Dave Mustaine has never gotten over his ouster from Metallica. At least not if you believe what he said to former bandmate Lars Ulrich in the documentary Some Kind of Monster.

"It's been hard to watch everything that you guys do and touch turn to gold, and everything I do backfire," he says upon confronting the drummer after 25 years. "And I'm sure there's a lot of people who would consider my backfire complete success. But am I happy being number two? No."

Mustaine has a point. His band, Megadeth, which joins Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer in Indio, California, this weekend for The Big 4 festival, has never achieved the sort of success his former band has since they booted him for partying too hard. Actually, on the official Big 4 bill, Megadeth is listed as thrash metal's number three — not two — below Slayer.

You can understand how that might make Mustaine bitter — especially considering that he's always thought himself a far more talented guitarist than his replacement, Kirk Hammett. I'm really not sure whether Mustaine was hamming it up in Monster (learned opinions vary), but being constantly compared to Metallica has to suck. Especially since it's not a fair comparison.

Metallica is an all-star team. Everyone who's ever been associated with the band — save, perhaps, little-known original bassist Ron McGovney — is fucking awesome. James Hetfield is obviously awesome. Ulrich, despite the Napster thing, is awesome. Hammett is awesome, too, no matter what Mustaine says. Cliff Burton was super-awesome, but when he died in a bus crash, he was replaced by Jason Newsted, who was also awesome. Newsted left and was replaced by Robert Trujillo, the band's awesomest bassist yet, in my opinion.

Mustaine, on the other hand, is just one dude. He's awesome, sure. But he's also, in the parlance of our times, a one-man wolf pack. And this is something he's never been terribly content with, on a constant search for a kindred spirit that'll propel his band where he wants it to go. Mustaine has had some help from steady bassist Dave Ellefson, but his band has employed 22 people over the years — there's a separate Wikipedia page for all the band's former members, if you're interested — none of them up to par with the members of his old band. Obviously, Megadeth has never been able to compete with Metallica. How could they?

This kills Mustaine. The Monster interview will forever be the way people remember things, but his public discontentment with being second chair behind his former band goes back as far as 1988, when he named his third record So Far, So Good . . . So What! Mustaine was ranked number one in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists, but all he seems to remember is that he never got to play on Master of Puppets and didn't get credit for writing part of "Leper Messiah."

Here's the thing: If Mustaine wants to compare his team to their team, he'll always lose. Instead, he should compare himself to anyone else who steps on stage this weekend, from Metallica, Anthrax, or Slayer. Mustaine, I'd say, is the most productive man in the lot. He may not be able to single-handedly will his band to Metallica-level greatness — Metallica are The Beatles of metal — but he's certainly done more than any of that band's members individually. Mustaine is the only reason Megadeth is on the Big 4 bill at all — even Anthrax's Scott Ian couldn't make such a claim. Contrary to popular impression, Ian writes the band's lyrics, but most of the music is composed by drummer Charlie Benante. Slayer and Metallica are, of course, total team projects.

So we have Dave Mustaine, metal's rightful MVP. Sounds crazy, right? It's not.

First, consider what Mustaine went through to get where he is. He pulled himself up and started a successful project after getting the boot from one of the world's biggest bands. In fact, Mustaine is probably the most successful musician kicked out of such a big band so close to its birth. Pete Best quickly gave up on his post-Beatles project and went to work for the government. Doug Hopkins, the Gin Blossoms guitarist who wrote several of their biggest hits, was tossed out of the band because of his alcoholism and killed himself a few weeks after getting a gold record for "Hey Jealousy." Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd became a psychotic recluse.

Ulrich and Hetfield more or less left Mustaine for dead when they dropped him off at a bus station in New York, where the band was recording their first record, with his gear and a ticket back to L.A. Miraculously, Dave was done moping — and busy writing lyrics — before he rolled back home.

Second, and more important, metal fans of nearly every bent should concede that Megadeth actually surpassed Metallica at some point in their respective careers. Any cross in the bands' trajectories, for all the reasons above, is nothing short of amazing, and due solely to Dave's maniacal diligence. (Mustaine canceled an interview for this piece because I got swamped with work and called him five minutes late — no hard feelings.)

If you're a hardcore old-school thrash fan, you should concede that 1990's Rust in Peace surpassed Metallica's poorly produced 1988 album . . . And Justice for All. Just listen to the riffs on their respective openers, Megadeth's bone-crushing Northern Ireland-themed "Holy Wars" and Metallica's jerk-off backwards-guitar-bullshit-about-nuclear apocalypse "Blackened." If you're a purist who likes it super-thrashy, you should acknowledge that Megadeth held your candle after Metallica released "One."

