Conflict, chaos, conspiracy and cacophony have defined Megadeth since their formation in 1983. As part of the "Big 4," they've helped to define thrash metal with frontman Dave Mustaine's lightning fretwork, his menacing, politically charged vocals, and a rhythm section that wouldn't quit — even though plenty of band members did.
Megadeth's early classics were a staple of MTV. Mustaine's mad dog snarl from under his curly red locks, footage of human suffering, war and terror flashing behind him — these are images emblazoned on any metalhead's cerebral cortex. Decades later, with 15 albums under their belt, and another on the way in September, Megadeth provide quite a challenge to anyone trying to pick the group's single greatest song. But our readers took a stab at it in our fan poll. See the top-five results below.
"When you write the 10 greatest riffs of all time and put them in one song," wrote a fan in the Youtube comments for this classic video. They're not wrong. Pummeling thrash licks, melodic interludes and technical savagery hit in quick succession as Mustaine paints the picture of armed conflict in foreign lands, orders to kill given by shadowy organizations, and then warns, "Next thing you know, they'll take my thoughts away." They' haven't succeeded as of yet.
"Hello me. Meet the real me." That unforgettable opening line introduced Megadeth to a whole new-level fanbase thanks to a meme-worthy video where Mustaine faces off with multiple versions of himself in a dank prison cell. The song itself has more of a swaggering pop feel than some of the band's earlier work. But at the 1:50 minute mark, the band tears in a ferocious instrumental that puts many modern metal bands to shame.
Only Dave Mustaine could come up with such a sweet ode to a nuclear missile. OK, maybe it's not sweet, and maybe it's not an ode, but the song certainly celebrates the annihilation of mankind by nuclear payload. "Launch the Polaris! The end doesn't scare us!" declares Mustaine over a riff that draws on the band's power-metal roots. "When will this cease? The warheads will all rest in peace!"
The "Good Mourning" instrumental opens the track with stark, somber anticipation, the kind that Metallica perfected on "One." While Metallica kept that sentiment running through their song, Mustaine uses the scene-setting intro to reveal "Black Friday," the story of a demon-possessed murderer who goes on a killing spree. The riffs never relent, building into a frenzy Mustaine chanting, "It's Black Friday! Paint the Devil on the wall!" Malls should be legally obligated to play the song on repeat every hour of their post-Thanksgiving sales.
Rust in Peace is widely acclaimed as Megadeth's masterpiece, so it's no surprise fans voted multiple songs from the opus to the top five here. However, unlike many of the band's most popular cuts, "Tornado of Souls" didn't benefit from an unforgettable video. What puts it at No. 1 is firmly the song itself. There's the melodic licks that inform modern death metal, unrelenting rhythm work now found in the portfolio of bands from the "New Wave of American metal," and Mustaine's uncharacteristically tamed vocals that provide an infectiously anthemic hook. It all makes for a transcendent classic that defies subgenre or era.