A life of 'Deth"
- Joey Dizon (The Philippine Star) - July 7, 2012 - 12:00am

Manila, Philippines -  The year was 1993. Too young to be able to buy myself a decent electric guitar but old enough to figure out a bunch of rock songs on my dad’s cheap acoustic guitar (everything from Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and a host of slow rock ballads from the last salvo of hair bands struggling to stay alive), I thought I was all set to form my own band. When you’re young, you sort of reach that level when you’re both cocky and hungry for more knowledge in your chosen passion; and I was dead-set on learning as much as I could on guitar.

I happened to turn on the radio one Saturday evening to a radio program called Six O’ Clock Rock on local radio station 97.1 DWLSFM. Instead of the usual Stairway To Heaven and Green Jello novelty tunes, something different was on: just as the DJ introduced the tune while a sample of what sounded like some choir from hell singing a dirge-of-the-damned, an explosive barrage of heavily muted power chords and a furiously straightforward flurry of drums erupted from the speakers. My mind was blown: this was the heaviest riff I had ever heard, ever.

Whereas other heavy metal tunes had previously offered a sped-up version of blues and often had a marching-band cadence to them, the rhythmically-tight sound of Symphony of Destruction was almost similar to freight trains crashing-into each other in stop-and-go synchronization; the notes were almost inaudible: just a combination of pure, low-bottomed heavy, paired-with nasty, snarling vocals from vocalist Dave Mustaine. And the guitar solo  its melody and phrasing especially  was definitely treading previously unexplored territory. 

Sitting there, dumbfounded and staring into the speakers, my life, and my then-limited perception of music, changed. “This is what jazz must sound like for older people,” I remember thinking to myself, as I was at a loss of words when it came to describing the utter intensity, and the consistent, complicated shifts in meter and musical key the music had by the time I was able to grab a copy of the album “Countdown To Extinction.” After I had worn out my copy of the album, constantly listening to mosh pit anthems like Skin O’ My Teeth, Sweating Bullets and the almost-ballad-y title track, a friend of mine lent me the band’s 1988 release “So Far, So Good… So What!” Albeit its seemingly haphazard recording, the sheer rawness and again, over-the-top rhythm and lead guitar work courtesy of Mustaine and then-lead guitarist Jeff Scott Young, was equally mind-boggling in its little complexities.

Symphony of destruction: Faster, better and way more out-of-control than its contemporaries, legendary thrash metal outfit Megadeth took the genre, refined and redefined the sound and its attitude for the entire world soon after its formation in the early ’80s.

In the many years that followed, I was ping-ponging back and forth through the band’s entire discography… 1990’s “Rust in Peace,” 1994’s critically acclaimed “Youthanasia,” and by the time I had joined Pulp magazine, my boss Vernon Go didn’t have too much of a hard time convincing me that 1986’sPeace Sells… But Who’s Buying” was one of the top, if not the best, Megadeth album of all-time. Because of Megadeth and its music (alongside its contemporaries, the rest of the so-called “Big Four” of thrash metal: Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax), I skipped an entire musical trend called “nu metal” for the better part of the millennium... thank god.

With every new release, and every time I revisited albums the band had released more than a decade ago, I was floored. My standards for all types of music became very strict, and though I had joined a host of bands during my college and post-university days, I still felt that I didn’t have the balls nor the chops to properly play most of my favorite ‘Deth tunes. For those of you who aren’t ‘Deth-heads, yes  the band is that good.  

Having sold over 30 million albums worldwide with five consecutive albums being certified platinum or multi-platinum in the US, and after garnering 10 Grammy Award nominations over its 28-year-career, Megadeth is still as furious as the band is relevant... Despite the fact that most music legends are lucky enough to go through the motions and make the occasional appearance during special occasions, Megadeth is still releasing bone-crunching music (its recent being its 13th full-length simply dubbed “Th1rte3n”) and wowing audiences worldwide with its state-of-the-art speed metal, hailed by both the young and old as unmatched to this day.

Led by the formidable Mustaine, the band was formed in the year 1983, almost immediately after Mustaine’s dismissal from his first group Metallica, as its core members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich gave him the boot for his alcohol- and substance-induced violent behavior. Fueled by the intense desire to upstage his former band, Mustaine  who had already established himself as one of the best guitarists in the fledgling Bay Area Thrash Metal scene in San Francisco (and having co-wrote what is deemed as Metallica’s best songs like The Four Horsemen, which was originally penned as The Mechanix and Ride The Lightning, the title tack of Metallica’s second studio album…) immediately teamed up with bassist David Ellefson and began pushing the sonic boundaries with a completely sideways-approach to writing riffs and guitar parts.

