Megadeth is an American heavy thrash metal band from Los Angeles, California. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson formed the band in 1983 shortly after Mustaine’s dismissal from Metallica. A pioneer of the American thrash metal scene, the band is credited as one of the genre’s “big four” with Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer, responsible for thrash metal’s development and popularization. Megadeth plays in a technical style, featuring fast rhythm sections and complex arrangements. Themes of death, war, politics and religion are prominent in the group’s lyrics.
In 1985, the band released its debut album on the independent label Combat Records. The album’s moderate commercial success caught the attention of bigger labels, which led to Megadeth signing with Capitol Records. Their first major-label album, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?, was released in 1986 and influenced the underground metal scene. Despite its prominence in thrash metal, frequent disputes between its members and substance abuse issues brought Megadeth negative publicity during this period.
After the lineup stabilized, the band released a number of platinum-selling albums, including Rust in Peace (1990) and Countdown to Extinction (1992). These albums, along with touring worldwide, helped bring public recognition to Megadeth. The band temporarily disbanded in 2002 when Mustaine suffered an arm injury and re-established in 2004 without bassist Ellefson, who had taken legal action against Mustaine. Ellefson settled with Mustaine out of court and rejoined the group in 2010. Megadeth has hosted its own music festival, Gigantour, several times since mid-2005.
As of 2014, Megadeth had sold 40 million records worldwide, earned platinum certification in the United States for five of its fifteen studio albums, and received eleven Grammy nominations. The band’s mascot, Vic Rattlehead, regularly appears on album artwork and, since 2010, in live shows. The group has experienced controversy over its musical approach and lyrics, including canceled concerts and album bans. MTV has refused to play two of the band’s videos that the network considered to condone suicide.
Having sold over 50 million units worldwide as of 2014, Megadeth is one of the few bands from the 1980s American underground metal scene to have achieved mass commercial success. Along with contemporaries Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, Megadeth is regarded as one of the core founding groups of thrash metal. These bands are often referred to as the “big four” of thrash metal, responsible for the genre’s development and popularisation. Loudwire ranked Megadeth the third best thrash metal band of all time, praising the group’s “provoking lyrics and mind-warping virtuosity”. CMJ New Music Report called the band’s debut album a seminal release and a representative of “the golden age of speed metal”. Similarly, Billboard called the band’s second album Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? a “landmark of the thrash movement” whose lyrics it found still relevant. MTV also recognised the band as an influential metal act, highlighting the technical aspect of the early albums.
Megadeth is considered one of the most musically influential groups that originated in the 1980s. As part of the early American thrash metal movement, the band’s music was a direct influence on death metal. Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris wrote that the mainstream success of Megadeth was one of the reasons for the expansion of extreme metal to countries where it had previously been unknown. The band’s sound and album artwork influenced a number of thrash metal bands in the 21st century, including Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Megadeth has sold 9.2 million copies of its albums in the United States between 1991 and 2014.
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