Welcome to our newest column, Point/Counterpoint, where we prove to the rest of the Internet that we are smarter and more right than any other editorial outlet on planet earth. We know these dudes who run a metal site called MetalSucks that people seem to like, so we challenged them to an editorial cagematch. The rules were simple: two blogs enter, one blog leaves. This week we're facing off over the credibility of Dave Mustaine and Megadeth, who we believe to be fucking awesome. For some reason, MetalSucks doesn't agree with us. You can read their wholly illegitimate response right here.
Spinal Tap once spoke about the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock. Anyone who can last 30 years in that whole thing has got to have something going for themselves besides a hot, persistent publicist who gives quality hand jobs. In the case of Megadeth, the reason so many fans still love them is directly related to the reason so many loathe the shit out of ‘em.
* Courtesy of noisey *
And that’s all the responsibility of frontman Dave Mustaine, a man who has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders so long it's fucked up his back and neck. Okay, that might have had something to do with decades of incessant headbanging. But I digress. Mustaine is a fascinating, tragic hero who's tried hard to be the good guy, yet always seems to put his fungus-infected foot in his mouth.
Fortunately for Megadeth, controversy sells, and lots of folks are buying. If it weren’t for Mustaine’s social gaffes, interview blunders, and controversial moves over the years (as a drunk, addict and sober man) Megadeth wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Also, the guy can play a mean rhythm guitar and his solos blow the fuck out of anything by Three Doors Down.
METALLICA METALLICA METALLICA
Yeah, Mustaine was an asshole when he was in Metallica. He was a mean drunk who got into fights that would have inspired the new, rebellious Justin Bieber. But c’mon. What good is a rock star without an attitude? We’ll take a dozen Mustaines over the personality-bereft folks that are pouring into arenas these days with a slew of radio hits.
But back to Metallica. When the band formed, Mustaine was the only dude who could really play. He wrote four of the best songs on Kill ‘Em All, tracks originally recorded with Mustaine on No Life ‘Til Leather, the demo that got Metallica signed. Not only that, but Mustaine’s solos on nearly every song were appropriated by new lead guitarist Kirk Hammett after Mustaine was booted from the band for being a dick.
Even when Metallica put out their second album, Ride the Lightning (a year after Mustaine was given a bus ticket and forced to vacate their practice space) they used Mustaine’s guitar parts on one of their biggest hits “Ride the Lightning,” and the instrumental “Call of Ktulu.” And even though Mustaine spent decades griping about how he was kicked out of Metallica for bad behavior (which, coming from a band that was dubbed Alcohollica and was infamous for destroying shit, is pretty fuckin’ stellar if you ask me) he never stopped putting out like a college nympho.
SUCCESS SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
The Big 4 got its name for a reason. Metallica will always be the BIG one because they were there first: they recorded four timeless records, and after mellowing out considerably, they became one of the biggest metal bands ever with “The Black Album.”
Everyone knows Megadeth were and always will be a distant number two, platinum records and all. Knowing that he’d always be several lengths behind Metallica riled Mustaine so much that for years he failed to appreciate his own considerable accomplishments. Maybe playing second fiddle actually drove him to greatness. The first five Megadeth albums are classics. 1986’s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying yielded some of the best thrash tunes since Exodus’ 1985 record Bonded by Blood. 1990’s Rust in Peace set the bar for progressive thrash metal. For that alone, Megadeth deserves to be in the heavy metal hall of fame.
Their follow-up, Countdown to Extinction, was more commercial but still jagged enough to sever the arteries of varmints that wandered too close to the Megadeth compound. After that, the band’s output was hit or miss for a while. Musicians either developed drug habits by getting high with Mustaine or moved on to greener pastures on their own. Guitar virtuoso Marty Friedman moved to Japan and became a major TV celebrity. But once Mustaine almost died, nearly lost his arm, and put his faith in God, he got his shit back together. And over the past decade, Megadeth’s catalog has held up to that of legendary veteran bands and rock stars half their age.
MIGHT AS WELL FACE IT HE’S ADDICTED TO… EVERYTHING
Catch Dave Mustaine in a good mood when he’s feeling nostalgic and he just might tell you about the mass quantities of heroin he and bassist David Ellefson used to do when Megadeth were in their commercial prime. Then he kicked horse and got addicted to painkillers. Then he kicked painkillers and got addicted to religion. The whole time, he remained hooked on fame and adulation, which is why Megadeth shows are so entertaining. Not only do the band cull from their repertoire of hits, they perform like they’re trying to earn back everyone in the crowd who’s there to sneer at Mustaine or belittle Megadeth’s post-Rust in Peace catalog.
Megadeth’s frontman takes on each naysayer like a gunslinger: sneering back, firing fusillades of guitar notes that penetrate their souls, and turning them back into believers. At least that’s the goal. Remember, this guy’s a Christian who lives to love, not to hate. Even when his behavior is off-putting, it’s beneficial to the band. He’s controlling and manipulates situations to suit his needs, and with the exception of the horrific Risk, he’s usually right when it comes to guessing what the crowd wants and how to deliver it to them.
Mustaine formed Megadeth with bassist David Ellefson back in 1983. The two rocked together as partners, Ellefson earning the name Junior so as not to be confused with the elder Dave. Then Mustaine fell asleep under the influence with his arm over a chair. When he woke up he had lost all feeling in his fretting arm due to a compressed radial nerve that became damaged while he was passed out. Doctors told him he would never play again.
Allegedly, he promised to pass on the name Megadeth to Ellefson, but that didn’t happen. Through tenacity, physical therapy and, he claims, prayer, Mustaine was able to resurrect his damaged appendage and record a Megadeth album without Junior, who hit him with a king-sized lawsuit that ruined their relationship for a long, long time. Ellefson lost the suit, and he and Mustaine went their separate ways.
When James LoMenzo bailed after 2009’s impressive Endgame, Junior and Mustaine settled their differences and reunited. In most cases, bassists are as replaceable as blown lightbulbs, but Ellefson’s return struck new life into Megadeth and his counterpoint melodies on Megadeth’s new album Super Collider complement Mustaine’s chugging, mid-paced riffs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Whether he’s playing in severe pain due to neck and back injuries, or comfortably numb and rocking up a storm, Dave Mustaine remains one of the most volatile, gifted and recognizable figures in metal. He may spout politically incorrect comments from time to time, but we’d be disappointed if he didn’t.
In a stagnant, anodyne metal scene, Mustaine remains unpredictable and temperamental. He’s just as likely to leave a crowd smiling and nodding in agreement to his comments as he is to cause audiences to drop their jaws in disbelief at his conspiracy theory-filled banter. But regardless of his personal beliefs, his music remains inspiring, and whether listening to Megadeth’s recorded output (perhaps with the exception of Youthanasia,Cryptic Writings, and Risk) or watching them progress through a concert like a violent automaton in some Manga comic that Marty Friedman has probably committed to memory, Mustaine and his band mates command the crowd and conjure the excitement, tension and release of a good orgasm, with devil horns raised high in the air.
Warning: don’t try this at home. The last time we raised the devil horns at the point of orgasm we were called “weird” and we would up sleeping alone for weeks, cranking Megadeth on our iPod to sooth our melancholy soul into slumber.