In fact, many of the band’s peers acknowledged that the rhythm guitar work on Megadeth’s first few albums was just as technical as the lead guitar playing, as Mark Osegueda, vocalist of all-Filipino thrash metal legends once stated in the Get Thrashed documentary. Though the band’s debut album “Killing Is My Business… And Business is Good!” already planted the seed that Mustaine was back with a vengeance, it was the aforementioned second outing “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying” that made such a huge impact that Metallica fans were now starting to realize how integral a part of thrash metal Mustaine was, alongside one of the band’s best lineups consisting of Mustaine, Ellefson, drummer Gar Samuelson and guitarist Cris Poland: blistering solos, complex scales, a rhythm technique known as the “spider chord” which he is credited for developing and a lyrical style that deviated from the usual cartoon-deviltry and occult-laced themes and instead, provided vicious commentary on politics, war, technology, the United States Military complex and extraterrestrials and UFOs, as evident on subsequent releases like “Rust In Peace,” wherein drummer Nick Menza and guitarist extraordinaire Marty Friedman were brought-in.

Though it seemed that the band had always been plagued with lineup changes throughout its existence (it’s notable that musicians like Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, Slayer’s Kerry King and even Slash of Guns N’ Roses were, at different points in time, considered to be drafted in the band…), each release that followed saw the band in better form, and by the time “Countdown to Extinction” was released, the debate worldwide was whether or not Megadeth was better than Metallica. Thrash metal fans excitedly argued  clearly Metallica had sold the most number of records, but in every true fanatic’s heart, Megadeth was responsible for constantly revolutionizing the genre while staying true to its roots, especially since Metallica had evolved into a band that had headed to a more commercial direction with its music. They also did manage to hit the big-time with radio-approved singles like A Tout Le Monde, Reckoning Day (off of 1994’s “Youthanasia”), Trust (“Cryptic Writings,” 1997) and critically-acclaimed B-sides and soundtrack contributions like a cover of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid which is arguably, the best ever, and a track called Angry Again, which was part of the Last Action Hero OST and 99 Ways To Die which was part of The Beavis and Butthead Experience CD. Clearly, Megadeth was still in the fight, and now, it was no longer about Mustaine’s vengeance on his former band: Megadeth was a giant in the heavy metal world in its own right, and the rest of the planet could not help but bow at the might and musical muscle of this outfit.

Albeit the fact that a lot has happened in the Megadeth camp since the early part of the millennium  more lineup changes, a brief disbandment due to Mustaine’s then-battle with radial neuropathy which affected his left hand, and more personal battles Mustaine had with inner demons, fans rejoiced when the band reformed and released “The System Has Failed” in 2004, heralded by reputable metal publication Revolver Magazine as “Megadeth’s most vengeful, poignant and musically complex offering since “Countdown To Extinction,’” and by 2007, ‘United Abominations’ which first featured present lead guitarist Chris Broderick, an over-the-top shredder who honed his chops playing with notable acts like Nevermore and Jag Panzer.

Mustaine had also created his own touring show Gigantour, but was still able to consistently release masterpieces like 2009’s “Endgame” (which earned the band another Grammy nomination the following year), and recently, the sonically and technically gratifying “Th1rte3n,” released in 2010  the same year Megadeth first joined its Big Four comrades Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica (since 1993) on one stage for the Big Four at the Sonisphere Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, a monumental concert that affirmed that thrash metal’s giants were alive, well and better than ever. The performance was sent via satellite to cinemas and distributed worldwide on home video, and Megadeth and its comrades made history once more.

It is now the year 2012. Despite the fact that I now listen to Megadeth on an iPod, have a small collection of pretty great electric guitars, and have listened to countless metal albums and admired younger groups that have sprouted in the wake of the thrash metal ’90s, and though Mustaine has finally closed the book on his feud with former outfit Metallica and the band is in the best shape it can be, there is no doubt that the band’s material from decades ago and the stories that come with ‘em have made Mustaine and Megadeth the legends they are today  and still add to the ever-growing fanaticism and mystique young and old metal fans have come to worship.

And though it seems that in the past years that international bands have been coming and going from our local shores, Megadeth is indeed one of the most important and still-relevant outfits to come over with the promise of making local headbangers go thrashing-mad beyond their wildest dreams. And as the date nears when Dave Mustaine and company finally arrive in Manila, the only thing I can do in eager wait is pop-in any Megadeth CD, plug in my guitar, turn up the volume, and raise a horned-hand salute to the world’s finest thrash metal band.

And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who remains true ‘til ‘Deth!

* * *

Pulp Live World presents ‘Megadeth Live in Manila’ on July 29 at the World Trade Center, Hall D in Pasay City, and is presented by Colt45, in cooperation with Tribal Gear and JB Music. Tickets are available at all SM Tickets Outlets. Visit pulplveworld.com and pulpmagaznielive.com for details.

 

BAND BIG FOUR MEGADETH METAL METALLICA MUSTAINE
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