Megadeth was formed by ex-Metallica member Dave Mustaine shortly after he was "asked to leave" Metallica early in their career. Founded in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. in 1983, Megadeth comprised of Dave Mustaine (guitar/vocals), Dave Ellefson (bass), Chris Poland (guitar) and Gar Samuelson (drums) although earlier line-ups have reportedly featured guitarists Kerry King (of Slayer) and Greg Handevidt (of Kublai Khan), among others. Shortly after their founding they were signed to the independent 'Combat' label. The name Megadeth came from a TV newscast Mustaine had been watching where a politician of the time gave a speech on nuclear war and described the "mega deaths" that would occur if such a thing were to happen.
Under a tight budget, they created Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good in 1985, offering an uncompromising Thrash sound while suffering from chronic poor production. 'Capitol Records', however, would enter the scene to pick them up just in time to release Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? (1986), a record characterized by a much better production quality and it's politically minded lyrics.
In 1988 Samuelson and Poland were booted out by Mustaine and replaced with Jeff Young and Chuck Behler. The follow-up, So Far So Good...So What (1988), continued on with their hard-hitting Thrash style, but with a little less political content. It also included an excellent rendition of the Sex Pistols' Anarchy In The U.K.
Following a period (approximately two years) of heroin problems Mustaine got his army marching into the 1990s. Poland was back and gone again, and so was Behler, and in their place sat Marty Freidman and Rick Menza. Rust In Peace (1990), with its anti-nuclear war message, received critical acclaim, and the follow up Countdown To Extinction (1992), with its message on ecological disaster became one of their more popular works; this would also the point at which melody would be introduced into their music. Megadeth also toured heavily during this time to further boost their exposure,making them a big league act rivaling their nemesis Metallica.
Youthanasia (1994) saw the band mellow some, which upset many of their hardcore fans; this was during the time when many Metal bands were trying that shtick out for size. The album was also controversial because of its cover art of babies hanging upside down on clotheslines; even the title itself, Youthanasia, a misspelling on Euthanasia (assisted suicide) caused controversy for it was a topic that was being debated in the Congresses and Parliaments of the world at the time; in short the album was pushing some hot topic buttons. The album contained more personal and political experiences of the band, but this time several subjects infiltrated the work not just centering on one.
In contrast the next effort was anything but controversial. Hidden Treasures (1995) was a compilation offering nothing more then a set of 'B' sides with only one new track Problems. Its follow-up, Cryptic Writings (1997), completed when Mustaine returned from his 1996 MD.45 side effort, was widely considered their epitaph by offering little new or memorable. In 1998 Rick Menza would contract cancer in his knee and had to be called off the remainder of the subsequent 1998 follow-up tour. He would later recover, but because of other differences would be sacked by Mustaine within short order. He would go on, within days later, to start his own band. But the shake-up in the band continued, and before long Jimmy DeGrasso took up the drum spot.
Risk (1999), was a return to the old Megadeth (pre-Youthanasia) and received more radio play, but it was clear by this time their creative peak would soon be making its exit. The follow-up "best of..." compilation Capital Punishment (2000) was done for contractual reasons before they changed to 'Sanctuary'. The album title itself making it clear they wanted off their former label.
Dave Mustaine, known for his line-up change fetish, worked on his hobby again by replacing Friedman with Al Pitrelli for their 2001 launch of The World Needs A Hero. Although it featured the classic Megadeth "chug chug" Thrash style guitar work and explored relationships, in a Metal head sort of way, it still failed to endear itself to critics. The 2CD live set Rude Awakening and the best of compilation Still Alive ... And Well?followed early in 2002. Shortly after the release of Rude Awakening, Dave Mustaine announced he had suffered an arm injury that would prevent his playing guitar for an extended period of time. Without Mustaine it was unlikely the band would continue, and in late 2002 they split. He would remain in the music business playing a side roll rather than on the stage.
In 2004 it was announced that Megadeth would return and indeed did with The System Has Failed (late 2004) featuring cover artwork by Ed Repka. Joining main man Dave Mustaine on the recording were drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist Jimmy Sloas with additional lead guitar tracks laid down by former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland. Following the lead of Iron Maiden and the other cash in kings, reissues preceded the CD featuring all seven of their studio albums recorded during the group's tenure with Capitol Records'. Mustaine remixed, remastered and restored each album, all of which featuring previously unreleased tracks as well as demos and alternate mixes, and newly penned liner notes. Some albums of note during this period were the 2005 Greatest Hits - Back To The Start (compilation), United Abominations (2007), That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires (live; 2007), Set The World Afire (compilation; 2008) before releasing Endgame (2009) with the line-up of: Dave Mustaine(vocals/guitars), Chris Broderick (guitars), Dave Ellefson (bass) and Shawn Drover now on drums (ex-Eidolon).
In an interview for Crypt Magazine, drummer Shawn Drover stated plans for a thirteenth Megadeth album. Dave Mustaine confirmed that Megadeth would be recording at the band's own Vic's Garage studio in California. It was announced that the record would be produced by Johnny K, because Andy Sneap, the producer of Megadeth's previous two albums, was unavailable. Release in November of 2011, the album would feature previously released tracks such as Sudden Death and Never Dead". The album charted at number 11 on the Billboard 200; its lead single Public Enemy No. 1 received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.
Shortly after the album was released, Mustaine announced, after four years of absence, there would be a new 'Gigantour' tour in early 2012 consisting of Motörhead, Volbeat and Lacuna Coil alongside Megadeth.] After the conclusion of 'Gigantour', Rob Zombie and Megadeth announced a nine-date co-headlining US tour to be scheduled for May 2012.
In September 2012, it was announced that the band would re-release Countdown to Extinction in honor of the album's 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Megadeth launched a tour in which the band performed the album live in its entirety.
At the start of 2013, Megadeth left 'Roadrunner Records' for Mustaine's label, 'Tradecraft', distributed through 'Universal Music Group'. The album, Super Collider, was released in June and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, the band's highest chart position since 1994's Youthanasia. Critical reaction to the album, however, was largely negative.
Shortly after the release of Super Collider, Mustaine stated that he had already started thinking about a fifteenth Megadeth album. According to Mustaine, this was spurred by the then-recent death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, which gave him a sense of mortality.
Dystopia (2016) followed with a worldwide supporting tour.
Footnote: In 2001 a computer scientist researching artificially intelligent robots coined the term 'Giga death' (billions of deaths) when describing what would occur if another world war were to erupt in a 21st century with robotic technology as its weapons of choice. No Metal band has picked up on the name yet. As a further note: Dave Mustaine now resides in suburban Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and two kids.
RIP: Gar Samuelson (ex-drums), July 14, 1999, of liver complications.