Megadeth, in case you didn’t know, are one of the greatest metal bands of all time. To fully appreciate the endurance, drive and tenacity that this band has demonstrated over the past 27 years, you must first understand their past; and it’s somewhat legendary and totally rock and roll! Dave Mustaine is Megadeth, Megadeth is Dave Mustaine. Born in 1961 in California, Mustaine was originally the lead guitarist of Metallica, who he joined in 1981 (following a stint as a drug dealer, during which he exchanged his wares for metal records!). Days before recording was due to commence on ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (Metallica’s first album), Mustaine was booted out of the band for his violent drug/booze fuelled rages; he was in the band for just two years. He famously threw Hetfield (lead singer of Metallica) on his ass on one occasion and smoked weed (with Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer) through a hole in the ground! He even poured beer all over Ron McGovney’s (Metallica’s bassist) bass pick ups and when McGovney proceed to play, it blew him clean across the room! And so, with a one way ticket to Los Angeles, Mustaine vowed to form a band that would be bigger and better than Metallica; a vow that would haunt him for many years. The highly intelligent (wild) man, who showed some amazing guitar prowess, formed Megadeth in 1983, following a chance meeting with Dave Ellefson.
Megadeth: “a unit of one million deaths: used in estimating or predicting the fatalities that would occur in a nuclear war” – Oxford English dictionary (well actually it’s dictionary.com but Oxford sounds more impressive!).
And so it began; already they had a bigger and better name but now Mustaine and Ellefson (who was at this stage the bassist and co-founder of Megadeth) set about creating their band. At this point I must skip through some of the detail, as this band have gone through a LOT of changes over the years. They released their first album (“Killing Is My Business and Business is Good”) in 1986 and they were signed quickly afterwards to Capitol. Things were beginning to pick up pace but with success came access to copious amounts of booze and drugs, in which Mustaine indulged heavily. But things stayed on track, and Megadeth toured with Alice Cooper, King Diamond, Dio and Iron Maiden – huge names in metal, with Megadeth gaining legions of new fans along the way. Music videos came along with the emergence of MTV and Megadeth took the opportunity to reach a wider audience, despite the cries from hard core fans that they were “selling out”. Famously, Mustaine once showed up to a shoot so crippled by heroin (which he had just taken), that he could not sing and play guitar at the same time, and so they had to be cut separately (see “No More Mr. Nice Guy”).
But yet, largely due to Mustaine’s endurance and Ellefson’s steadying presence, the Megadeth machine rolled on, despite their rock and roll lifestyle. After hooking up with guitarist Marty Friedman, the band began to evolve and reach new heights of creativity. In 1990 they released their seminal, epic and timeless classic, “Rust In Peace”. Unfortunately, a certain other band had just relased the “Black Album”, which quickly went on to become one of the biggest selling metal albums of all time; and incidently so did “Rust In Peace” but just much later. Metallica seemed to start running, as Megadeth were just beginning to walk and the frustration (in conjunction with countless other personal problems) drove Mustaine deeper into the world of booze and drugs. On their first solo tour, Megadeth played with Alice in Chains in support, a sign that they had really made it into the big leagues. They provided songs for movies such as ‘Last Action Hero’ and ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey’ and Megadeth, through all this increased publicity, emerged as a well known band on the metal circuit (Pantera opened for them during one tour); with their popularity also exponentially increasing. Mustaine, however, was a mess and following several near death experiences due to herion overdose, he finally cleaned up his act (in 1995).
In 2002 Mustaine sustained massive nerve damage to his hand, which forced him into early retirement. Well, that may not be strictly true (the forcing him into retirement bit), as although the injury was crippling, Mustaine was really glad of the opportunity to take a break from the entity which had consumed his every waking moment for the last 20 years. He spent some time with his family but the music simply would not let him go (he certainly had enough money and success at this stage). He first released newly re-mastered and remixed editions of his entire back catalogue, before this taste of ‘Deth, led him to reform the band in 2004. It was during this time that Megadeth released their best album to date, in my own personal opinion, “The System Has Failed”. Touring recommenced and Megadeth went on to release another two studio albums, the last of which, “Endgame” (2009), was critically acclaimed and heralded as a return to the bands roots. This year (2010) saw the welcome return of Ellefson to the group. And so, twenty years after the album which really started the rollercoaster running, we get to witness the entire set list played in full by a reenergised, rejuvenated and more evolved Megadeth. Let’s hope that it’s a true return to form (I last saw Megadeth live in 2009 but the line up has since changed!).
“You all know why we’re here....right”
“HERE WE GO!”
