With Megadeth’s So Far, So Good…So What?! being made after Master of Puppets, it was inevitable that Dave Mustaine was going to compose an instrumental and hire Michael Wagener as the mixer. In all fairness to Mr. Mustaine, he was responsible for the pre-solo riff in Leper Messiah (which Kirk Hammett had admitted). In the below photo, Dave is reading the June 1991 issue of Metal Maniacs. This was before recording Countdown to Extinction in the next year. There’s an interview that James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich did for a VH-1 documentary about Megadeth. When asked to talk about them, Lars wanted to compliment Rust in Peace before a quick and incoherent exchange with James prompted him to change his answer to Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?
James was correct in thinking Megadeth had succeeded in one-upping Metallica by hiring Mike Clink (the original producer of …and Justice for All) to produce a progressive metal album where you could actually hear the bass guitar, although Dave was never under the impression that Metallica had been one-upped (such was his desire to one-up his former comrades). Despite Rust in Peace having 2 music videos, …and Justice for All was more profitable because Cliff Burton’s death brought a wave of avid anticipation that was similar to when Def Leppard released an album after the drummer lost his left arm in a car crash. Dave was being perceived as less of an underdog than Metallica because his downfall wasn’t as tragic as Metallica’s downfall.
I’m surprised that Mustaine didn’t think about hiring Bob Rock as the producer for Countdown to Extinction. It could’ve been a case of third time being the most charming when it came to imitation being a form of rivalry. The singles for the album are proof that getting a vinyl player is necessary because, in general, there are tracks (namely mixes) which haven’t been uploaded on YouTube. After Metallica’s black album, you could hear the stripped down influence in Testament’s The Ritual, Nuclear Assault’s Something Wicked, Living Colour’s Stain, Anthrax’s Sound of White Noise, Sacred Reich’s Independent, Slayer’s Divine Intervention and Sepultura’s Chao A.D.
Even Exodus, although not one to admit it, had to let their guard down for Force of Habit. Megadeth’s Youthanasia didn’t make much of an impact because metalheads were being overwhelmed by the new level of heaviness that could be heard in Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven (which was released 7 months before Youthanasia). Dave almost had the last laugh because When (from 2001’s The World Needs A Hero) was his way of implying that the bigger band became initially popular due to covering Diamond Head, while Dave was really covering himself (à la Scott Ian and Charlie Benante covered themselves by having Anthrax do a cover of a song that they did in Stormtroopers of Death). I say almost because he looked more bad than James and Lars within the context of a 2004 Metallica documentary titled Some Kind of Monster.
As stigmatized as Dave was, both bands have shared the stigma of having albums which would’ve been more popular had they been recorded by someone else. If Megadeth’s Risk was the same but was by R.E.M. then it would be their best album. If Metallica’s St. Anger was a Limp Bizkit album then it would’ve been hailed as a return to their gritty roots. I’ll say that Metallica still have it worse in that regard because Load and Reload would’ve been taken more seriously if they were Nickelback albums (whose first album was also released in 1996 like Load was). With the exception of …and Justice for All, James has never been as good of a lyricist as Dave.
On a scale of one to ten, I would say that James is mostly a 7 (the 1988 album being an 8) whereas Dave is a 9. I find this to be quite a surprise given that Dave, during his heyday, was a lot more hedonistic than James. Then again, creativity often does to tend come from inebriation and intoxication in general. In a weird way, Metallica would’ve been the world’s greatest metal band if they still had Dave. Different people affect how time progresses. Lives can sometimes be saved from procrastination such as hedonism or even delays caused by creative differences and rehab.
What I mean is that maybe there would’ve been delays that prevented Metallica from working with the bus driver who ended up being so drunk that he fell asleep at the wheel and caused the death of Cliff in the process. Kirk Hammett, James and Cliff were talking about kicking Lars out of Metallica after the Damage, Inc. tour. What they should’ve done is leave in 1985 (since Lars owned the name) so that they could start from scratch. It would’ve been like Velvet Revolver forming after Guns ‘n’ Roses.
As for what the name would’ve been, it would be Metallic. The joke being that the missing A signifies that Lars is an amateur. In the above photo, Megadeth supported King Diamond in a San Francisco club called The Stone. The photo features Timi Hansen and Ole Bang (the manager of King Diamond). The photo was taken on August 12 in 1986. The fact that Cliff was okay with socializing with Dave even at that point in time meant that, if Kirk hadn’t won the fatal card game, we would’ve seen Dave reunite with the band.
In a stranger turn of events, you could argue that Exodus would’ve been a more classic and popular band had Kirk remained in it. Unlike some hardcore metalheads, I’ve never been one to regard Exodus as being part of the top 4 (replacing Anthrax) or even top 5. This is because of Dark Angel and Testament who are neck and neck in terms of headbanging quality. If I had to pick one, it would be Dark Angel due to the 10/10 lyricism of Gene Hoglan and the increasingly complex structures.