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Features Rank and File

Rank And File: Megadeth

Very seldom do I ever meet people that don’t have strong feelings for Megadeth one way or the other.  Many people dislike them because of Dave Mustaine’s vocals, the inconsistency in their overall catalogue, or something silly like the fact that they feel like “it’s either Metallica or Megadeth.” Others, however, absolutely love the band. They dig the extreme musicianship that Mustaine brings to the guitar and overall songwriting. Or perhaps it’s the intensity weaved into the thrash metal riffs. I fall into the latter category, and Megadeth have grown to become my favorite of the Big Four of Thrash Metal, and my second favorite thrash band overall behind Overkill. I’ve seen them perform three times, and they put on a great show every time. Since they’re super influential and still rock harder than ever, as well as remain relevant, I decided to take a peek at each album individual, and rank them as well.

15) The World Needs A Hero

An important part of loving a band with a huge discography is admitting that they have bad albums.  The only song I can truly say I like from this is album opener “Disconnect,” since it has a memorable chorus, a strong rhythm section, and an eerie intro. “Return To Hangar” is alright, but it’s a cheap way out. The rest is extremely bland, unmemorable, and awkward. Not to mention that “1000 Times Goodbye” may be the worst song in the band’s entire discography, and the lyrics are super cringeworthy.  The majority just seems like filler, and it’s also overly long. Very seldom do I ever revisit this.

Final Grade: F+

14) Th1rt3en

This record has three or four good tracks, but mostly just feels like scraps leftover from Endgame and United Abominations. The crust of the pie, if you will. I remember getting this when it came out, and I’ve always loved “Public Enemy No. 1” and “Who’s Life (Is It Anyways)?”  “Never Dead” contains a very nasty riff, and is a good one as well. The rest is packed with less than exciting riffs and pretty laughable lyrics. Not the as bad as The World Needs A Hero, but not a good album as a whole by any means.

Final Grade: D

13) Supercollider

The two records that I’d say that I flat out dislike are behind us. This one tends to get a lot of hate, but I actually enjoyed it to a degree.  It isn’t great by any means, but its reputation is worse than it should be. Supercollider borrows a lot of different influences from classic Megadeth albums, and isn’t as overly produced.  It is inconsistent, but worthwhile. Also, I can’t get over how killer the opening song “Kingmaker” is.  And how can you go wrong with a Thin Lizzy cover?

Final Grade: C-

12) Risk

The other album that gets loaded with hate from fans.  Much like Supercollider, I like it a lot better than others do.  If you’re looking for thrash, then you’ll be disappointed. If, however, you like industrial rock music much like myself, then I strongly recommend this album.  It makes sense, seeing that this came out when Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals were huge. Risk is packed with catchy choruses and solid hooks.  “Prince Of Darkness,” “Breadline,” and “Insomnia” are favorites of mine. Oh, and let’s get one thing straight. This is not a “pop rock album.” Does it sound like Blink-182? Fall Out Boy? The 1975? I think not. Those that label this as such need their ears checked.

Final Grade: C

11) The System Has Failed

This is likely the most overlooked album, seeing that it doesn’t get strong hate or praise. It just sorta exists like the quiet kid in class. There are certainly some boring tracks that could be trimmed away, but tracks like “The Scorpion” and “Kick The Chair” reel in some incredible dual guitar work, and pack the groove on very heavily.  The main issue with this one is the cheesy spoken word parts are a bit overdone. Side A is better than side B, but overall worth a listen.

Final Grade: C+

10) United Abominations

This is where Megadeth truly got back on track.  The previous couple albums that lead up to this didn’t quite live up to the ‘80s and ‘90s standards, but I’ll be damned if United Abominations isn’t right up there!  The tone, the threatening energy, and the banger after banger aesthetic makes this a fun listen the whole way through with only minor flaws. “Gears Of War” and “Washington Is Next” will forever be favorites of mine. Record starter “Sleepwalker” is also devious as hell. Solid step up for these Bay Area boys!

Final Grade: B-

9) Cryptic Writings

Ah yes, one of the most mainstream records that Megadeth would ever release. Cryptic Writings is jammed with more emotional songs reflecting Mustaine’s feelings, which softened it up some.  Though this isn’t a thrash album, I really dig the overall tone. “Sin” and “Almost Honest” have some great harmonics, and almost the perfect blend of pop and metal without going glam (not that I’d take issue with that). “She-Wolf” is probably the best song, and the fact that it’s about one of his friends’ ex-girlfriends is pretty funny. The final two tracks bore me, but that’s easy enough to overlook.  It also contains one of their biggest singles, “Trust,” incorporating orchestral string instruments.

