Megadeth were in the room when I got my first writing gig. True story. That was a long time ago now and whilst my love of this here writing stuff has never dimmed my love for Megadeth has waxed and waned over the years. Partly that’s down to tastes changing, partly the bands output slipping after the classic thrash heydays and partly I began to feel alienated by some of Dave Mustaine’s outpourings and antics. Warheads on Foreheads is a great way to reconnect with the band.
Normally ‘Best of’ compilations can be a bit of a misnomer, basically taking the approach of repackaging the singles from a bands most famous couple of albums and then tagging a few less chart-bothering ones at the end. Warheads…though is different, it really does attempt to corral all the best bits from the bands entire catalogue. Yes, sure, diehards will no doubt bemoan a missing track here or there, but really diehards fans don’t need this triple-set anyway, do they? No this collection is tailor-made for fickle bastards like me, so thanks a lot Megadeth!
It’s great to hear tracks like ‘Rattlehead’ and ‘Mechanix’ from the band’s debut again, and whilst the band went on to record many greater songs the tracks from Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good! and follow up Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? still contain within them the burning, youthful energy from the birth of thrash metal, that for metalheads of certain age is akin to the year zero fervour of punk. For awhile tracks like ‘Wake Up Dead’ were part of a new canon, sweeping away older, slower tunes as we grew used to banging our heads faster, stage-diving further and moshing harder.
I’m sure lots of people began to drift away after ‘Countdown to Extinction’, the bands last big commercial success at the start of the 90’s, which features the brilliant ‘Symphony of Destruction’ and ‘Sweating Bullets’ – the only two songs from that album featured here. There’s not a great deal from the patchy ‘So Far, So Good…So What’ either, although it does include the majestic and very telling ‘In My Darkest Hour’ and in retrospect you can see the band were lurching from one crisis to another. Between those two albums, though, the band recorded their finest lp ‘Rust In Peace’ from which a full six tracks are rightly taken. Now, warning – controversial opinions ahead – one of the reasons ‘Rust in Peace’ is so good is because it features Megadeth’s best ever drummer, and, here it comes – thrash metal’s greatest ever drummer, Nick Menza. Mustaine, who let’s not forget is an incredible guitarist, the genre’s only true shredder and blessed with as much talent as any of his heroes, and Menza both produce, along with Ellefson and Marty Friedman (honestly, what a band!) an absolute technical, heavy as fuck, yet catchy and commercial masterpiece. Who doesn’t love ‘Hangar 18’? The blustering riff, intercut with sing song solos and rattle your goddamn head of drumming of ‘Holy Wars…The Punishment Due’?
Venturing further into the collection on cd 2 we get the rather fine ‘A Tout Le Monde’ featuring one of the bands best ever melodies and the surprising ’Train of Consequence’ from ‘Youthanasia’ which rattles along on a dirty riff and juddering beat which Joe Perry would have been proud to have cooked up. You feel the band know exactly what they are doing here as a harmonica a train noises close up the track. Nice. Only one track makes it from the much maligned ‘Risk’ album – ‘Wanderlust’ but in my research for this piece I have come to quite like the album and I think ‘Insomnia’ is a good tune – shame it didn’t make it here.
Disc 3, however, is dominated by four tracks from the bands most recent album ‘Dystopia’. Rightly heralded as a return to form, Mustaine has never sounded so angry and pumped on ‘The Threat Is Real’ ‘Death From Within’ and the title track. My theory is that certain bands thrive in times of uncertainty and paranoia and what with Dave’s predilection for religious sermonising and more unpalatable right wing views he must be feeling very liberated and inspired in the current climate. So while it’s true that ‘Dystopia’ is a great record, one I’ve got to know thanks to reviewing this terrific compilation, I won’t be listening too closely to the lyrics.
Politics aside I have to say I’m enjoying this album tremendously and it really is worth digging deeper into the bands less fancied albums, if like me you’ve been a fair-weather fan in the past.
Rattle your goddamned head!
Warheads On Foreheads is released tomorrow, March 22nd 2019 on UMC.