After being ousted from Metallica, Dave Mustaine returned with a vengeance through Megadeth and has left as big of a mark as anyone in metal. With his unique guitar playing and vocal style, Mustaine took the chaos of early thrash to a more extreme level. Megadeth have consistently morphed their sound and regardless if they were playing all out thrash or more accessible radio oriented rock, it was done with class and style.
Megadeth have compiled numerous classics and their catalog is as deep as the Grand Canyon. Formed by Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson in 1983, they have influenced countless bands and have built a legacy. Playing alongside Mustaine have been some of metal’s most talented guitar players, like Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Al Pitrelli, Chris Broderick, Jeff Young, Chris Drover and Kiko Loureiro. With a back catalog as impressive as Megadeth has, it’s with careful consideration that we present our take on their best releases.
6. Countdown To Extinction (1992)
With the success of Metallica’s Black Album looming, Mustaine changed direction and delivered his first commercial outing with Countdown To Extinction. Their most commercially successful release, it single-handedly propelled Megadeth to the mainstream and masses. Tracks like “Symphony Of Destruction,” “Foreclosure Of A Dream” and “Sweating Bullets” all became gigantic hits for the band while still retaining their credibility.
What sets Countdown To Extinction apart though, are its deeper tracks. “Ashes In Your Mouth” brings progressive elements before exploding into one of their best choruses. “Skin O’ My Teeth” and “High Speed Dirt” retain the unpredictable riffing that Mustaine is so known for and “This Was My Life” was a precursor to where the band was headed.
Recommended Track: “Skin O’ My Teeth”
5. Youthanasia (1994)
After the tremendous success of Countdown To Extinction, Megadeth perfected the balance of being commercial and respectable with their sixth release Youthanasia. The hooks and melody were bigger than ever as Mustaine was growing as a vocalist. “À Tout le Monde” and “Train Of Consequences” are as catchy as anything they have released, but still retain unique riffs and chord progressions.
“Blood Of Heroes,” “Victory” and “The Killing Road” are some of their most underrated tracks of their career. They all retain classic metal riffing and some amazing guitar work from Marty Friedman and Mustaine. The title track is another intelligent diatribe against government, a topic that Mustaine has revisited multiple times over the years. The chorus is incredible, infectious and stands out on the band’s most overlooked record.
Recommended Track: “Youthanasia”
4. So Far, So Good… So What! (1988)
Released quickly on the heels of Peace Sells…, Megadeth’s third studio release So Far, So Good… So What! found the band going through their first lineup changes. Replacing the incredible duo of guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson is virtually impossible, but the songwriting of Dave Mustaine stands out and showcases Megadeth still at their peak.
“In My Darkest Hour,” “Hook In Mouth” are both Megadeth classics. Mustaine was growing as a songwriter as “In My Darkest Hour” found him traveling into uncharted territories. “Set The World Afire” was in fact the first Megadeth song ever written, but was held back until their third release. “Mary Jane,” “Liar” and “502” continued to pave the way for thrash as the material moves along with a purpose.
Recommended Track: “Hook In Mouth”
3. Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! (1985)
All of the Big 4’s debut offerings are landmark releases. Despite the fact that Megadeth were the last to unleash their debut, an argument can be easily made that Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! is the most ferocious and pushed the most boundaries. Drummer Gar Samuelson and guitarist Chris Poland’s jazz background made Megadeth an incredibly unique outfit early in their career.
The track listing is stellar. From the creepy “Looking Down The Cross” and “Skull Beneath The Skin” to the chaotic “Rattlehead” and “Loved To Death,” this a complete offering. The looseness and off the rails vibe adds to the overall charm as this is one of the finest debuts in all of metal.
Recommended Track: “Looking Down The Cross”
2. Rust In Peace (1990)
After the departure of his drummer and second guitarist yet again, Mustaine landed on the lineup that would define the band. Nick Menza and Marty Friedman solidified the revolving door of Megadeth with stellar musicianship. There are many who look at Rust In Peace to be their ultimate metal release.
Opener “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” is absolutely brilliant and could be their most complete song. Mustaine and Friedman showcase their talents throughout with dexterous blazing solos. The diversity is shown from the thrash inspired “Take No Prisoners,” “Poison Was The Cure” and “Tornado of Souls” while “Hanger 18” and the title track are both straightforward and easily accessible.
Recommended Track: “Holy Wars.. The Punishment Due”
1. Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? (1986)
1986 could easily be the most significant year in metal history. Megadeth’s sophomore release Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? is as pivotal an album as any released that year. Returning with the same lineup as their impressive debut, this time the musicianship, songwriting and confidence is increased across the board.
Featuring classics like “Wake Up Dead,” “Good Mourning/Black Friday” and the infectious title track has elevated this release as an all time classic. The angled riffing still dominates as Mustaine continues to push the limits as a thrash metal guitarist. Not a weak moment to be found, this is the most complete Megadeth offering in their catalog. Finally breaking free from the shadows of his former band, Peace Sells finds Mustaine at not only his angriest, but also his best.
Recommended Track: “Peace Sells“
Youthanasia at 5?? That album is so disjointed that it is an unpleasant listening experience. I would have picked “Cryptic Writings,” “The System Has Failed,” or “United Abominations” instead of that one.