5. Countdown to Extinction (1992)
Losing the #1 Billboard spot to Billy Cyrus‘s colossal country pop hit “Achy Breaky Heart” bites, but taking the number 2 spot is still pretty good for a thrash band started by a homeless drug dealer, less than ten years earlier. This is Megadeth‘s most perfect sounding album, immaculately polished and bright, it turns the music into a silver sharp blade that cuts right through your eardrums, as every instrument and note is perfectly recorded and performed. Obvious hits and mega classics aside, the album features the criminally underrated “This Was My Life”, and a plethora of great songs, lost in the sea of an illustrious 35 year career. Songs like “Ashes in Your Mouth,” “Skin O’ My Teeth,” and “High Speed Dirt” never seem to age; ‘energy of the Gods, adrenaline surge’ indeed.
4. Dystopia (2016)
For the purposes of this article, I re-listened to the discography, and in the case of an album like RISK, it was a tepid affair; Dystopia, despite knowing this album very well, still surprised me. Classic sounding guitar work from Mustaine, and the new ace guitarist (the bar is already set high) Kiko Loureiro, carries himself well, and brings in his own sound, showcasing some of his range in “Poisonous Shadows” and “Conquer or Die!”. Already a legend for his own groundbreaking work in Lamb of God, Chris Adler is a Megadeth droogie; he loves the band and sites them as one of his influences, and it seems like he drums with this passion for this recording. He brings back the dynamic fluidity to the drums that Megadeth albums have been missing for a while. The album tells a story, it does go off into the deep end, however, suspension of belief is a beautiful thing, and there are great lyrics here. The fun “The Emperor”, for example, is kind of hilarious. Dave opens himself up with his lyrics, and I always look forward to hearing them. Only filler song on this great album would be “Bullet To The Brain”, and it’s still a good song.
3. Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986)
This was the first CD I ever bought; I had the Youthanasia and Countdown to Extinction tapes, and a Rust in Peace/So Far So Good mix back from the tape trading days. Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? was the first metal album I got ‘obsessed’ with; so much so I got the Vic from the album cover tattooed on my arm when I was 17. The music is classic, and even though I personally still prefer the original over the re-mastered version, you hear the instruments better, and is a more updated and modern sound for a first time listener. Gar Samuelson is one of those drummers that was ahead of his time as far as metal drumming is concerned; his fluid style, off beat sensibility, seamless speed, and wizard fills, influenced a generation of drummers, and probably still does. The album itself broke Megadeth out into the mainstream with the title track. Highlights include “The Conjuring,” “Good Mourning/Black Friday”, and “Devil’s Island”; the whole album really.
2. Rust In Peace (1990)
1990 was a great year for metal in general, and thrash specifically; many of the great bands released seminal albums, and Megadeth was no different. The opening track “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” immediately sets the tone that this is better than anything out there in the thrash world, and the rest of the album elucidates a similar truth. Along with “Hanger 18”, with the fun hook laden lyrics, and twin guitar mastery from two of metal’s greatest at their zenith, and the WWII General Patton inspired “Take No Prisoners”, deliver a three point combination, letting everyone know Megadeth is on the forefront of their genre. Marty Friedman delivers one of the greatest solos of his career in “Tornado of Souls”, and the great late Nick Menza is properly introduced to the world. This is an album that belongs on the top of some greatest-of-all-time list, however, this is Megadeth…
1. Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good! (1985)
Dave Mustaine can be ahead of the curve when it comes to writing metal songs, and the piano intro to the opener “Loved to Deth/Last Rites”, is a glimpse into his pioneering vision (considering how stigmatized the instrument was at the time). The musicianship on the album is near surreal, with Gar Samuelson and Chris Poland ‘s demon jazz approach, and Dave Mustaine’s unique brand of playing, plain evil riffs and songwriting, syncopate into a monster album that no other band at the time could touch, and a lot of today’s thrash and hardcore bands could learn from. This is a mission statement from the band, with “Skull Beneath The Skin” brutally telling the story of the band’s mascot Vic Rattlehead, and the mile a minute “Rattlehead” speaks directly to mosh heads spazzing in the pits, telling us all to ‘rattle our goddamned heads!’ The build up and climax, with the ensuing collapse of David Ellefson’s bass run, makes for an immensely entertaining “Chosen Ones”, while the moody “Looking Down the Cross” tells the story of the crucifixion form the first person perspective, and lays down hints as to the commercial potential of Dave’s songwriting, as well as his propensity for ecclesiastic lyrics. Even though the music carries it, the original release has terrible sound, as the drums are buried and the instruments are muddy. Luckily, the band re-mixed and re-released the album.