Megadeth: God’s Metal Band?
Megadeth has recently released their fourteenth album, Super Collider. An event like this is a big deal for me because Megadeth is my all-time favorite band. I’ve seen them live three times; I even caught both a guitar pick and an arm band from Dave Mustiane at one show. Classic metal is my staple when it comes to music, and Megadeth has been far more consistent than any other metal band in creating solid music. For the most part though, Megadeth’s newest offering is pretty poor. There are no ‘home-run’ tracks and quite a few dull ones. Many fans of Megadeth are calling this album worst than Risk (and Risk is really, really bad). If you weren’t already interested in Megadeth, or even the metal genre more broadly, I’m sure that reviewing this album in full would only reinforce prejudices.Those of you who are unfamiliar with the band may be thinking, Megadeth? Like Mega Death? Sounds awfully morbid! Well, sure, metal bands aren’t the best at picking band names (Iron Maiden… seriously?). But I want you to at least respect this band even if you never listen to them.
The reason is Dave Mustaine himself. Not only is Mustaine one of the more eccentric figures in metal – with his long-flowing ginger locks and odd vocals – but he is essentially the godfather of the whole shebang. As a matter of fact, he was the original lead guitarist for Metallica, but was quickly kicked out for being an alcoholic, which was quite hypocritical of them (cf. “Master of Puppets”). Despite being kicked out, Mustaine’s influence is seen throughout the first two Metallica albums; he is credited for nearly half of the tracks. After being kicked out of Metallica, Mustaine soon founded Megadeth as a way to one-up his former bandmates, which is something he’s carried with him for decades. Although Megadeth would never write such iconic Metallica songs as “One,” “Master of Puppets,” “For whom the Bell Tolls,” or “Enter Sandman,” they excel by far in their consistency (something untrue of Metallica). And when I say “they” I really mean Dave Mustaine. The band has had more line-up changes than can be chronicled in this post. But the point is this: Dave Mustaine is single-handedly one of the most influential figures in metal.
And most intriguingly of all, Dave Mustaine converted to Christianity from a Jehovah’s witness background and Satanism. Check out this excellent video where Mustaine discusses his experience with the occult from his Christian perspective:
As he explains in his autobiography/memoir, his conversion came about after an arm injury in 2001 left him with a compressed radial nerve. Doctors said he would never play guitar again. Down on his luck, Mustaine describes in his autobiography/memoir that this ultimately led him to trust in God.
“It wasn’t long afterward that I fell to my knees and said all the prayers and accepted Jesus Christ into my life. It didn’t happen without some resistance on my part, and God knows that in the years since I have been as times inconsistent in following a Christian way of life. I am not an extremist. I am not a fundamentalist. I have lapsed in ways large and small. I curse. I do not always exercise the patience and tolerance I should. But I believe in God and I believe that Jesus is my savior, and those are the overriding principles that guide my life.” (Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, 308).
And that addiction that ultimately caused Mustaine to be kicked out of Metallica? “For me, only one thing worked: establishing a relationship with God. That changed everything” (Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, 314).
Since Mustaine became a Christian, Megadeth has produced five albums that have incorporated more explicit Christian themes. For instance, “Shadow of Deth” from the album, The System Has Failed (2004), begins with a recital of Psalm 23. Additionally, the song “New Walk Alone… A Call to Arms” is about as close to a worship song as you can possibly get from a big time metal band:
When you feel that something’s wrong, I’ll shelter you and keep you warm
I’ll never let you walk alone, I loved you when you still hated me
I’m comin’ and I won’t be long, Time to reap what I have sown
Never ever let you walk alone, I know your enemy it once was me
Let me wrap my arms all around you, Suffer the trespasses that you made
I will drink your pain away, Forever and a day
If you just call out my name
In converting to Christianity this has also brought about reconciliation between Mustaine and one of the most beloved former bandmates, the bassist David Ellefson. Check out this quick clip about how they were able to forgive each other:
And what’s even more incredible about this whole thing is that Ellefson is taking Seminary courses online to be a Lutheran pastor now! Check out this Rolling Stones article. Ellefson has even started a ministry called MEGALife (clever, huh?).
The story of Megadeth is inspiring to me and I hope it inspires you too (whether you fancy metal or not). I wish I had better things to say about their new album, but unfortunately I don’t. One interesting thing about the negative criticism though, is the lyrics. Many don’t like it because they feel like they are being preached at. The opening track “Kingmaker” is essentially about the dangers of addiction to drugs, and especially pain medication. The track “The Beginning of Sorrow” is about abortion, orphaned children, and the foster-care system. And the title track “Super Collider” seems to be about God (“come with me and I’ll free your soul . . . I will take you higher”).
As Jesus said, “even the rocks will cry out” if people are silent about him, and as I’ve heard before, he can even cry out through rock stars.