Shortly after lead guitarist Dave Mustaine was fired from Metallica due to alcohol problems and personality conflicts, Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson formed Megadeth. Mustaine became the band’s singer and primary lyricist as well as lead guitarist. The band soon added drummer Gar Samuelson and temporary guitarist Kerry King (of Slayer fame). Later the same year, Kerry was replaced by Chris Poland.
In late 1984, they were signed to Combat Records, and in May 1985 they released their first album, entitled Killing is My Business . . . and Business Is Good!. The band had been alloted $8,000 to record and produce the album, but spending half of that budget on drugs left much to be desired in terms of sound quality. Even with its somewhat poor production, Megadeth's debut was a well-received album that blended elements of thrash/speed metal and punk rock.
In November 1986 they released their second album, Peace Sells . . . But Who's Buying?, regarded by many critics as Megadeth's finest hour and a ground-breaking thrash metal album. Better production and more sophisticated songwriting earned Megadeth immense respect and a place alongside Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax in the “Big Four” of thrash. Later the same year Megadeth signed with Capitol Records, who also bought the rights to Peace Sells... from Combat.
Gar Samuelson and Chris Poland were fired from the band after a tour in Hawaii, amidst rumors of drug abuse by the entire band. Mustaine claimed that Samuelson and Poland’s habits were interfering with the band unmanageably in their rising habits of selling equipment to fund their habits. As a matter of fact, Mustaine wrote “Liar” and dedicated it to Chris Poland for selling the band’s equipments for drug money. The replacements were Chuck Behler on drums and Jeff Young on guitars.
In March 1988, the new line-up released their next album, So Far, So Good . . . So What!. The album was widely panned and failed to capitalize on the success of Peace Sells . . ., with fans responding to only a few songs such as “Into the Lungs of Hell”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Set the World Afire”, and “Mary Jane”. A cover of the Sex Pistols' “Anarchy in the UK” on the album was particularly derided and was seen as a symbol of the whole album’s failure.
The lineup that had recorded So Far, So Good . . . So What! was short-lived, as Chuck and Jeff were fired in 1989, replaced respectively by Marty Friedman (guitar) and Nick Menza (drums). Before Marty Friedman was hired however, Megadeth recorded “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper, this being their only song as a three-piece line up. The Dave, David, Marty and Nick line-up became the most stable and successful of Megadeth's career, recording four well-received albums, and created Megadeth's reputation as a band that could not only play metal well, but also create more commercially acceptable offerings.
In 1990, however, Megadeth showed no sign of weakening. The band’s fourth album, Rust in Peace, is still regarded by many as one of the most technically sophisticated and exciting speed/thrash metal albums of all time. Megadeth's characteristically caustic and catchy lyrics and raw, fast thrash-metal riffs were finally captured with a clear, precise production, which allowed all the nuances of Mustaine’s guitar compositions to be heard. Rust in Peace showcased a level of technical complexity reminiscent of progressive metal.
In July 1992, Megadeth released Countdown to Extinction. It became an instant hit, reached number two on the Billboard album charts, and went multi-platinum. Mustaine himself said that he measured his future successes against those of Countdown. The album featured noticeably simpler song structures, catchy melodic “hooks”, and an increased emphasis on the singer’s voice. Megadeth, however, successfully integrated these changes into their typical cynical, ironic and heavily political lyrical themes. “Architecture of Aggression” features the sound of CNN and ABC reporters excitedly watching and commenting on the opening shots of the Iraq war and “Foreclosure of a Dream”, a song discussing the recession and its particular effect on American agriculture, has the infamous “Read my lips” promise of George H. W. Bush of not raising taxes.
Arguably the album was Megadeth's first true attempt at breaking into the mainstream rock market in which they had never gained a major foothold. Mustaine and the rest of the band members were frustrated, however, that Billy Ray Cyrus kept them out of Billboard’s number-one spot with Achy Breaky Heart and also that they lost their Grammy nomination to Nine Inch Nails’ Wish.
Youthanasia was delivered in 1994, and it also became a great success. Continuing the new direction indicated by Countdown to Extinction, Youthanasia featured a still-more-relaxed sound and generally slower songs — slower than some older fans could tolerate. The unusual Beats Per Minute (BPM) parity on the album is attributed to producer Max Norman, who apparently made Megadeth use around 120 BPM on every song in order to try and make their music more acceptable to rock radio. This led to some backlash from long term fans and the “sell out” term was starting to show up.
