadeth.
In 2017, after twelve nominations, Megadeth won a Grammy in the category of Best Metal Performance, for the song “Dystopia“, prevailing over Baroness, Gojira, Korn, and Periphery.
I took pictures of Megadeth on November 23, 2004 at Red’s in West Edmonton Mall. Their opening act was Exodus: