Members: Dave Mustaine, Glen Drover, Shawn Drover, James LoMenzo
Active: 1983-2002, 2004-present
Shortly after lead guitarist Dave Mustaine was fired from Metallica due to alcohol problems and personality conflicts (James Hetfield claims Dave, after having drunk a lot, kicked his dog), Mustaine, guitarist Greg Handevidt and bassist David Ellefson formed Megadeth. As Mustaine himself says, "I could only focus on one thing [after being kicked out of Metallica]: I wanted blood... theirs." After searching for a vocalist and not finding what he wanted, Mustaine became the band's singer and primary lyricist as well as the main songwriter and lead guitarist. Handevidt left the band in late 1983 to form Kublai Khan. The band soon added jazz fusion drummer Gar Samuelson and guitarist Kerry King (of Slayer fame). King was only a temporary member, covering a handful of live dates while a replacement for Handevidt was sought. King was replaced later the same year by Chris Poland, a friend of Gar's.
In late 1984, they were signed to Combat Records, and in May 1985 they released their first album, entitled Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!. The band had been allotted $8,000 to record and produce the album, but spending half of that budget on drugs, the sound quality left much to be desired. The band was forced to fire their original producer and produce the album themselves. Even with its somewhat poor production, Megadeth's debut was a well-received album that blended elements of thrash, speed metal and punk rock.
In November 1986 they released their second album, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, which is regarded by many critics as Megadeth's finest hour and a ground-breaking thrash metal album. Better production and more sophisticated songwriting earned Megadeth immense respect and cemented their place alongside Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax in the "Big Four of Thrash". Later that same year, Megadeth signed with Capitol Records, who also bought the rights to Peace Sells... from Combat.
Gar Samuelson and Chris Poland were fired from the band after the final show of a Hawaiian tour, amidst rumors of drug abuse by the entire band. Mustaine claimed that Samuelson had become too much to handle when intoxicated and that Poland had been selling band equipment to fund his drug habit. Because of this, Mustaine wrote the song "Liar" and dedicated it to Poland. The replacements were Chuck Behler on drums and Jeff Young on guitars.
SO, FAR SO GOOD...SO WHAT?
March 1988, the new line-up released their next album, So Far, So Good... So What!. The album, although a commercial success was widely panned by critics, who complained that the album sounded "stale" and was inconsistent. A cover of the Sex Pistols' Anarchy In The UK polarized fans, with some enjoying it and others seeing as indicative of the entire album's failure. The band appeared in Penelope Spheeris' 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. The video for In My Darkest Hour (inspired by the death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton) was filmed by Spheeris and used in the movie. Also the band was interviewed, including Mustaine talking about not wanting to be a celebrity and Jeff discussing that he does not do drugs. An outtake for the movie, in which Mustaine claims "GLAM stands for Gay L.A. (Los Angeles) Music" appears on the Megadeth episode of Behind the Music. On Megadeth's Rusted Pieces VHS Mustaine and Ellefson discuss the movie as a disappointment which paired them with "shit bands." The lineup that had recorded So Far, So Good... So What! was short-lived, as Chuck and Jeff were fired in 1988.
Nick Menza was hired to replace Behler on the drums, and the group recorded a cover of Alice Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy," the only song ever recorded by Megadeth as a trio. Mustaine held tryouts for many guitarists, one of them being the late Darrell Abbott, (Dimebag Darrell) whom Mustaine liked but did not hire because Abbott would not play without his brother Vinnie Paul playing drums, and Mustaine had just hired Menza. Marty Friedman, who had played in Cacophony with Jason Becker, was initially ruled out by Mustaine for having two-tone hair, but was eventually hired to replace Young on lead guitar.
THE RUST IN PEACE ERA
The Mustaine/Ellefson/Friedman/Menza line-up became the most stable and successful of Megadeth's career, recording four well-received albums, and created Megadeth's reputation as a band that could not only play metal well, but also create more commercially acceptable offerings.
In 1990, Megadeth showed no sign of weakening. The band's fourth album, Rust in Peace, is still regarded by many to be one of, if not the most technically sophisticated and exciting speed/thrash metal album ever released. Singles for "Hangar 18" and "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" were successful, as Megadeth's characteristically caustic and catchy lyrics and raw, fast, thrash-metal riffs were finally captured with a clear and precise production, which allowed all the nuances of Mustaine's guitar compositions to be heard. Rust in Peace showcased a level of technical complexity akin to progressive metal.
The band's first home video Rusted Pieces was released in 1991 and showcased all the music videos up to that point. In between the videos the band was interviewed with reflections on the career and the introduction of Nick and Marty to the band.
In July 1992, Megadeth released the album Countdown to Extinction. It became an instant hit, reached #2 on the Billboard album charts, and went multi-platinum: Mustaine himself said that he measured his future successes against those of Countdown. The album featured noticeably simpler song structures, catchy melodic "hooks," and an increased emphasis on the singer's voice. Megadeth, however, successfully integrated these changes into their typical cynical, ironic and heavily political lyrical themes. The song Architecture of Aggression features the sound of CNN and ABC reporters excitedly watching and commenting on the opening shots of the Gulf War and Foreclosure of a Dream, a song discussing the recession and its particular effect on American agriculture, has the infamous "Read my lips" promise of George H. W. Bush (under the pressure from the U.S. Congress, this promise was later to be broken) of not raising taxes.
Arguably, the album was Megadeth's first true attempt at breaking into the mainstream rock market in which they had never gained a major foothold. Mustaine and the rest of the band members were frustrated, however, that Billy Ray Cyrus kept them out of Billboard's number-one spot with Achy Breaky Heart and although they were nominated for a grammy Nine Inch Nails took home the award for Wish.
The band released their second home video, Exposure of a Dream, in 1993. The video featured all the music videos from Countdown as well as the video for "Go to Hell." This video was a part two of the band's music videos continuing in a similar to fashion to Rusted Pieces.
The following album, Youthanasia, was delivered in 1994, and it also became a great success. Continuing the new direction indicated by Countdown To Extinction, Youthanasia featured a still-more-relaxed sound and generally slower songs ? slower than some older fans could tolerate. The unusual Beats Per Minute (BPM) parity on the album is attributed to producer Max Norman, who apparently made Megadeth use around 120 BPM on every song in order to try and make Megadeth's music more acceptable to rock radio. This led to some backlash from long term fans and the "sell out" term was starting to show up.
The band's recording experience for Youthanasia was captured for Evolver: The Making of Youthanasia, in which the building of the recording studio, recording, mixing, artwork, and photography was explained. Dave Mustaine starred in this video as a teacher, explaining the recording process to elementary school children. This was to become the band's third home video and included the music video for "Train of Consquences."
CRYPTIC WRITINGS AND RISK
Their next album, entitled Cryptic Writings was released in 1997. This album had more pop influences than the previous ones, but its sound was still unmistakably Megadeth's. Nick Menza had left due to an injury in 1998, and replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso, a drummer Mustaine had worked with on his MD.45 project.
In 1999 computer game development company 3D Realms announced that they would be using various unreleased Megadeth tracks on their promotional album "Duke Nukem: Music To Score By". Megadeth also recorded a rendition of the famous Duke Nukem theme song "Grabbag", originally composed by Lee Jackson.
The pop influences were even more evident on the following album, 1999's Risk, which suffered from lacklustre sales and poor response from critics and fans alike. Shortly after its release Marty Friedman left the band and was replaced by Al Pitrelli formerly of Savatage. Looking for a way to end their contract with Capitol Records, the band released a greatest-hits collection entitled Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years (2000). This compilation included two new tracks 'Kill the King' and 'Dread and the Fugitive Mind' that the band was contractually obligated to give to Capitol.
FROM CAPITOL TO SANCTUARY
In 2001 Megadeth signed a deal with Sanctuary Records. Shortly thereafter, they put out a new album, entitled The World Needs a Hero, which received a generally positive reception. Many fans heralded it as a return to form, based on great new songs like "Recipe for Hate... Warhorse" and "Burning Bridges". Still, many felt that it fell short of their expectations for the band, and Mustaine himself likened the album to the first major turn of a huge ship at sea, trying to right itself and get back on course. The band toured for the album in 2001, and finished up with a couple of concerts in Arizona which were recorded and released as a double-disc live album and DVD called Rude Awakening. (Originally the live album/DVD was to be recorded in Argentina, but those dates were cancelled due the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.A.)
THE WORLD WITHOUT MEGADETH
On April 3, 2002, Mustaine announced in a press release that he was leaving the band, officially due to an injury that caused nerve damage to his left arm. He was diagnosed with radial neuropathy that was induced by falling asleep with his arm over the back of a chair, causing compression of the radial ulner nerve - a devastating injury for any musician. This seemed to mark the end of the band's nearly twenty-year career.
Gradually, physical therapy helped Mustaine's arm heal, though he admits he had to "relearn" much of his guitar playing skill. After writing his first consciously solo album and masterminding the reissue of Megadeth's catalogue (remixed and remastered), he enlisted the help of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Chris Poland (who had played with Megadeth in the 1980s) on lead guitar and session musician Jimmy Sloas on bass to record his new album originally titled Blackmail The Universe, but later renamed The System Has Failed (2004). Due to pressure from his record label he was forced to change this from a solo album to the final Megadeth album owed to Sanctuary. As Dave Mustaine said, "Megadeth is slowly rising from the ashes." Mustaine then contacted all the members of the Rust In Peace lineup to offer them a spot on a tour to promote the new album. Nick Menza was rehired as the drummer, but Mustaine could not reach agreement with Ellefson or Friedman.
