I'm just a teensy-weensy bit excited about the new Megadeth album, TH1RT3EN, coming out next week. A perfect opportunity, therefore, to put together a list of my (current) favourite 13 Megadeth songs. So here goes, in no particular order.
1. Hangar 18 (from 1990's Rust in Peace)
Alien conspiracy theories, insane trade-off solos between Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman, and just general all-around awesomeness on what must surely be one of Megadeth's most legendary tracks. It even inspired a (somewhat inferior) sequel - Return to Hangar.
2. Trust (from 1997's Cryptic Writings)
Right, so Cryptic Writings was not Megadeth's most widely-loved album, but I personally think it's their most under-rated. Yes, it's a bit slower and more produced, but there are some genuinely well-crafted songs here, and Trust might be the best example - it continues to be a staple of their live set too. Great main riff and it builds nicely towards the solo at 3:45.
3. Dialectic Chaos / This Day We Fight! (from 2009's Endgame)
Yes, it's probably cheating to count these two as one, but the way they segue together to open what I consider to be one of Megadeth's finest albums makes them somewhat inseparable (incidentally, they've always performed them together live as well). Dialectic Chaos was the first instrumental Megadeth track since the 1980's, and it's fast-paced shredding is a great way of saying 'here we fucking go!' as an album opener. Then it's straight into the buzzing main riff of This Day We Fight!, an aggressive, intense, high tempo thrash-metal classic. But it also features some clever touches - like the way it threatens to descend into a full-on battle march straight after the closing chorus line of 'this day we fight!'.
4. Devil's Island (from 1986's Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?)
The opening tap-solo creates exactly the sort of menace you expect from a song about a prisoner on death row, in this case on the eponymous Devil's Island. But then in classic old-school Megadeth fashion the mood changes swiftly and dramatically - to a lurching bass riff, and into a punkish main verse and chorus before the words "Final judgment!" introduce a characteristically stand-offish Mustaine guitar solo. The live version below is particularly manic.
5. Blackmail the Universe (from 2004's The System Has Failed)
This was actually the song that really re-introduced me to Megadeth a few years ago. I'd dabbled with Rust in Peace previously - but then I heard this track (actually the live version from That One Night) and I was immediately hooked by its stomping, savage intro. Lyrically the track deals with a hypothetical shooting down of Air Force One by terrorists - which was somewhat topical given the timing - but interestingly the track itself (or at least the musical portion of it) actually dates back to well before 9/11.
6. Take No Prisoners (from 1990's Rust in Peace)
Sounds exactly like the title suggests. It never garnered the same degree of attention as the two legendary tracks that precede it on Rust in Peace but it's an incredible unrelenting powerhouse of a track nevertheless. The highlight is probably a typically sneering Mustaine reversing the famous Kennedy quote: "Don't ask what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you".
7. Peace Sells (from 1986's Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?)
Starts with one of the most distinctive basslines of all-time, and continues with one of Dave's best (and most sarcastic) lyrical efforts. Given Megadeth's tendency in their early days to aim primarily for all-out shred and aggression, it's a phenomenally catchy and well-constructed song.
8. Sudden Death (from the 2010 video game Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock)
Speaking of all-out shred and aggression... it's obvious from the resoundingly sinister opening chords of this track that we're not in Kansas any more. A huge personal favourite of mine, mainly because it's so very, very kick-ass - building incredibly well towards an amazing solo section courtesy of messrs. Mustaine and Broderick (surely Megadeth's best guitarist since Marty Friedman, if not better). It's also due to appear as TH1RT3EN's opening track, albeit apparently with a few changes, so I'll be interested to see how that version turns out.
9. Almost Honest (from 1997's Cryptic Writings)
Another tight, groovy number from Cryptic Writings. What works really well on this track is the dynamic shift between verse and chorus; it's something Megadeth don't do a lot because the 'plan A' approach often tends to be 'sonic assault for 100% of the song'. Like Trust, it's catchy, infectious and memorable.
10. Sleepwalker (from 2007's United Abominations)
Another entry in a long series of bonecrushing album openers, Sleepwalker initially threatens to do something different with acoustic guitars and synthesisers, which serves to make the opening riff even more savage when it drops. Lyrically one of the band's darker numbers, although it's actually the drumming I really enjoy on this song.
11. Sweating Bullets (from 1992's Countdown to Extinction)
Considering the band had so many well-documented drug issues around this period of time, it shouldn't really come as any surprise that crazy old Dave writing a song about crazy schizophrenics would be such a resounding success. Seeing this performed live is really something to behold when the whole crowd gets in on the singalong.
12. Dread and the Fugitive Mind (from 2001's The World Needs a Hero)
The World Needs A Hero isn't their strongest album, but Megadeth have consistently shown that even on their weaker albums they'll still produce a few individual gems. The album as a whole is a bit lost between attempting to shift back to thrash metal or continuing the more hard-rock style of the albums that immediately preceded it. Dread and the Fugitive Mind is one of the few tracks where they strike a really effective balance - it's got the tight, catchy songwriting of much of Cryptic Writings but balances that with a nice, thrashy bridge section.
13. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due (from 1990's Rust in Peace)
One of Megadeth's bona-fide classics, and justifiably so. It's more like two songs in one - with Holy Wars inspired by one of the band's trips to Ireland during the late 1980's, and The Punishment Due being inspired by The Punisher, from Marvel Comics. And in between there is a very cool acoustic section and a bunch of clever tempo and dynamic shifts. Awesome stuff.