If we all associated the big 4 with a period in time, most would claim the 1980’s as being the heyday of these thrashers. It’s a valid claim, with albums such as “Reign in Blood”, “Among the Living” and “Master of Puppets” providing some of the greatest examples. At first the 1990’s looked like it was going to be another great decade for metal, seeing as how at the start each of these titans released an album containing some of their strongest music. Unfortunately it kind of went downhill for most after those first two years. Anthrax and Metallica broke into the mainstream yet by the mid-90’s both seemed to lose focus and as a consequence the music suffered, terribly. Slayer kept thrashing, but showing little development the music grew stale, and quickly. On the other hand, Megadeth actually released some of their greatest music in the 90’s.
As classic as “Killing Is My Business” and “Peace Sells” are I have to admit that they are both immature efforts. These weren’t bad albums, but when compared to what their contemporaries were releasing at the time, they were pretty generic. It wasn’t until 1990 that Megadeth showed their true potential. After recruiting Nick Menza on drums and Marty Friedman on guitar they finally had a stable line-up, one which lasted almost an entire decade (Knowing Mustaine’s history of firing band members this was quite an accomplishment). This proved to be one helluva 4-piece as demonstrated by their next four albums.
The greatest thing about Megadeth from this time period was the natural progression of their albums. Unlike their peers, Mustaine and company managed to create a decade long discography without growing stale or “jumping the shark” with unnecessary experimentation (some may disagree with that claim by referencing 1999’s “Risk”, but that album was still interesting, packed with great songs and far superior to what the others of the big 4 were releasing at the time). Each album also remained great in it’s own way. “Rust in Peace” was one of the most creative thrash metal albums ever released, consisting of complex arrangements, technical riffing, and some of heavy metal’s coolest solos. “Countdown to Extinction” was fully stocked with metal hits yet still remained aggressive, as if they were showing Metallica how it’s really done. “Youthanasia” slowed things down a bit allowing Mustaine and Friedman to display their melodic side. “Cryptic Writings” built upon the melodic tendencies of “Youthanasia” while also taking many tracks into much darker territory. As a whole Megadeth really thrived in the 1990’s, serving as a beacon of light in the gloomy reality of what had become of thrash metal.