Top 10 Megadeth Songs
Would anyone be surprised if Google turned up a picture of Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine for searches on “holding a grudge” or “chip on one’s shoulder”? This is a man whose entire career path was pretty much motivated by his desire to get even with the band that ousted him, Metallica. Fortunately, the combustible combination of Mustaine’s burning ambition and remarkable talent has produced a vast catalog of classic heavy-metal songs through the years. So many, in fact, that this list of the Top 10 Megadeth Songs was harder to pin down than winning a political debate with the outspoken Mustaine.
‘Washington Is Next!’
Of all the latter-day triumphs to be found in the ever-expanding Megadeth catalog, arguably no song satisfies the lofty expectations of fans, old and new, quite as successfully as ‘Washington Is Next!’ from the 2007 return to form, ‘United Abominations.’ Even the band’s lovable mascot, Vic Rattlehead, seemed to approve of the album cover’s fresh interpretation of his younger, pre-whatever-the-heck-turned-him-into-a-deaf-gagged-and-blind-skeleton self. Can you blame him?
‘Skull Beneath the Skin’
Fresh from his break with Metallica in 1983, Dave Mustaine wasted little time before beginning to construct the instrument of his revenge with the fledgling Megadeth. But it wasn’t until two years later that the band finally debuted with the decidedly patchy and production-challenged ‘Killing Is My Business … and Business Is Good!’ Nevertheless, precocious highlights like ‘Skull Beneath the Skin’ preview the startling instrumental displays and enticingly morbid lyrics that lay ahead.
‘Wake Up Dead’
While we were tempted to slap cult favorite ‘The Conjuring’ in this slot, there’s no denying the rightful place earned by ‘Wake Up Dead’ — the band’s first-ever single — on our list of the Top 10 Megadeth Songs. Here, Dave Mustaine weaves a surprisingly candid tale of marital infidelity over an incessantly evolving sequence of high-energy riffs and fretboard-melting lead runs that resemble some kind of a six-string relay race — one that leaves wannabe guitar slingers huffing and puffing to keep up.
‘Foreclosure of a Dream’
By the release of commercial watershed ‘Countdown to Extinction,’ Dave Mustaine had largely discarded the occult subjects of yesteryear to focus on more realistic matters inspired by current events taking place in the social and political spheres. And perhaps no other Megadeth song in history deals as directly and soberly with economic concerns and social inequality as the thought-provoking ‘Foreclosure of a Dream,’ a fantastic song any way you slice it.
‘A Tout Le Monde’
Years before the tragic events of 9/11 irreparably soured Dave Mustaine’s appetite for french … er, freedom … fries, the Megadeth frontman could be quite the international man of mystery. As evidence, check out the very awesome ‘A Tout Le Monde,’ with its poetic display of Mustaine’s bilingual talents. We dare say that a more dignified suicide note has never been committed to the art of heavy-metal power balladry, and yes, we’re including Metallica’s ‘Fade to Black’ in our deliberations.
The mother of all conspiracy theories inspired ‘Rust in Peace”s ‘Hangar 18,’ which, relatively speaking, has to be one of the catchiest and most straightforward compositions found in the Megadeth discography, and yet it still trips up even the most accomplished guitar players. The song has become a reliable fixture in the band’s touring repertoire and has emerged as one of its bestselling downloads over the years.
‘Symphony of Destruction’
A rare period of stability in the Megadeth lineup and Dave Mustaine’s newfound (though ever-tenuous) sobriety helped make the band’s fifth album, ‘Countdown to Extinction,’ one of its most consistent. Among the many highlights, none had a greater impact — commercially and philosophically — than the LP’s apocalyptic first single, ‘Symphony of Destruction,’ a vintage, mid-paced Mustaine riff chugger that allows his scathing message to shine through.
‘In My Darkest Hour’
On the flipside of Megadeth history, 1988’s ‘So Far, So Good, So What!’ marked not only a personal low point for a chemically addicted Dave Mustaine, but also a challenging period for Megadeth, as the group struggled to replace departed members Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson with the short-termed tandem of Jeff Young and Chuck Behler. Consequently, erratic songwriting abounded, but out of the rubble ‘In My Darkest Hour’ (later dedicated to fallen Metallica bassist Cliff Burton) shines like a beacon, illuminating Mustaine’s maturing talents via his most emotional lyrics.
Even though it saves its thrashing until the very end, ‘Peace Sells’ is essentially the prototypical Megadeth song of the 1980s, with its deceptively complex arrangements and cynical sociopolitical commentary. By extension, ‘Peace Sells’ convinced innumerable thrash-metal fans to give Metallica’s erstwhile guitarist a chance, since he obviously had something more to offer beyond those crucial co-songwriting credits on Metallica standards like ‘Phantom Lord,’ ‘Jump in the Fire,’ Ride the Lightning’ and ‘The Four Horsemen,’ which was basically an upgrade on Dave Mustaine’s self-penned ‘The Mechanix.’
‘Holy Wars … The Punishment Due’
In ‘Holy Wars … The Punishment Due,’ Dave Mustaine forcibly marries what, in essence, are two entirely separate songs, either of which can be considered a career-defining Megadeth showpiece. The first part calls out the agents of religious warmongering over a galloping thrash foundation, culminating in a dazzling Arabian-inspired lead run by guitarist Marty Friedman; the second wrings out deliberate, otherworldly riffs, capped by a disturbing story of ‘Death Wish’-like personal vengeance against organized crime. Together as one, ‘Holy Wars … The Punishment Due’ stands like twin columns proclaiming Mustaine’s world-conquering talents in the service of Megadeth.