Megadeth Show Off Their Best Tracks

With all the recent activity in the Megadeth camp, both good (the excellent 'The System Has Failed' LP and a successful world tour) and bad (Dave Mustaine’s conspicuous God-bothering and avowed intention to split the band), it was perhaps only a matter of time before their former record label, Capitol, decided to get a piece of the action. 'Greatest Hits' is a new compilation of Megadeth's finest moments, although the title is a bit of a misnomer – except perhaps at the peak of their popularity in the early '90s, did Megadeth ever have hit singles?

So how does this release compare to Megadeth's previous retrospective, the now-deleted 'Capitol Punishment'? Well, the new CD is a little deeper. It reproduces most of the tracks from 'Capitol...' (even including the two songs specially recorded for that CD, 'Kill the King' and 'Dread and the Fugitive Mind') but also finds room for some unexpected treats such as 'Mechanix' (from the band's Combat Records debut) and 'Angry Again' (their contribution to 'The Last Action Hero' soundtrack). None of the band's recent material for Sanctuary is featured, however. Additionally, the songs on 'Greatest Hits' are the remastered and fiddled with versions from the recent Megadeth back catalogue reissues. Some songs have been affected more than others by this process, but there is a general thickening up of the low end (especially the bass drums), a reduction of reverb and a greater prominence given to backing vocals. A few extra widdly bits are also added here and there. I have to admit, I still prefer the original versions, but then I'm resistant to changing (which is why I smell).

Included as a bonus is a 42-minute DVD featuring the promo video for 'Kill the King', seven tracks taken from a live performance and an advertisement for the band's forthcoming 'Arsenal of Megadeth' DVD (which, on this evidence, is going to be great). The live show was filmed on the Risk tour in late 1999, immediately after guitarist Marty Friedman had informed the rest of the band of his intention to leave the group; perhaps this is why Dave scowls even more than usual and Marty's guitar is almost buried in the mix. This DVD seems to have been thrown together in a hurry: the sound is a bit muddy in places and there are a few instances of digital artefacting and grain. Still, these are quality songs performed by a skilled band, and it's always a pleasure to laugh at Marty's hair and see the faces Dave pulls when gargling his way through 'Sweating Bullets'.

The packing is also a bit lacking, consisting of a few pictures of mushroom clouds and military hardware with some pointless notes by director Penelope Sheeris (which basically say 'Megadeth are dead good, innit?'), but the main issue is how well this release serves as a summation of Megadeth's pre-millennial output, and on this score there can be no faulting it. Although some are bound to quibble about what was and wasn't included (does 'Prince of Darkness' really deserve a place when 'Tornado of Souls' is missing?), the tracklisting (largely voted for by visitors to megadeth.com) perfectly highlights the genius of the band, and Dave Mustaine in particular. Although his vocals are something of an 'acquired taste', his vision and songwriting brilliance shine through the numerous lineup changes and drug addictions which formed the background to this music's creation. Although his lyrics have always veered wildly from disaffected brilliance ('In My Darkest Hour', 'Peace Sells') to shite about Victorian werewolves with PMT ('She-Wolf'), there are few able to challenge Dave's ability to construct immense riffs of the type metal was invented for. Always the most musically skilled of the thrash titans, Megadeth had a knack for imbuing technical, complicated tracks with a genuine raw edge and punk spirit (although this was less evident post-Rust...) and for creating proper songs from numerous seemingly disparate parts. I'd always been inclined to the view that Megadeth were the best band of the thrash movement (just edging out Dave's old chums in Metallica), and Greatest Hits not only confirms this but shows them to be one of the greatest metal bands of all time. If Megadeth's days are indeed numbered, then there's no better way to remember them.