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Metallica vs. Megadeth: Music Showdown

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Ever since Dave Mustaine was booted from Metallica and decided to form his own thrash metal band, fans have raged on about which group was superior: Metallica or Megadeth. Both have had their fair share of missteps, controversy and terrible tunes; but both have also become leaders in their genre thanks to timeless and badass tracks. Between talk of selling out, misguided collabs or crazy conspiracy theories, there’s so much material to compare it’s next to impossible, but we’ll sure try. In this installment of versus, pits Metallica against Megadeth to see who is the better thrash metal band.

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Metallica vs. Megadeth

Fans have argued for decades about which of Thrash Metal’s Big 4 reigns supreme. Welcome to, and in this installment of versus, we pit Metallica against Megadeth to find out which is the better thrash metal band.

Round 1: The Tunes – Then and Now

Complex instrumentals and Dave Mustaine’s volatile words make tracks like “Symphony of Destruction” metal classics, while albums like Countdown to Extinction and Rust In Peace stay true to the Megadeth sound. The electro-tinged Risk was a dark-spot on the catalogue, but today’s Megadeth remains a metal force, while Metallica’s accused of selling out.

As Megadeth’s speed and intensity remain unchanged, the same can’t be said for Metallica: their brand of heavy metal swerves all over the road. But, with highs like The Black Album, Master of Puppets and …And Justice for All, Metallica’s best is still better than Megadeth’s, so that gives them the edge because – let’s face it – “Nothing Else Matters.”

Winner: We’re sorry Megadeth; Metallica is flat-out “Better Than You.”

Round 2: The Lineups

Since the band’s inception in 1983, Megadeth has seen a revolving lineup, with unpredictable founder and former Metallica axe man Dave Mustaine the only constant. But the rotating cast has been an impressive one that’s included bassist Dave Ellefson, drummer Nick Menza, and guitarist Marty Friedman – who’d previously collaborated with the legendary Jason Becker in Cacophony.

By comparison, Metallica has remained consistent: That stability comes from founding members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, as well as longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. Together, Hetfield and Hammett form one of the best 1-2 guitar punches in heavy metal music, while deceased bassist Cliff Burton was one of the greats.

Winner: With consistency and raw talent in their corner, Metallica leaves Megadeth on a “Countdown to Extinction.”

Round 3: Metal Cred

Metallica began as the bellwether of no-nonsense heavy metal. But, after plunking acoustic guitars into Ride the Lightning’s “Fade to Black,” or – gasp – pursuing a more mainstream sound, Metallica’s fickle fans lost it. The Lou Reed collab LuLu also called their metal cred into question because the result of risk-taking in music is: if people love it, you’re a genius – otherwise, you’re crazy.

But, Megadeth is a member of the Big 4 for a reason: they’re influential and consistently badass. However, their album Risk was just that: with sounds bordering on electronic, dance and disco, they definitely lost credibility points when that came out under the Megadeth banner. But even so, it was a Mustaine album pure and simple, which puts them over-the-top in this category.

Winner: Metallica may be the forefathers, but by staying true to themselves and thrash metal, Megadeth “Crush[es] ‘Em.”

Round 4: Controversy

From the beginning: Metallica turfed Mustaine for alleged alcohol abuse and a bad attitude, resulting in a longtime feud between him, Ulrich and Hetfield which was later settled. But that doesn’t mean Mustaine’s mellowed: whether he’s refusing to play some songs because of his newfound Christian faith, or claiming President Obama staged mass shootings to pass gun control laws, he’s perpetually nutty.

Tough to top that, but somehow Metallica did it. They’re not be conspiracy theorists, but it’s obvious fame has gone to their heads based on the infighting, power struggles and scandal involving Hetfield, Ulrich, Jason Newsted, etc. Not to mention the Napster thing, and the flack they get for going mainstream.

Winner: Metallica are the kings of “St. Anger,” so Megadeth wins since Mustaine is the only extreme member.

Round 5: Impact and Influence

With 50 million albums sold and the popular Gigantour festival to their name, Megadeth is definitely significant to thrash metal.

But, Metallica has penetrated to become one of the most influential acts in any genre. They’re the best-selling heavy metal band ever, with over 100 million total album sales. Their tours are always mammoth successes. Not to mention: they expanded the realm of thrash metal and inspired bands like Korn, Trivium and Machine Head. Also, without Metallica, there’d be no Megadeth.

Winner: Metallica is the “Master of Puppets” and the master of round five thanks to their unparalleled impact.

The Winner

Call them overrated, sell-outs, or over-the-hill; at a score of 3-2, Metallica leaves Megadeth “Sweating Bullets.” While Mustaine and his mates have released kick-ass tracks for decades, there’s no denying Metallica’s influence during their heyday, and it’s for that reason that Metallica will never “Fade to Black.”

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