Sunday, February 28, 2016

Megadeth Vs Metallica: The Punishment Due

You will do what I say; 
when I say...
...If there's a new way, 
I'll be the first in line!

This post is something that I've been thinking about posting for a couple years now. I finally decided to do it after reviewing the new Megadeth album, Dystopia. I haven't reviewed any Metallica albums because they haven't released a new one since before I started blogging. Hard to believe they haven't released anything new since 2008, isn't it? Although, I did review their movie Through the Never. Anyway, let's answer that  'who's better' question, and go Into the Arena. 

If you've been living under a rock for 30+ years, or aren't that big of a metal fan, you might not know that Dave Mustaine of Megadeth was the Metallica guitarist prior to Kirk Hammett's arrival. He was kicked out of the band prior to their debut album, Kill Em All. Mustaine then met bassist, Dave Ellefson and Megadeth was born. Shortly after that, their debut album, Killing is My Business, and Business is Good was released. And, a war between the two rival thrash metal bands began, and its still going. If you want to know more about the back story, Google it. 

First of all, Dave Mustaine was co-writer of 4 songs on Kill Em All, as well as 2 tracks (including the title track) of Ride The Lightning. Both albums were released before Killing is My Business was released. So, regardless of how much of the songs were actually written by Mustaine, Megadeth had to start from scratch. And, they had a long way to go...

Metallica's first 3 albums, Kill Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets are thrash metal icons. Master of Puppets is the greatest thrash album of all time. However, they lost a step when they released their fourth album, And Justice For All. Many metal fans, myself included felt that album was a let down after Master of Puppets. After all, topping that album has proven to be a hard feat to accomplish. Nobody (Including Metallica) has been able to top it. 

Megadeth's first 3 releases, Killing is my Business, Peace Sells but Who's Buying, and So Far So Good, So What were also wildly accepted by thrash metal fans as well, with each album getting better and better. But Megadeth's fourth and fifth albums, Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction destroyed Metallica's fourth and fifth albums. Metallica's first ever video for their song, One introduced millions of new fans to the band, and their fifth 'Black Album' was a golden goose, where Metallica went mainstream with the radio hits, Enter Sandman, Sad But True, and the ballad, Nothing Else Matters. But Megadeth also got noticed by the masses, and even scored a couple radio hits of their own. Rust in Peace had Holy Wars..The Punishment Due on the radio while the iconic video and musical skill of Hangar 18 dominated MTV. Countdown to Extinction had the radio hit, Symphony of Destruction and MTV hit, Sweating Bullets. Both bands were taking similar paths, but Metallica had the backing of the masses. But, with the release of Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction, people started noticing what Megadeth fans had known all along: Megadeth's music was better. The songs were better written, the guitar work was better, and over all, Megadeth was a more talented band. Solos sounded different. The songs flowed better. Most of this was due to the arrival of guitar god, Marty Friedman and drummer, Nick Menza, although if you listen to the first three albums, the skill of the guitarists has always been superior to James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett's efforts. Not to mention, original drummer, Gar Samuelson (RIP) was far superior to Lars Ulrich. 

Gar Samuelson. I hung out with him once.

Next came grunge. <gag> Metallica released Load and Reload. Megadeth released Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and Risk. (And, you can probably include The World Needs A Hero in this group) All these albums were departures from their thrash roots, but were part of the band's evolution. Some diehard thrash metal fans hate those albums, but I don't. Both bands did what they needed to do to survive. Although, Metallica only put out one more album before Death Magnetic in 2008, which was St. Anger in 2003, which we won't talk about by name anymore, Megadeth released the ones I mentioned and two more before 2008. But while Metallica was writing simplistic radio hits, Megadeth was growing as a band musically, and had several radio hits of their own like Trust, Secret Place, Almost Honest, Use The Man, Breadline, and more. Did these songs blow up the bank account like Metallica's? No, but once again, musically, the Megadeth songs were superior. Some of the best guitar work I've ever heard is on the albums that lots of people overlook. In fact, one of my all time favorite songs, A Tout le Monde is on Youthanasia. Megadeth re recorded that song as a duet with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, introducing the band to an even broader base of new fans.  

Mustaine and Scabbia

Still, Megadeth didn't stop. While Metallica was touring all over creation, and not releasing a new album in 8 years and counting, Megadeth kept releasing albums. Since Metallica's last album, Megadeth has released four albums. And, while some of the albums may not be as good as their best ones, their latest album, Dystopia as I mentioned in my review is the best since Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction. After Metallica's debacle 2003 album (the one we aren't mentioning by name) everyone was begging for a 'return to form' album from them. The result was Death Magnetic. An album where they attempted to make a good thrash album, but it proved they had forgotten how. The songs are unnecessarily long, and guitar riffs are just thrown together. Plus, honestly, James Hetfield just doesn't have the aggression in his voice anymore. Dave Mustaine, however does. In fact, his voice sounds better than ever. To be fair, the fans were wanting a 'return to form' album from Megadeth too. Megadeth delivered. Several times, with The System Has Failed, United Abominations, Endgame, TH1RT3EN, and of course, the new juggernaut, Dystopia.

One of the main criticisms about Megadeth I've heard is that the lineup has changed so many times. Your point? Have you heard Metallica's stuff? Maybe its time for them to change up. Mustaine has said that he will only bring in a guitarist that is better than he is. Those are some pretty heavy shoes to fill, but he's brought in greats such as Marty Friedman, Al Pitrelli, and newcomer, Kiko Loureiro, among others. Kirk Hammett wouldn't make it into Megadeth, and that's a fact. I can't think of a better way to challenge yourself to improve. And, this new album proves it. Actually, if you go back and listen to 2 songs from each album back to back and in order, you'll see how each album features something new, different, and better than before. You can't say that about Metallica

The age old adage: "When the history books are written, ______."  applies here. Because while Metallica reigned supreme being the greatest marketing band in the history of the world other than Kiss, Megadeth kept putting out good albums, with great songs. Ask any metal musician which is the better band, you will get Megadeth 9 out of 10 times. History has been written, and slowly but surely, more and more people are realizing it. Megadeth gets the last laugh, and is the superior band. Still doubt me? Ask the Metal God Himself, Rob Halford: 

And, don't come away from this thinking I don't like Metallica. I do. I love Master of Puppets and Ride The Lightning. I like Kill Em All. Black, Load, and Reload are okay. The rest, not so much.

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