Sold out at the Hollywood Palladium, close to where the band originally was conceived in 1983, a familiar riff rises above the screams of the horde of rabid fans. Launching straight into “Holy Wars”, the onslaught of Megadeth begins. The manner in which the gig is edited means that the viewer is instantly dropped smack bang in the middle of the action. The camera rapidly moves from band member to crowd, then back to band member, with breakneck speed. There are extreme close-ups of the band, as the audience sits on the frets as they shred. We leap from song to song, as Megadeth plough their way through the entire album, seemingly without a break; it’s almost as though there’s a frame change every time the band changes chord! The effect is intense and, to be honest, it’s an experience that takes you close to the real thing in terms of the music; of course there’s the added bonus of getting bashed around the place and covered in beer and other people’s sweat when you see Megadeth in the flesh! This really is a no frills production, with a simple light show standing as the only facet to accompany the band; but it somehow works. There’s no break in between songs and no crowd banter – just wall to wall metal. The full track listing is as follows:
Take No Prisoners
Poison was the Cure
Tornado of Souls
Holy Wars Reprise
Drover’s drumming is relentless and although he changes some of the patterns during some songs, I’m not complaining. He does a fantastic job, showing that he’s a real member of the band; someone who’s not afraid to make improvements, and not just some session musician. The same can be said of Broderick, who is one of the best guitarists that Megadeth has ever had. He’s really into the performance and brings great energy to his solos, nailing every note. He also has good chemistry with Mustaine on stage, which is a must. Ellefson fits like a glove and doesn’t seem to have lost it since his lengthy split from the band. Mustaine is still as gifted as ever, still plays with the same uncaring tenacity and still sings with the same snarling menace; from this performance it’s easy to see why Megadeth have remained a force in the ever changing metal scene – Nu-Metal, Death Metal, Speed Metal, Goth Metal, Doom Metal and Power Metal have all come and (in some cases) gone, but there will always be ‘Deth! Sure, some will complain about Mustaine’s obviously overdubbed vocals but to be honest, if you haven’t had your vocals questioned, you’re not a true metal vocalist. It’s a known fact that the vast majority of concert releases have some aspects overdubbed – no band wants bad press from a terrible sounding “live” release (and remember, this was the last date of a gruelling tour and Mustaine is not as young as he once was!). The first live DVD/BD from Megadeth in three years is a celebration of the seminal “Rust In Peace” album and so it becomes more about the overall experience, rather than nitpicking at the band’s performance. And what an experience it is!
As a band, Megadeth’s performance here is simply awesome. They play with unyielding speed and complexity, with Mustaine’s distinctive vocals spitting hatred and malice in a wholly convincing (and tuneful) manner, all unpinned by his patented spider riffage, Ellefson’s pounding bass and the thump of Drover’s bass drums. Megadeth have produced, in my opinion, some of the finest compositions in metal history, with “Tornado of Souls” ranking as my number one personal favourite of all time (and I would have it on points over some my Metallica favs!) They are uncompromising and play regularly to masses of fans, the original core of which would pretty much do whatever Mustaine asked them to. Their loyalty has ensured the success and continued popularity of the band amongst new fans. The music has been passed on and Mustaine continues to drive the band to new and greater things. Sure the race with Metallica is still on, with the two, in an almost repeat performance from 1990, releasing incredible “comeback” albums in the last couple of years. But the war seems to be over, which is a good thing, as it all started almost 30 years ago (and I’m sure that there are myriad of Megadeth fans who got into the band through Metallica; I know I’m one!). The two bands appeared recently, with Anthrax and Slayer, for a show called ‘The Big Four’, further indicating that Mustaine has now firmly put the past behind him. This reviewer is highly anticipating the aforementioned historic release, which features four of the best metal bands on the planet, competing in the ultimate battle of the bands! The review disc is on its way, so watch this space! It will also be interesting to draw comparisons, regarding Mustaine’s vocals, on both releases.
Mustaine has something that most music fans would die for; a band that has endured and remained commercially successful through some incredible situations. And behind it all there is one man. Mustaine has custom made guitars and amps that are available for purchase in stores; he ran his own coffee company; he has appeared on a Sci-Fi channel television series as a regular bad guy (‘The Black Scorpion’; “The Scorpion”, coincidently, is another of my all time favourite songs). Mustaine, if he continues on his path of the righteous production of awesome metal, will someday be compared to Lemmy Kilmister (plus commercial success), and that’s something to be proud of. This release is simply a testament to the greatness of Megadeth and with them sounding their best, and performing this classic album live, this is a no brainer buy for all metal and music fans in general. Guaranteed to get your head banging, although I am a slightly biased Megafan!
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