Their next album, entitled Cryptic Writings, was released in 1997. This album had more pop influences than the previous ones, but its sound was still unmistakably Megadeth's. Nick Menza left the band in 1998, replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso.
The pop influences were even more evident on the following album, 1999’s Risk, which met lackluster sales. Shortly after its release, Marty Friedman left the band, and was replaced by Al Pitrelli, formerly of Savatage. Looking for a way to end their contract with Capitol Records, the band released a greatest-hits collection entitled Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years (2000). This compilation included two new tracks that they were contractually obliged to give to Capitol.
In 2001 Megadeth signed a deal with Sanctuary Records. Shortly thereafter, they put out a new album, entitled The World Needs a Hero, which was hailed by many fans as a fairly-successful return to form.
On April 3, 2002, Mustaine announced in a press release that he was leaving the band, officially due to an injury that caused nerve damage to his left arm. The remaining members decided to dissolve Megadeth as a result. This seemed to mark the end of the band’s nearly twenty-year career.
Gradually, physical therapy helped Mustaine’s arm heal. After writing his first consciously solo album and masterminding the reissue of Megadeth's catalogue (remixed and remastered), he contacted the members of early Megadeth to help record his new album originally titled Blackmail the Universe, but later renamed The System has Failed (2004). Due to pressure from his record label he was forced to change this from a solo album to the final Megadeth album. This album features Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Chris Poland (who had played with Megadeth in the 1980s) on lead guitar and session musician Jimmy Lee Sloas on bass. As Dave Mustaine said, “Megadeth is slowly rising from the ashes.”
Early July of 2004 saw the entire The System has Failed album leaked onto the Internet. Mustaine is said to have been deeply upset by this, but the scheduled release date of September 2004 was maintained. The System has Failed made its debut at number 18 on the Billboard charts, and received overall positive reviews from critics, hailed as a return to Megadeth's “golden days” of the late 80s and early 90s.
Shortly following the release of The System has Failed, Mustaine appointed Glen Drover, formerly of the King Diamond and Eidolon, as Megadeth's new guitarist. Additional line-up changes were James MacDonough, formerly of Iced Earth, on bass, and Shawn Drover (the brother of Glen Drover) on drums. Mustaine previously hired back the former drummer Nick Menza, but he later left due to an undisclosed reason.
In July 2004, Ellefson filed an $18.5-million lawsuit in the New York federal court against Mustaine and the band, claiming he was entitled to a greater share of the band’s profits. In January 2005, the federal court dismissed the case, finding that Ellefson had released his claims in a May 2004 settlement agreement with the band. Mustaine and the band filed a counter suit against Ellefson in the California state court for breach of the settlement agreement. That suit eventually was settled.
The Blackmail the Universe World Tour, running from late 2004 until late 2005 (with a staggered touring schedule), proved to be a true “come back” and return to form for Megadeth, and their first large scale tour for several years. Previously Mustaine had also announced that it was the final Megadeth tour and that the band would be disbanding immediately afterwards; however, as of March 2005, Dave Mustaine announced the “Gigantour”, Megadeth's largest tour ever. This is surely a promise that the band will continue in its reformed state.
In July 2005, the band released a greatest hits record entitled Back to the Start: Greatest Hits.
End Game (2009) is the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed return-to-form United Abominations. The album, produced by Andy Sneap and Dave Mustaine, has been hailed as one of the band’s best albums in over a decade. The album includes trash anthems like the first single “Head Crusher” as well as the politically-charged title track.
Megadeth is easily one of the most recognized and culturally significant names in hard rock music for the past three decades, are pleased to announce the release of their thirteenth album, titled TH1RT3EN (2011). Dave Mustaine is incredibly proud of the music put forth on the recording, saying, “This record is the culmination of my work over the thirteen records I recorded. There are moments on TH1RT3EN that capture my every emotion, and other moments where I am releasing feelings I never knew existed! My proudest moments of my musical career are captured on TH1RT3EN.”
TH1RT3EN also marks the recorded return of bassist Dave Ellefson, who was part of the band’s classic lineup from 1983 to 2002. In a move that delighted the band’s legion of diehards, Ellefson returned to performing live with Megadeth in early 2010 and has remained a fixture on the stage ever since. This is the first time Ellefson has played on a Megadeth record since 2002’s Rude Awakening.