It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I first blasted MEGADETH’s Countdown to Extinction on my cassette players as a high school freshman. Those were good times in my young life as a metalhead which Capitol Records/EMI is hoping to bring back for everyone with the 20th Anniversary Edition.
Looking back, there are a lot of interesting aspects about the record. First, it follows in the footsteps of the stylistic shift between successive fourth and fifth albums of Mustaine’s former band. After coming off a fourth record that showed the band at its absolute technical and ambitious peak, the fifth record was a blatant ploy at gaining more commercial success with a substantial watering down of the brilliant thrash that was laid in the previous record. MEGADETH have never been dishonest about their motives for Countdown. The record also stands as the peak of the band’s success as well as the last time this classic line-up would play this fast.
Nevertheless, Countdown still stands the test of time as a very modern and sophisticated piece of metal influencing bands such as NEVERMORE. The songwriting was more direct, poignant and was packed with technical brilliance. The guitar duo of Mustaine and Marty Friedman easily proved why they were the best guitar duo in thrash. Their guitar work is still untouchable. While songs like the cheese of “Sweating Bullets,” the hit “Symphony of Destruction,” and the title track are still the most popular, the true crown jewels lay in “This Was My Life” and “Ashes in Your Mouth.”
It’s important to note that the 20th Anniversary Edition is the original release of the record and not the remixed, remastered version that Mustaine produced a couple years back. Also, Los Angeles natives will get a kick out of the liner notes which try to portray the record as being recorded in the midst of a warzone AKA the LA Riots. Truth be told, the band recorded in the San Fernando Valley, which was very far from any action or violence of the LA Riots. Yeah, MEGADETH are not a dangerous or socio-political band.
The second disc on the 20th Anniversary Edition is the complete show from the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1992. While select songs from the show have been released on various singles and EPs during that era, this is the first time it’s been available in its entirety. This is easily the band at their peak. Just a scorching performance that will never be duplicated by later incarnations of MEGADETH. The production is killer with Dave Ellefson’s bass as clear as the guitars. His performance is just godly. Mustaine’s banter in between songs has its unintentionally amusing moments.
If you long for a time when all Dave Mustaine was doing in the press was talking trash about METALLICA and MEGADETH were one of metal’s most relevant bands, then take a stroll down memory lane with the 20th Anniversary Edition. (Capitol Records/EMI Music)