Megadeth is an American thrash metal band from Los Angeles, California. The group was formed in 1983 by guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson, shortly after Mustaine’s dismissal from Metallica. Mustaine wanted the new band to play faster and heavier music than Metallica. According to Mustaine, the name “Megadeth” represents the annihilation of power. It is a misspelling of the term megadeath, meaning one million deaths by nuclear explosion. The name came from a pamphlet by California senator Alan Cranston that Mustaine found on the floor of a bus after being fired from Metallica. It read : “The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to.”
A pioneer of the American thrash metal scene, the band is credited as one of the genre’s “big four” with Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer, responsible for thrash metal’s development and popularization. Megadeth plays in a technical style, featuring fast rhythm sections and complex arrangements; themes of death, war, politics and religion are prominent in the group’s lyrics.
In 1985, the band released its debut album, Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!, on the independent label Combat Records. The album’s moderate commercial success caught the attention of bigger labels, which led to Megadeth signing with Capitol Records. Their first major-label album, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?, was released in 1986 and influenced the underground metal scene. Mustaine wanted to write socially conscious lyrics, unlike mainstream heavy metal bands who sang about “hedonistic pleasures”.
The album was noted for its political commentary and helped Megadeth expand its fanbase. The title track was the album’s lead single and was accompanied by a music video that received regular airplay on MTV. Despite its prominence in thrash metal, frequent disputes between its members and substance abuse issues brought Megadeth negative publicity during this period. So Far, So Good… So What! was released in January 1988 and was well received by fans and critics. The album featured a cover version of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.”.
Marty Friedman filled the guitarist position at the recommendation of Ron Laffitte, a member of Capitol management. With Friedman in the group, the band completed what fans consider the definitive Megadeth lineup. After the lineup stabilized, the band released a number of platinum-selling albums, including Rust in Peace (1990) and Countdown to Extinction (1992). These albums, along with touring worldwide, helped bring public recognition to Megadeth. The band temporarily disbanded in 2002 when Mustaine suffered an arm injury and re-established in 2004 without bassist Ellefson, who had taken legal action against Mustaine. Ellefson settled with Mustaine out of court and rejoined the group in 2010. Megadeth has hosted its own music festival, Gigantour, several times since mid-2005.
As of 2014, Megadeth has sold 50 million records worldwide, earned platinum certification in the United States for five of its fifteen studio albums, and received eleven Grammy nominations. The band’s mascot, Vic Rattlehead, regularly appears on album artwork and, since 2010, in live shows. The group has experienced controversy over its musical approach and lyrics, including cancelled concerts and album bans. MTV has refused to play two of the band’s videos that the network considered to condone suicide.
Having sold over 50 million units worldwide as of 2014, Megadeth is one of the few bands from the 1980s American underground metal scene to have achieved mass commercial success. Along with contemporaries Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, Megadeth is regarded as one of the core founding groups of thrash metal. These bands are often referred to as the “big four” of thrash metal, responsible for the genre’s development and popularization.
Loudwire ranked Megadeth the third best thrash metal band of all time, praising the group’s “provoking lyrics and mind-warping virtuosity”. CMJ New Music Report called the band’s debut album a seminal release and a representative of “the golden age of speed metal”. Similarly, Billboard called the band’s second album Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? a “landmark of the thrash movement” whose lyrics it found still relevant. MTV also recognized the band as an influential metal act, highlighting the technical aspect of the early albums.
Megadeth is considered one of the most musically influential groups that originated in the 1980s. As part of the early American thrash metal movement, the band’s music was a direct influence on death metal. Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris wrote that the mainstream success of Megadeth was one of the reasons for the expansion of extreme metal to countries where it had previously been unknown. The band’s sound and album artwork influenced a number of thrash metal bands in the 21st century, including Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Megadeth has sold 9.2 million copies of its albums in the United States between 1991 and 2014.
Nominated 11 times for Best Hard Rock / Metal Performance –
1991 : Rust in Peace
1992 : Hangar 18
1993 : Countdown to Extinction
1994 : Angry Again
1995 : 99 Ways to Die
1996 : Paranoid
1998 : Trust
2010 : Head Crusher
2011 : Sudden Death
2012 : Public Enemy No. 1
2013 : Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)