Let's say, like me, you prefer a slightly more traditional pop structure for mid-tempo songs with big hooks. It's true that Metallica pretty much perfected that formula on their biggest seller, their self-titled effort known as "The Black Album." But that was also the only thing the band released in an eight-year span and the band's only release of the type. Megadeth, meanwhile, put out two excellent records in that mold, Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia. For my money, the standout tracks on Youthanasia — "Train of Consequences," "À Tout le Monde," and "I Thought I Knew It All" are better than most of "The Black Album."

Youthanasia has always been a personal favorite, which is why it's super-cool to learn it was recorded in Phoenix. Mustaine wanted out of L.A. and came here, where several members of the band had roots, to build a studio in a warehouse. The twists and turns of the recording process are documented in an interesting and now-out-of-print documentary called Evolver: The Making of Youthanasia. The documentary is no Some Kind of Monster, but it's cool to see the band hanging out in Phoenix in the mid-1990s, and it's available on YouTube.

Even if you're unwilling to concede those songs are better than "Enter Sandman," "The Unforgiven," and "Nothing Else Matters," you'd have to agree that factoring "Symphony of Destruction" or a few of Extinction's other standout tracks leaves Megadeth with more to show from the era than Metallica.

Neither Megadeth or Metallica had particularly strong finishes to the 1990s, but as Metallica fell into total disrepute through the sheer shittiness of Load and ReLoad (remember "The Unforgiven II"), Megadeth put out an underrated record called Cryptic Writings, an album that was also more hard rock than metal but not nearly as obnoxiously so. Listen to "Fuel," then "Almost Honest" — I think Megadeth did it better.

Nowadays, Metallica is in the middle of a full-on resurgence, having put out one of the best-ever albums, Death Magnetic, at the end of 2008. Megadeth, on the other hand, is in a weird time, as Mustaine is mostly sober and Born Again. He's back to thrash, and getting good reviews, but he's also making some of Metallica's early-'00s mistakes — rushing out album after album and, in 2007, even re-hashing "À Tout le Monde" with guest vocals from the chick who sings for Italian goth band Lacuna Coil.

Still, I wouldn't count him out for long. Especially not if he sticks around the polo grounds to see the way rapturous fans greet Metallica this weekend. Mustaine is metal's MVP, but ask Dan Marino how he feels without a ring. Seeing his former inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has gotta burn.

It's a shame Mustaine can't feel content with what he's done, but that disappointment is also what's fueled his very impressive output for the past 30 years.

"The biggest misunderstanding is all of the stuff in the past, the disagreements with other bands, stuff that is so old. None of us care about it anymore," he recently told the Chicago Tribune.

Really? Let's hear Metallica play "Leper Messiah" this weekend as Mustaine watches from the wings.

I'd bet he grinds his teeth a little as he watches Hammett shred those solos. As great as he is individually, who could blame him?

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18 comments
Lewis
Lewis

'but his band has employed 22 people over the years — there's a separate Wikipedia page for all the band's former members, if you're interested — none of them up to par with the members of his old band'

Marty 'FN' Friedman......

Musicians Rule
Musicians Rule

Metallica has always been better than Megadeth, despite Mustaine managing to come up with a few catchy songs over the years. Mustaine's singing makes Jimi Hendrix sound like Pavarotti. Anyone who thinks Megadeth's creativity or musicianship is better than Metallica's is clearly brain-damaged and about as knowledgeable about music as a preschooler playing with a Fisher Price xylophone. "Think" is a fool, but he's fooling no one but other immature Megadeth fanboys. Also, Metallica's later albums may be poor compared with earlier records but many of the songs are as good as anything Megadeth ever put out, and yes, I'm including "Fuel" in that list. The best thing Metallica ever did for its career was kick Mustaine to the curb.

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Mercynomoremusic
Mercynomoremusic

I am a Megadeth fanboy but completely disagree with his criticisms of Metallica. In the 1st decade of the new millennium Metallica only released 2 albums. From 1990 to 2010 they only released 6 studio albums and only 5 with original material. That's 5 original studio albums in 20 years. How on earth are those close together. They all buried the hatchet by the way and I was never one to get into the Met vs Megs stuff anyway. Love 'em both.

