For 30 years Megadeth has predicted a not-so-pretty end to this American experiment. Now that their dystopian views are coming into focus, it’s time to ponder which of Megadeth’s prognostications are most accurate.
Ginger rocker and Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine has always been the literal red-headed stepchild of heavy metal.
He awoke on April 11, 1983 hungover after partying with his band mates in Metallica — a super group he co-founded with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burton. He was told first thing to pack a bag, he was out. No warning, no severance, no nothing. The band was rehearsing to record their first album, Kill ‘Em All and playing a few gigs in New York. And though Mustaine, a guitar prodigy, was co-writer of much of their upcoming album, his replacement, San Francisco-born Kirk Hammett, a member of the Bay Area thrash band Exodus, had already been announced.
Mustaine was dismissed for his drinking, which was far from a rarity in a band that nicknamed itself “Alcoholica” but the guitarist said he was an “aggressive and confrontational” and a “violent drunk.”
The behavior earned Mustaine a one-way bus ticket home. It was on the road for four days back to the West Coast he pondered what’s next and wrote lyrics on the back of a flier from Senator Alan Cranston. On the front of the pamphlet one of the bullets read: “The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid.”
By the time he arrived back in LA, the idea for Megadeth had germinated.
Mustaine hooked up with bassist Dave Ellefson on the project and in 1985 released an album on Combat Records, an independent label. The album’s themes of alienation, death, war and politics resonated and they were signed to Capitol Records later that year. The band’s first album, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying was released in 1986 and became a less accessible and more aggressive version of the same type of thrash metal that Metallica had introduced and started to make commercially viable through MTV.
Mustaine followed up with two more platinum albums Rust in Peace (1990) and Countdown to Extinction (1992). The band broke up in 2002 but got back together in 2010. Megadeth has sold 50 million albums worldwide, they own their own music festival (Gigantour) and have remained controversial because of doomsday lyrics and general dissatisfaction with a power vacuum at the top and a burgeoning militarized state.
Megadeth, 30 years and change after its founding, may be the most prescient band around. Here are a handful of future-telling stills from their videos (with lyrics) to show just how much Dave Mustaine got it right on that bus in 1983.
Symphony of Destruction (1992)
You take a mortal man
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch people’s heads a’roll
A’roll, a’ roll
Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony
Hangar 18 (1990)
Foreign life forms inventory
Suspended State of cryogenics
Selective amnesia’s the story
Believed foretold but who’d suspect
The military intelligence
Two words combined that can’t make sense
Possibly I’ve seen too much
Foreclosure of a Dream (1992)
Rise so high, yet so far to fall
A plan of dignity and balance for all
Political breakthrough, euphoria’s high
More borrowed money, more borrowed time
Backed in a corner, caught up in the race
Means to an end ended in disgrace
Perspective is lost in the spirit of the chase
“What you don’t know” the legend goes “can’t hurt you”
If you only want to live and die in a cage
There’s panic and there’s chaos, raping in the streets
Where useless thoughts of peace are met with rage
Demoralized and overmastered people think
The quickest way to end the war is lose
Dictatorship ends starting with tyrannicide
You must destroy the castle and it’s root
The threat is real (2016)
Seen the bird as a mechanism
A crest fallen nation see
Violent conditioning, cause the nature of the enemy
You’re terminal lack of vision
Blinded, I see no light
A quiet lack of perspective
Their cancer now eats us alive
A fatal shot, a lust for blood
The final act, the threat is real
Post-American World (2016)
We see each other through different eyes
Segregating ourselves by class and size
It’s me against you in everything that they do
This planet’s become one big spinning disaster
If you don’t like where we’re going
Then you won’t like what’s coming next.