Few bands get metalheads talking like Megadeth do. Sometimes it’s fun to see a guy with long hair walking down the road and just bark, “Buddy, quick, name three of the last six Megadeth records!” Other times it’s me and a friend from across the country talking about Dave Mustaine’s deep-rooted psychological issues stemming from the whole Metallica “situation” through private messages. Or it’s some beers and general ‘deth talk; everyone’s got an opinion, and they all seem to be quite strong. I should know: I defended the shit out of The World Needs a Hero when it came out, so that’s where I’m at.
Anyway, Megadeth is releasing Warheads on Foreheads tomorrow; it’s a massive 35-song anthology collection available as a triple-CD or quadruple-LP set that looks back at the thrash band’s formidable history. It got us thinking not so much about what ‘deth songs rule, but what parts of what ‘deth songs really got to the essence of this band, said essence being pure thrash antagonism. Be it fuelled by drugs, despair or politics, the best moments in Megadeth’s catalogue are going to stick with us forever. Here are five of them.
From that manic little bass fill to the fact that this song just keeps exploding and exploding and exploding, this is tech thrash metal mania layered upon tech thrash metal mania. Just when it should probably stop, it doesn’t, and things just get more and more wild. You can practically taste Dave Mustaine’s anxiety here.
There’s so much to unpack here, the first 52 seconds of this song containing one of the most iconic bass lines in metal history and some of the most end-of-the-rope lyrics of Mustaine’s career, not to mention how this whole part serves as an excellent precursor to the melodic chorus. But those lyrics, man, I remember hearing this when it came out—millionth shout-out to my older brother here, part of that iconic “cool ’80s older brother who got us into metal” crowd—and not really understanding what Mustaine meant when he mumbled about going to court when he had to, and being broke, but just thinking, wow, this guy’s in it deep.
Anger-filled songs about the PMRC were always good to get the troops rallied, and few were as powerful as “Hook In Mouth.” By the time Mustaine belted out “This stands for freedom/it means nothing to me/as long as there’s a PMRC,” we were absolutely ravenous as this album closer begun to climax. This song was well-placed on the album, and this section is well-placed in the song, this stretch of “Hook In Mouth” being nothing if not pure adrenaline. The spoken-word bit just pushes things way over the top, and the sudden proclamation that Mustaine is indeed a man not a fish as the song comes to a close had us all raising our fists and yelling, and, to be honest, still does whenever I listen to this rager. “You say you’ve got the answers/well, who asked you anyway?” indeed.
This is one of ‘deth’s finest songs, “In My Darkest Hour” managing to feel epic, moving, and thrashing all at once, and while it’s best taken as a whole, this particular stretch of the song is one of Mustaine’s most memorable moments, most noticeably because the bile he’s spewing is just positively real here. On an album absolutely drenched with bad vibes, white-knuckled trips gone wrong, this song is the most cranked-up and cranked-out rot-gut, white-knuckle, teeth-grinding example of using bad life for good art. Mustaine rarely got as vulnerable as he did in this 30-second segment, and some days I think that’s for the best, as this is almost too much to handle. But it’s just this side of being too much to handle, which makes it absolutely brilliant.
Good god man, does this song ever stand the test of time. It actually just sounds better every year, the intensity adding on like compound thrash metal interest, this part of this song acting as one of the best climaxes in thrash metal history, Mustaine going absolutely batshit in the solo, then going even more batshit after, everything just building building building until the song’s end. By the time Mustaine shrieks out about “a lack of mercy killings,” I’m covered in sweat, every single time. 68 seconds of pure metal glory.