Megadeth... To some people (myself included), they are the greatest band to have emerged from the melting pot of 80s thrash... To others they are merely a Metallica offshoot.
Fact is, Megadeth is Dave Mustaine (and to a point, Dave Ellefson, but "The System Has Failed" proved the band can survive without him). The band is his vision, he writes most of the songs, and then there's THAT VOICE. Some love it, some hate it, but no-one can say it's not distinctive.
Mix that with Dave's insane and rather unorthodox rhythm and lead work, the skills of various guitarists (most notably Chris Poland, and the inimitable Marty Friedman) and drummers (especially Gar Samuelson, and of course Nick Menza), and the distinctive basslines of the aforementioned Mr. Ellefson, and you've got a recipe for the perfect metal band.
This Greatest Hits set covers the whole of the band's career (barring the recent "The System Has Failed" due to it being released a matter of months before this compilation), and takes in most of the singles and influential tracks the band produced over the years.
From the early days we have the infamous "Mechanix" (the original and superior version of Metallica's "Four Hoursemen") from the debut, "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good," which demonstrates the furious thrash intent of the fledgling Megadeth.
From the follow-up "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying" we have the title track, with its legendary bass intro, sarcastic lyricism, and manic soloing, and "Wake Up Dead" a largely instrumental number chock full of signature riffs.
1988's "So Far, So Good, So What" is represented solely by "In My Darkest Hour," a fine song that shifts nicely between slow and fast paced riffing, with some atmospheric acoustic work thrown in.
From "Rust In Peace" we have "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" which is in my opinion THE DEFINITIVE Megadeth song, with some demented riffing and some great eastern solo melodies, and "Hangar 18" which gives Mustaine and then-new Marty Friedman's lead guitar prowess with a monumental guitar duel.
Megadeth's biggest commercial success came in the form of 1992's "Countdown To Extinction" and it is amply represented here by the quirky "Sweating Bullets," the frantic "Skin O' My Teeth," and the song that made them famous, "Symphony Of Destruction." All three of these show the progression the band made, and demonstrate their ability to slide effortlessly into the mainstream without the music suffering.
The album which first really divided their fanbase was the aforementioned "Countdown..." but its follow-up "Youthanasia" divided opinion further, with the introspective rock-balladry of the beautiful "A Tout Le Monde" and the weird muted riffery of "Train Of Consequences," both of which are included here.
Often viewed as a dissappointment, 97's "Cryptic Writings" is a favourite of mine, and saw the band (who were going through a rough time during recording) meld the polished heaviness of "Countdown..." with the more poppy, songwriting-oriented sounds of "Youthanasia" to great effect with offerings such as "Trust" (the band's highest charting single, with good reason) and "She-Wolf," a chuggingly good song with an amazing harmonised solo, and some addictive melodies.
I once saw 99's "Risk" described as a "radio-rimming sh!t pie." Although that is a pretty harsh view, the further forays into poppier territory contained on the record were not the best the band produced. "Prince Of Darkness" is the only song taken from this album to be included on this compilation.
In addition to these songs, we are also treated to "Angry Again," a film-soundtrack rarity, from the hard-to-find (in the UK anyway) "Hidden Treasures" release, "Kill The King" from a previous (and inferior) retrospective ("Capitol Punishment"), and "Dread And The Fugitive Mind" from 2001's "The World Needs A Hero."
The bands various cover versions are wisely avoided, good as they are, since they are not really representative of the band's style.
There are no inherently bad songs on this collection, but the only gripe I do have is concerning the songs that WEREN'T included. I know it's a Greatest Hits, and as such should focus mainly on singles, but there was such an opportunity for this to be expanded to a 2disc set, to include "Set The World Afire" (the first song Mustaine wrote after being unceremoniously kicked out of Metallica), "Tornado Of Souls," "Countdown To Extinction," "Reckoning Day," "Almost Honest" and (despite the views of the majority of fans) "Crush 'Em" among others. Some of these may not have been singles, but I feel that they are essential material to include in order to fully demonstrate the many facets of the Megadeth sound.
Despite these missing tracks, the compilation as it stands is a great way for the casual metal fan, or interested listener to get into Megadeth, as this is the first Megadeth CD I bought (and felt immediately compelled to buy the whole back catalog soon after!), although it won't be of much interest to those who already own the albums. All the tracks included are taken from the remastered reissues of the albums, so the sound quality is top-notch in all cases.
With the good news that Dave Mustaine is continuing the band with the new line-up, we can only hope that in 10 or 15 years time, there will be another similar retrospective. But until then, this is an essential purchase.