Early July of 2004 saw the entire The System Has Failed album leaked onto the Internet. Mustaine is said to have been deeply upset by this, but the scheduled release date of September 2004 was maintained. The System Has Failed made its debut at #18 on the Billboard charts, and received overall positive reviews from critics, hailed as a return to Megadeth's 'golden days' of the late 80s and early 90s.
At the same time, Ellefson filed an $18.5-million lawsuit in the New York federal court against Mustaine and the band, claiming he was entitled to a greater share of the band's profits. In January 2005, the federal court dismissed the case, finding that Ellefson had released his claims in a May 2004 settlement agreement with the band. Mustaine and the band filed a counter suit against Ellefson in the California state court for breach of the settlement agreement. That suit eventually was settled.
Shortly following the release of The System Has Failed, Mustaine appointed Glen Drover, formerly of King Diamond and Eidolon, as Megadeth's new guitarist. Additional line-up changes were James MacDonough, formerly of Iced Earth on bass, and Shawn Drover (the brother of Glen Drover) on drums. Shawn Drover was hired to be Megadeth drummer 5 days before the first show of the "Blackmail The Universe Tour" apparently because Menza was no longer capable of playing Megadeth songs.
The Blackmail The Universe World Tour, running from late 2004 until late 2005 (with a staggered touring schedule), proved to be a true 'comeback' and return to form for Megadeth, and their first large scale tour for several years. Previously Mustaine had also announced that it was the final Megadeth tour and that the band would be disbanding immediately afterwards; however, as of March 2005, Dave Mustaine announced Gigantour, Megadeth's largest tour ever.
In July 2005, the band released a greatest hits record entitled Back to the Start: Greatest Hits.
MEGADETH LIVES ON
In 2004, Dave Mustaine stated that album The System Has Failed would be the last Megadeth record before he would end the band and become a solo artist himself. However, following the launch of Gigantour in 2005 and a clear revitalisation in the future prospects of Megadeth from the year previous, Mustaine decided to instead to 'allow' Megadeth's continued existence.
This was clearly stated on the Official Megadeth Website: "MEGADETH will continue as a band. MEGADETH will record a new album. MEGADETH will continue to play."
Mustaine, during a concert in Argentina in 2005 (following his first mention of the continuation of the band), mentioned that he has been working with his current bandmates (The Drovers and MacDonough) on writing the next Megadeth album. This was also confirmed by Mustaine during a Megadeth concert in Puerto Rico on October 15, 2005, 6 days after the one in Argentina; "The answer is yes"
In February, 2006 bass player James MacDonough announced on the Megadeth Bulletin Board that he would no longer be playing for Megadeth. Reason's were not given immediately, although there are rumors he was going to rejoin his former band, Iced Earth. It was later revealed that he had been fired. Despite this, MacDonough states "There is no animosity here Droogs, just personal differences and this is all I'll ever say about it". Mustaine said that he would let former bandmate Dave Ellefson rejoin the band if he wanted to. He said he wanted to put their feuds behind him and move on On February 12th, 2006 Megadeth.com's webmaster, Dave McRobb, announced MacDonough's replacement was going to be James Lomenzo, laying chances of Ellefson's return to rest. Lomenzo had previously done stints with David Lee Roth and Black Label Society.
Mustaine has also indicated that he would like to see Hetfield, Ulrich, Ellefson, and himself team up on a future music project. Many fans expressed enthusiam at the idea but to date no plans have been formally announced.
On March 21, 2006, a 2 disc DVD titled "Arsenal Of Megadeth" was issued by Capitol Records. Dave Mustaine oversaw all aspects of the project and all content was chosen by him personally. The set contains archive footage of interviews and live shows as well as every music video the band ever made. Altogether it provides an indepth look at the growth of the band over their 20+ year career.
1985 - Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!
1986 - Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
1988 - So Far, So Good... So What!
1990 - Rust in Peace
1992 - Countdown to Extinction
1994 - Youthanasia
1995 - Hidden Treasures (EP)
1997 - Cryptic Writings
1998 - Live Trax (Japan)
1998 - Cryptic Sounds - No Voices In Your Head EP (EP)
1999 - Risk
2000 - Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years (Greatest Hits)
2001 - The World Needs a Hero
2002 - Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! (Remixed/Expanded)
2002 - Rude Awakening (Live)
2002 - Still Alive... And Well?
2004 - The System Has Failed
2005 - Back to the Start
1991 - Rusted Pieces
1993 - Exposure of a Dream
1995 - Evolver: The Making of Youthanasia
2001 - "Behind the Music" (Extended Version DVD)
2002 - Rude Awakening (DVD)
2004 - Video Hits (DVD)
2006 - The Arsenal Of Megadeth