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Tornado of Souls/Holy Wars...
Megadeth play Cork and we remember when Dave Mustaine almost caused a riot in Northern Ireland
Dave Mustaine is a controversial, outspoken, and divisive figure in Metal circles. Much has been written about how he was fired from Metallica before they became big, and the fallout this had upon his life.
In truth the fallout resulted in him forming one of the most famous Metal bands of all time. Megadeth have released 15 studio albums (no 16 is on the way), 5 or 6 live albums, and multiple compilation albums. By most counts they have sold almost 40 million records worldwide. They have won a grammy, and in the words of a non-metal friend of mine: “Their t-shirts look really cool”. That’s pretty good fallout if you use these things to measure the worth of music.
They entered the public consciousness via MTV in the early 90s. Understanding the power of video, they released a number of entertaining and sometimes provocative videos to promote their music (‘Sweating Bullets’ is a good example). Also, MTV used the bass intro from ‘Peace Sells’ as the jingle for their News show for a time. I first heard them when they released ‘Symphony of Destruction’ as a single, and in my opinion it’s an example of a perfect Metal song. I wouldn’t change a thing about that track.
But some metal fans and journalists always had a problem with them. Specifically, they had a problem with Dave Mustaine. He’s a ginger, he was cocky back in the late 80s and 90s, and he abused drugs and alcohol. As ‘the guy Metallica fired’ he was sometimes pilloried and mocked. He seemingly shrugged off the bullying and developed a massive ego as protection against the barbs. He later became sober and turned to Christianity. It wasn’t until Metallica released a documentary in 2004, that he was able to address the fallout. It’s a poignant moment when he meets his old band mate Lars Ulrich.
In 2010 I was still suffering (badly) from my own demons with alcohol. I was beginning to realise that the current path I was on couldn’t last. Something would have to give, and if I wasn’t careful that thing would be me. It’s hard to explain the isolation an addict feels to people who have never suffered from the illness. “Just stop”, “You should”, “Why do you” are all words slung at people in the throes of addiction. The problem is, that it is hard. Everything is hard. Trying to live while in the midst of an addiction is playing life on Hard Mode. But it feels impossible to do anything without the substance.
In the above interview you hear Dave explaining to Lars about how sudden and abrupt his firing felt. He felt that he hadn’t been given a chance to change. He also admits they were right to fire him due to his dangerous behaviour. While his firing was one of the the things that later helped him find recovery, there was a part of him that said “What if…?” It’s a natural emotion, but not a good one to dwell on. Madness lies in that thought process.
In the few years preceding 2010 I had gotten back into Metal music. It was one of the few passions I had left. When I heard Megadeth were playing my home town, I bought a ticket and went by myself. I wasn’t really looking forward to the gig to be honest. I had to drag myself to it, even though I was living only about a twenty minute walk from the venue. This was the first time I ever attended a gig solo. It was a nice experience overall, it was a warm sunny day, and I had a few beers before the show. In fact I recall being so hungover from the daily drinking session the day before that I was basically having the cure.
I forget a lot of the specifics of the gig, but I do remember my reaction. Megadeth can play. Megadeth can really play. Dave Mustaine would be a lead guitar player in most Metal bands (he was Metallica’s lead for example), but he usually plays rhythm or more like second lead in Megadeth. The ever revolving doors of Megadeth’s band line-up feature exceptionally talented musicians. It was a short but blisteringly good gig. They played all my favourites, like ‘Symphony of Destruction’ and ‘Tornado of Souls’ (below). Their fifth album ‘Rust in Peace’ contains pretty much nothing but bangers, and contains not one, but two* masterpieces of Thrash Metal. The below track contains arguably the best guitar solo in a mainstream Metal album. Starting at 3:07 and played by (now ex-member) Marty Friedman, it is one of those snippets of music that has inspired dozens of YouTube clips showing the original guitarist, his successors in the band, and loads of amateur players of varying skill levels. You won’t find a song like it on any other metal album and it kind of spells out how I was feeling in 2010.
As you can probably tell, Dave Mustaine is a hero of mine. I admire his tenacity and musicianship. He got sober. He recently survived throat cancer. He had an extremely difficult childhood, and more recently his mother in law died in tragic circumstances. He turned getting kicked out of Metallica into a huge positive. I also reckon he’d be a pretty chill guy to hang out with these days. I might not agree with all (any!) of his politics, where he evolved from an anti-war standpoint to a more conservative… who am I kidding? He said he wanted a wall built between the USA and Mexico back as early as 1988. Still though, if I wanted to listen to music created by an artist who never gave a controversial opinion in their entire life, I’d just listen to Morrissey or someone ;)
Anyway, a riot in Northern Ireland? So yeah, a very young Megadeth were playing a gig in Belfast and prior to playing their cover version of the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the UK’, Dave Mustaine decided to say “This one’s for the cause. Give Ireland back to the Irish.” Needless to say, half the audience in Belfast didn’t appreciate it.
But the Aquanaut does, and he chuckles from his watery lair each time he thinks about it.
*As kind of a tribute to that night Mustaine penned ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’. It’s funny the places you find inspiration.
Megadeth have many great albums. ‘Peace Sells’ is amazing, as is ‘Countdown to Extinction’. I even like ‘Super Collider’ which was derided by the musical press. Their last album ‘Dystopia’ produced their first grammy win and there is a new album on the way. But for many ‘Rust in Peace’ is considered their best. In fact ‘America’s finest news source’ considers it “the pinnacle of aesthetic and creative potential”.
Next week: Without you, I cannot be, without you / With you, I am alone too (Without you)