They released their debut album in 1985 Killing is my Business…and Business is Good! on independent label Combat Records, which was met with moderate success. This enabled the band to be looked at by major labels which led them to be signed to Capitol Records. They released their second album Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? a year later which made waves in the metal scene. However, despite this success, personal troubles plagued the band behind the scenes, due to drug abuse and Mustaine’s hot headed personality.
Despite this, Megadeth continued to enjoy even bigger success with a string of multi platinum albums such as 1990’s Rust in Peace and 1992’s Countdown to Extinction. They did much touring to support these albums, maintaining their popularity throughout the 1990’s. This came to an end when the band split up in 2002 after Mustaine suffered an arm injury that rendered him unable to play but after he recovered they got back together in 2004 without Ellefson who had fallen out with Mustaine and was taking legal action. Eventually this rift was settled and he decided to re-join in 2010. Since 2005, Megadeth has hosted their own music touring festival several times called the Gigantour.
They have reportedly sold around 38 million albums worldwide with six of their albums being certified platinum and have received twelve Grammy nominations. They won their first in 2017 for the song “Dystopia” for best Metal Performance. Like Iron Maiden’s Eddie, they have their own mascot called Vic Rattlehead (who like Eddie is also an undead Skeleton) who has adorned several of their album covers. The band, particularly Mustaine have caused a fair amount of controversy over the course of their career, having experienced censorship for some of their lyrics as well as Mustaine’s tendency to start feuds with other bands, most notably his former bandmates in Metallica.
# 10 – Holy Wars…The Punishment Due
The main classic to be taken from Rust in Peace, “Holy Wars” is pure prime Megadeth. The main things that it does is show the versatility of the band, starting off as something and ending up as another. The first part is pure thrash with lyrics dealing with criticism of religion and the second is more progressive with the lyrics take a different turn dealing with a story of revenge.
# 9 – Hangar 18
Another Megadeth staple from Rust, this energetic number shows the band at the peak of their early 90’s heyday. With conspiracy theory-inspired lyrics, the riff is one of the more straight-up from their catalogue but nevertheless is one that many aspiring metal guitarists attempt to master to this day.
# 8 – Symphony of Destruction
Yet another riff-tastic tune, this time of 1992’s Countdown To Extinction, this is another track that yet again contained lyrics that very topical at the time. Dealing with apocalyptic themes, it tells the story of a “pied piper” who “led rats through the streets” to Armageddon, with a cranky riff that has no doubt been a floor filler at many metal club nights since its release.
# 7 – Tornado of Souls
Yet another Rust banger , this one is one of the bands fastest, relentlessly paced and angry sounding. Lyrically, it is a personal one for Mustaine dealing with the break up of a relationship. Notably, it also features one of the most classic solo’s from guitarist Marty Freidman.
# 6 – In My Darkest Hour
A cut from the somewhat overlooked So Far…So Good…So What? album, the title of this track sums up the low point that Mustaine and Megadeth were feeling at the time with drug abuse and the loss of members Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson. To make it even more poignant, it is dedicated to Mustaine’s fallen former Metallica bandmate bassist Cliff Burton.
# 5 – A Toute Le Monde
A slower number from Megadeth, this cut proved that the band could be diverse and write a ballad. Taken from 1994’s Youthanasia it shows Mustaine’s talents as a lyrics writer with its use off French language. It notably cause much controversy at its time of release with MTV saying the lyrics encouraged suicide. They recorded it years later with Lacuna Coil vocalist Christina Scabbia.
# 4 – Sweating Bullets
Countdown the Extinction was an album that’s consistency was helped by stability in the lineup at the time. “Sweating Bullets” was one of the highlights of the album, made notable by its unqiue music video and lyrics that dealt with schizophrenia.
# 3 – Wake Up Dead
From Peace Sells… this was the bands first ever single and a relentless slice of early raw thrash metal. A great example of the bands speed, it tells a tale of marital infidelity with energetic riffs and leads that are good for any aspiring guitarist who likes a challenge.
# 2 – Peace Sells
In many ways the prototypical Megadeth song, with its technicality and social commentary. A Megadeth anthem and of thrash metal in general, it shows the band at the time when they were at their best both musically and when Mustaine seemed to have a better idea politically, before he became a born again Christian appearing on right-wing talk shows.
# 1 – Washington is Next!
Yes, a controversial choice and probably not one that many will agree with, but everyone has their own opinion! The only 21st century Megadeth song on this list from 2007’s United Abominations this track has something of the old Megadeth style about it, with its very openly political content and the fact that it is a very THRASHING thrash track!