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On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the album that propelled Megadeth to the forefront, Dave Mustaine reflects on the writing of these songs.

When Dave Mustaine thinks of Countdown to Extinction, the 1992 album that propelled Megadeth to the limelight, he praises his clarity of mind at the time. After years of drug and alcohol abuse, the perennially red-haired singer, guitarist and songwriter had gone sober for the making of the band’s previous album, 1990’s thrash masterpiece, Rust in Peace. This led him to explore a simplified and streamlined approach to speed metal on the singles of Countdown as ” Symphony of Destruction ” and ” Sweatshirt Bullets “.

When we did Rust in Peace, I was newly sober and had just quit most of my bad habits. I walked into the studio and I really felt that fire insideMustaine, now 60, told RollingStone. I do not know what happened. I was an alcoholic, and I’m not anymore. I can tell. And I attribute that 100% to my relationship with my SP. [puissance supérieure]but I don’t talk about it too much, because it scares people. »

The second thing Mustaine thinks of when asked about Countdown, it’s Eddie Kramer, the sound engineer who recorded Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin albums. “ He’s the guy who recorded Jimi Hendrix and makes sure every living thing knows about it.said Mustaine. He was coming into our control room while we were working. I didn’t care who he was. And the more he did that, the more I resented him. The band was recording at The Enterprise studio in Burbank with Max Norman, who co-produced the album with Mustaine, and the frontman remembers bonding with Norman over their mutual disdain for Kramer’s ego. ” Max Norman has a crazy vocabulary, so we tried to use really big words on each other.remembers Mustaine. When it came time to write the sign on the door for Eddie Kramer to stay out, it wrote, “No obsequious Bozophobes – that means you, Eddie Kramer.” »

Overall, Mustaine remembers good vibes and a clear mission for the band. While early Megadeth albums emphasized virtuosity and headbanging, Countdown emphasizes songs. Along with Mustaine’s signature growl, ” Symphony of Destruction features a bluesy guitar riff with ample space for David Ellefson’s bassline. ” Sweatshirt Bullets “, an ode to anxiety, has a swinging groove that stops just long enough for Mustaine’s sense of humor to emerge. Throughout the album, the band’s technical skill still shines through (just look at Nick Menza’s first drum fill on ” Skin o’ My Teeth » or the breathtaking solos of Mustaine and guitarist Marty Friedman on « Ashes in Your Mouth ”), but in a way that could play on mainstream rock radio.

And if Mustaine spent much of the 1980s writing sardonically about sociopolitical conflict (“ Peace Sells », « Hook in Mouth “), he rakes wider on Countdown. ” Foreclosure of a Dream contains a sample of George HW Bush’s famous campaign promise ” Read my lips … no new taxes (read my lips…no new taxes). The title track, meanwhile, denounces the rich who pay to shoot endangered species in cages. The song won the group the Humane Society’s Doris Day Music Award for raising awareness of animal rights and, according to Mustaine, ” to the preservation of our animal friends “.

Amid ” Countdown a friend of Friedman’s who worked at a nearby sushi restaurant recites some facts about the ecology of the time: In an hour, another living species will disappear from the face of the planet… forever, and the pace picks up. Mustaine, who recently reflected on the plight of the white rhino by writing the song ” Killing Time for Megadeth’s next album, still finds this concept stunning. ” I can only imagine now, 30 years later, how many different life forms have disappeared he says.

When Mustaine considers Countdown as a whole, he appreciates the attention to detail that he and the rest of the band put into the album. Norman gave them a hard time to get everything perfect; if Mustaine or Friedman had to bend to raise the pitch of a note, it couldn’t be a quarter tone: it had to be a tone or a half tone. ” Max has, as I said, a very acerbic witsaid Mustaine. I remember one time I sang everything I had on one of those songs and I asked him, “Was it good?” He replied, “Not really”…I think I’ve ended up getting a bit tougher skinned over the years. »

The military rigor finally paid off. Megadeth’s album, which was released on July 14, 1992, went double platinum and reached number two on the Billboard chart, just below Some Gave All by Billy Ray Cyrus. In 2017, RollingStone ranked the album at number 33 on their list of the greatest metal albums of all time. After his dismissal from Metallica in the early 1980s, Dave Mustaine spent years watching their growing success and trying to prove himself. The success of Countdown to Extinction definitively consecrated the arrival of Megadeth.

When I think of Countdown, I’m thinking of the room at the Enterprise, where I started really making a name for myself with songwriting and melodies, said Mustaine. All the songs had front melodies, but we didn’t catch the attention of those who weren’t big thrash/speed-metal fans. With Countdown, we touched the fans who listened to the radio, the people who go to festivals for someone else. No matter how they come across us, they discover this music and see that we have many facets. »

Kory Grow

Translated by the editor

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