Think
Think

Not knowing if this a published article in a newspaper or an online-only publication, I have to comment that you are a poor writer/journalist/reporter or whatever you are considered or consider yourself. One more thing is certain..you are clearly not a musician nor do you know much about music. The guitar-playing talent in Megadeth has always..get it ALWAYS.. transcended anything that has been produced by Metallica. The reason Metallica became successful has always been due to Mustaine. No guitarist went to see Hetfield but to see Metallica with the energy of Mustaine's guitar feeding the music. As a guitarist, it is easy to recognize that comparing the musicianship of Metallica to Megadeth is the equivalant to the comparison of a 3rd world nation to the USA. Not only is there a million light - year gap but it is offensive to the guitarist or the beginner who is aiming to rise above the rest of these 3 chord strumming stratocaster Louies or the billion note per second soloists that can't write outside the parameters of the set scales of music. Every musician in Megadeth is beyond being compared to anyone in Metallica. The only position that holds any candle would be the bassist. I listened to Metallica in high school in the early 80's and still enjoy their releases up to And Justice...(though only a few songs on justice are worth the time). Your take on Blackened couldn't be any further from reality and the lyrical content of half the songs by Hetfield are unbearable..I hate my parents Dyer's Eve, the incredibly horrible music (or lack thereof) in the title track. The whiny Unforgiven and who uses the word harvester besides a farmer? The lyrics of Mustaine post So Far...are very intelligent and delivered with the most fitting singing style that us intelligent people who enjoy them usually don't fit into the stereotypical long haired rebellious loser category. One of the best Metallica releases of the only 4 good ones is the $5.98 Garage Days (the original ep) and that was all covers. Marty Friedman is so incredible and outside the boundaries of your standard book only guitarist that when you have learned all your scales you have to go beyond to get your fingers out of the standard scale routine they have been accustomed to so they can fluently play his solos. Broderick is an incredible musician and I can only hope he doesn't let himslf fall into the boring non-melodic speed scaler category. Poland, Pitrelli and Drover are way beyond anything Kirk has to offer talent wise. Don't get me wrong I really like Hammet's tone and sound (when he isn't over using the wah to hide his pedestrian solos) on the early releases and find his early solos driving. Oh wait, some of those are Mustaine's..haha. Mustaine's music writing ability joined with his lyrics (predominately post So Far..) and singing style puts too much distance between Megadeth and the other bands in this genre that thay just can't come close. Metallica is probably ( I should use "prob" to fit in with this ridiculous article) the only band to come close and that is not saying much for the others). The opening statement regarding your own writing talent is dead on. Having to use cliche curses and phrases to convey some sort of "coolness" is self-defeating. The mere use of these to relate to the "cool people" shows just how uncool you are. Megadeth billed under Slayer is pathetic but what do you expect from people who listen to a few chords chugged really fast and lyrics that are akin to a child using foul and violent language to portray himself as "tough" (which must be your target audience). I won't even get started on awesomist...what a joke. Are you trying to appeal to the grade schooler as Enter Sandman did to increase your exposure? You come across as not much more than a poorly written commercial trying to sell a product to a demographic that you aren't a part of and can't relate to. Do us and yourself a favor, refrain from the fraudulous persona you are trying to convey and if it is genuine, get some help. And please, no further comments on what you know so little about.

Metallicamike667
Metallicamike667

Wait who the hell does this bull shit wanna be think he is knocking blackened he isnt anything more than a mommy loving cocksucking bitch

Metallicamike667
Metallicamike667

Mustaine singing sucks it sounds like he is holding his nose and talking, metallica rules!!!!!!!!! But I do have to say megadeth sounds a whole lot better than slayer and anthrax

Ed
Ed

This is a great article you have written. Well done all the way through except for your opinion on the last few albums. They really haven't been released that close together and each album is not only very good and still a good listen any day of the week, each one gets better than the last. Give them more of a chance...A Tout Le Monde is really cool with the female vocals! And Fixxxer, your comment was cute, but you need to go back to school and come back when you know better what your saying.

bad_brains
bad_brains

Dave might be pissed to see he has less people come to his show but his show will definitely be more fun. Have you heard Metallica lately? Hetfield doesn't scream anymore at all, his vocals are cleaner than ever and now when they play Kill em All songs the intensity is all gone. I've been to concerts for both bands and as a metal fan, Megadeth concerts are way better. The fans actually know the lyrics and the crowd is way more involved. Megadeth has a way bigger fan base in terms of hardcore metal fans too, since many people see Metallica as a sellout and cringe when their 90's songs are played on the radio. Watch the Symphony of Destruction in Argentina video on youtube it's insane.

Fixxxer
Fixxxer

Couldn't disagree more. Hands down, it's James Hetfield. He's the heart and soul of the greatest metal band of all-time. Hetfield DID will his band to the top, something Mustaine couldn't.

ThrashTilDeath
ThrashTilDeath

Just get on your knees and suck Mustaine's dick why dont you? Personally I like both bands, but your just another hardcore Mega fanboy who has nothing better to do but rant and whine on the internet. Your comment...seriously man. Just enjoy the music.

Usgovfail
Usgovfail

The dooshbag that wrote this garbage is just another trendy lemming that will follow all the other sheep over the cliff. I'm sorry that you wasted your time reading that entire "article".

Fixxxer
Fixxxer

almost as cute as "this is a great article...." eddie boy?? whatever... "well done all the way through except....." that was brilliant.... Mustaine is a great guitar player and that's about where it ends....class dismissed

 
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