Final Grade: B

8) Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good

We have David Lee Roth and co. to thank here, because had it not been for David Ellefson blasting the bassline to Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With The Devil,” then Dave Mustaine never would have collaborated with him out of annoyance from a bad hangover (holy hell, lots of Daves and Davids). Underneath the fiery angst and rusty nature of this album lies rock n roll roots that many tend to overlook. There aren’t as many hooks in this as other classics, but boy is it ever a fun thrasher when in the right mood!  The undertone of “Chosen Ones” shows this the best, and is likely my favorite track on the record.

Final Grade: B

7) Dystopia

This was a grower, and by the time this came out in 2016 I was beginning to wonder if their over the top politics and older age were gonna wear them down. Thankfully that isn’t the case, because Dystopia blew the two albums preceding it out of the water! The songwriting is top notch and the chops are more present than they’ve been since Endgame. The bass is felt on this more than ever, and this is one of those thrashers where you can certainly “feel” the music overall. “Fatal Illusion” is about as good as anything on the classic records, and the title track as well as “The Emperor” are essentials. No, that song isn’t about Darth Sidious. Oh, and the lyrics on here are a big step up as well.

Final Grade: B+

6) Youthanasia

Ah yes, the record that truly jumped the shark.  Some would argue that Countdown To Extinction did that, but Youthanasia was the first one that wasn’t predominantly thrash. Actually, I find a lot of groove metal traces; I mean it WAS the early ‘90s. “Train Of Consequences” uses that start/stop chug to its advantage.  Others like “The Killing Road” reel in the speed metal, and extra beef in the department of melody is implemented in songs like “Family Tree” or the infamous ballad “A Tout Le Monde.” So there’s a lot to be had from this, and I find it criminally underrated.

Final Grade: A-

5) Endgame

This holds a special place in my heart, because it came out right when I was getting into Megadeth, and I thought it was one of the most ferocious things I had ever heard.  Endgame is everything United Abominations did right, except even better. The slower paced songs like “Bodies” still absolutely slam! The “Dialectic Chaos” intro into “This Day We Fight” is like a sledgehammer to the face. The soloing and the buildups used on tracks like “Head Crusher” hit levels of insanity that hadn’t been reached since Rust In Peace. Greatest post-classic Megadeth record, if you ask me.

Final Grade: A-

4) Peace Sells…. But Who’s Buying?

Here’s where we begin discussing the obvious classics, which shouldn’t be a surprise that they top the list. The main ingredient here is suspense. “Wake Up Dead” is a guitar driven song that slowly get more menacing and faster as the track continues, only to unload all of the fury with the second verse near the end. “Good Mourning/Black Friday” does this by using acoustics, and transitioning with effects to allow the dual guitars to bust through the walls, topped with snarling vocals. Booming drums with crushing guitar bridges are the name of the game. It may seem silly to rank this at number four, but let that speak for how great the other three are. This was the first of four flawless Megadeth albums.

Final Grade: A

3) Countdown To Extinction

Many accuse this of being Megadeth’s “black album,” but honestly, it’s just less technical and a bit cleaner. “Skin O’ My Teeth,” “High Speed Dirt,” and “Psychotron” are undoubtedly thrashers. The melodic tracks are still heavy and are a lot of the reason why this one is held so close to my heart.  The title track, “Foreclosure Of A Dream,” etc have some of the greatest blends of heavy and accessibility. The solo placement among the riffs and hooks are beautiful. Plus, Countdown To Extinction brought us their biggest hit, “Symphony Of Destruction.” This record deserves the praise it gets, and nobody will change my mind.

Final Grade: A

2) So Far, So Good…So What?

This is easily their most punk influenced record, and I’m not saying that just because of the Sex Pistols cover.  The other tracks draw right from this formula. The rebellious attitude with “Hook In Mouth” (one of their best songs), the spewing outbursts in “Liar,” the distaste for cops in “502”, etc.  This list could go on. There’s also a step up in musical maturity here, with more technical guitar work, and topics that can be labeled a bit more realistic. This also gave birth to the beautiful ballad “In My Darkest Hour.”  For something that only has eight tracks, this sure is packed full of different angles of approach.

Final Grade: A

1) Rust In Peace

This could have easily been predicted.  Not only is this Megadeth’s best record, but Rust In Peace holds the title of my favorite thrash metal record ever made.  It’s got every element I look for in music to the extreme; hooks, rhythm, technicality, depth, and melody. For me to like something, it usually has to have at least two of those, but having all five is a welcomed feature.  There isn’t a moment on this that I look past, and flawless isn’t a strong enough word. “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” and the title track display some of the greatest ability to be technical while also having more hooks than Spongebob and Patrick’s carnival. “Take No Prisoners” and “Tornado Of Souls” deliver some of the greatest fury and depth. The calmer songs still pick it up and keep you on your toes, such as “Five Magics.” Even the quick little transition track “Dawn Patrol” has an unsettling thumping bassline that I find myself humming all the time.  And man, does Nick Menza ever do a phenomenal job here, coming in just shy of Dave Lombardo’s ability.  The past four albums discussed are what I call thrash metal essentials, but this one more than any.

Final Grade: A+

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