KJ Playlist: Megadeth’s Symphony of Thrash

It’s one of metal’s great tales – Dave Mustaine being sent back to California on a bus just as Metallica were going to record the songs he co-wrote and release them as Kill Em All. From the ashes of that disappointment came Megadeth. It’s always been a band but central to that band is the ability of Mustaine and a number of brilliant (if sometimes troubled) musicians.

With Megadeth about to hit Australia for the first time since 2015 as part of Knotfest (ALL SOLD OUT) and sideshows, here’s our 20-track guide to the songs you should know before you see them set the world afire. Check out the whole playlist at the end. 


One of the unwritten rules of early thrash was you should have a song about thrashing hard. Megadeth’s debut was full of classic speed metal and technical solos but arguably marred by some iffy lyrics. ‘Rattlehead’ rules anyway and I wish they’d include it in sets more often.

‘The Conjuring’ 

Maybe it’s too big a statement but the mid 90s melodic death metal scene draws a fair bit on the sound of songs like this one. It’s fast and has  great melodic guitars. 

‘Peace Sells’

Megadeth’s first real anthem from the iconic David Ellfeson bass line to the key change after Mustaine asks “can you put a price on peace?” Fair chance other bands run on stage to join in the iconic chant too. 

‘In My Darkest Hour

Inspired by the death of Cliff Burton, but not exactly about him, Mustaine slows down and explores some dark corners. His ability to turn inward has been one of his strengths as a lyricist. 

‘Hook In Mouth’

Piss off Dave is probably my favourite. Here he takes aim at censorship with plenty of venom and shreds the hell out of his six strings as he does it. 

‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’

The finale of most set lists in the last 30 years. On paper it shouldn’t work since it’s two distinct lyrical concepts joined together (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Marvel comic vigilante The Punisher). But it’s a certified thrash classic and evidence the new Mustaine-Ellfeson-Friedman-Menza line up was a winner. 

‘Hanger 18’

A five minute series of guitar leads and solos with a couple of cool verses about aliens. And you can chant the band name to the riff. Has opened sets regularly the last decade or so. To be fair, featuring only two songs off Rust In Peace is difficult. The whole album is flawless. 

‘Symphony of Destruction

In a Post-Nevermind and Post-Black Album world, Megadeth slowed down but lost none of their punch. They explored new horizons, in part because Countdown to Extinction was the first time a line up made two straight albums. You can also chant the band name to the riff. 

‘Sweating Bullets’

“Hello me, meet the real me…” Mustaine nails the vocal on this one as he confronts his own demons with a twist of dark humour and a groovy riff. 

‘À Tout Le Monde’

A suicide note that later attracted a lawsuit (later dismissed) when a fan took his own life. It’s a tragic song that many fans have found comfort in. The French chorus has never stopped anyone singing along with their eyes closed. 

‘Angry Again’

Real fans know the band were on a hot streak for the first half of the 90s. Many fans consider the compilation Hidden Treasures one of Megadeth’s best albums, featuring soundtrack and tribute album contributions. ‘Angry Again’ was from Last Action Hero and is a tough hard rocker with a great hook.


From the epic drum led intro to the massive chorus. ‘Trust’ has been a live staple since the Cryptic Writings era. Pretty easy to see why. 

‘Almost Honest’

The last great album from the classic line up. A bit heavier than ‘Trust’ with the trademark Mustaine spit in the vocal. Killer riffs even if it’s much slower than their speed metal roots. 

‘Dread and the Fugitive Mind’

Megadeth closed the 90s with the much maligned and disappointing Risk, in which they had a few good tunes & some truly awful ones. Friedman and Menza were out but The World Needs a Hero was a return to their thrash sound, even down to Vic appearing on the cover for the first time since Rust in Peace. Dread … has found its way back into recent set lists as the lone representative of their 2000s material. 

‘Kick the Chair’

Megadeth actually split up while Dave recovered from an arm injury but returned with a vengeance on The System Has Failed. ‘Kick the Chair’ is a stand out, a psycho thrasher that showcased the new band line up. 

‘Washington is Next!’

Dave’s political lyrics can be hit and miss but he gives the folks on Capitol Hill a bulgoning on this epic lead single from United Abominations. Shame they haven’t played it live in years since the guitar leads are awesome. 

‘This Day We Fight!’

Endgame is considered the peak of the three album tenure with Roadrunner Records (home of Nickelback and Slipknot). It just has great riffs and killer songs like this one. Inspired by Lord of the Rings, Dave and new guitarist Chris Broderick trade leads in the build up to the proclamation: “this day we fiiight!” Ellfeson was back for the first time since 2001 too. 

‘Sudden Death’

Originally written to be the final song on Guitar Hero 4, it’s got a shit ton of riffs and boss level apocalyptic lyrics. The sick opener to the otherwise patchy Th1rt3en album (whose idea was that title??) Another one that should be in the set more often. 

‘The Threat is Real’

After the disaster of Supercollider (less risks than Risk, but more average tunes), Mustaine regrouped with Ellfeson and brought in Lamb of God’s Chris Adler and Brazilian wonder kid Kiko Loureiro. The result was Dystopia, a collection of more interesting songs that went hard though there were plenty of melodic moments in the vein of Cryptic Writings. They won a Grammy for the title track though this opening track has more interesting Eastern inspired riffs. 

‘We’ll Be Back’

A great first single as Megadeth returned after Mustaine’s treatment for throat cancer and then the pandemic delayed album 16. Ellfeson was dismissed during recording but the band soldiered on with fast songs like ‘We’ll Be Back’. Certainly there’s plenty of life left in the band if they’ve still got the chops to pull off songs like this. Revisit our review of The Sick… The Dying… And the Dead here

Words by KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram).
Spotify Playlist below, Playlist for Apple Music.

Knotfest Australia 2023

March 24 | Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne – SOLD OUT

March 25 | Centennial Park, Sydney SOLD OUT

March 26 | RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane – SOLD OUT

Megadeth – Sideshows

Tuesday 21 March – Adelaide, Entertainment Centre Theatre

Wednesday 22 March – Melbourne, Margaret Court Arena

Tickets Here

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