In discussing the latest rumors around possible lineup changes in Megadeth during last week’s podcast, something hit me: there was actually a time when the band was more than just Super Collider, taco dates and insane, ridiculous face-opening. I know it seems shocking now, but seriously, they used to be more than a punch line! Sure, the band’s had its share of misses over the years, but when they hit, holy hell did they hit: Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, Rust in Peace, you name it. Hell, even The System Has Failed was fantastic. So without any further ado, let’s get this week’s Top 10 going and look back on Musty’s former glory!
“Skin O’ My Teeth” (from Countdown to Extinction, 1992)
Call Countdown Megadeth’s “sell-out album,” their “mainstream album,” whatever you will—just don’t for a second deny the absolute badassery that is “Skin O’ My Teeth.” A just-over-three-minute kick in the ass that’s both catchy and aggressive, this thing’s made to be blasted out of your car while doing 75 miles an hour—a fantastic way to open both an album and a playlist. What a damn tune.
“Die Dead Enough” (from The System Has Failed, 2004)
The System Has Failed really didn’t have any business being as good as it was. It came two years after Dave Mustaine had broken up, then reformed the band—which itself came after three straight mediocre-at-best albums in the late ’90s and early ’00s. And then it dropped, and…they were back! Instantly! As if they’d never left! Tons of highlights on this album, but for me, “Die Dead Enough” remains the favorite—if only for nostalgia at how excited my tenth-grade self was upon first listen.
“Hangar 18” (from Rust in Peace, 1990)
As if this thing wasn’t going to be on here? It’s off my favorite Megadeth album and is, by a hair, my favorite song from that album. Those pristine, harmonized riffs, the fantastic lead work from Marty Friedman, and one of the cheesiest, most ridiculous music videos ever produced? Yeah, “Hangar 18” is pretty much legion as far as Megadeth’s concerned. Don’t mess around.
“Wake Up Dead” (from Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?, 1986)
“Wake Up Dead” wastes no time whatsoever, busting right out with crushing riff after crushing riff. It may not be the thrashiest thing you’ve ever heard all throughout, but each shift is thoroughly effective at creating the kind of menacing, pace-setting sound you want from an album opener. And the song’s final minute—where it develops a kind of grooving, almost “thrashy dance” feel? Just a gem.
“Symphony of Destruction” (from Countdown to Extinction, 1992)
Another mid-period gem, and one of the first ‘deth songs I ever heard. (Thanks, Guitar One magazine!) For a middle / high schooler like I was, this kind of thing was the perfect gateway into proper metal. At the time, I hadn’t yet gotten into the super-heavy side of the spectrum, so for me, “Symphony of Destruction,” with its ominous, power-chord riff, driving, straightforward rhythm and ridiculously catchy chorus, was perfect. And it’s still pretty damn good today.
“Train of Consequences” (from Youthanasia, 1994)
Youthanasia showed its mettle by taking the Countdown to Extinction formula—hard rocking riffs, catchy choruses, etc.—and simply streamlining it. It’s a more consistent version of its predecessor, and “Train of Consequences” is a perfect reflection of that. Even though it’s off one of their polished, post-“sellout” albums, the song has a strange kind of raw feel to it, especially given one of Mustaine’s raspiest vocal performances to date. Seriously, just try to avoid humming along with it. You won’t be able to.
“Peace Sells” (from Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?, 1986)
Of course “Peace Sells” was going on here. There’s something about the descending tailspin of a solo that just grabs you right from the intro. (To say nothing of Dave Ellefson’s opening bass line, a.k.a. MTV News‘s intro theme!) The riffing’s solid and the chorus eminently singalong-able, but for me, this thing’s calling card is its total descent into chaos, beginning about halfway through. It gets faster, fires off more solos, and just begins to sweep away everything in its path. Hang on for dear life.
“Addicted to Chaos” (from Youthanasia, 1994)
Let’s be real for a minute here: the second and final track from Youthanasia on my list, (“A Tout Le Monde” just missed out) “Addicted to Chaos,” isn’t really all that metal, per se. In fact, it’s quite comfortably in mid-tempo hard rock territory. But at the same time, it feels perfectly comfortable with what it is; there’s almost a kind of swagger to it! Once again, the chorus absolutely kills it, with a terrific, ascending guitar line and some absolutely infectious, harmonized vocals. Just fantastic.
“Trust” (from Cryptic Writings, 1997)
So in terms of distaste for Megadeth’s sonic evolution during the ’90s, I’m more or less on-board with everything up to Cryptic Writings. As a whole, the album just doesn’t do it for me. But its lead single, “Trust,” somehow finds a way to. With a hint of the apocalypse lingering all throughout (that tom-driven drum pattern in the intro? That riff??), it’s one of the more ominous things the band’s done. Something about it just works, and I’ve always been a fan.
“Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” (from Rust in Peace, 1990)
What can you really say here? “Holy Wars” really goes places in its six-and-a-half minutes—from a feverish whirlwind to more measured melodicism and then back into utter chaos. From a technical standpoint, Megadeth’s rarely (if ever) been better. It’s an absolute masterpiece from start to finish.
The Horns Up Top 10 on Spotify
What do you think? Share any differences of opinion with us in the comments!
Keep it heavy,