Diadems In The Rough: 10 Most Underrated Megadeth Songs

Ted Van Pelt/Super Metal World

Megadeth is celebrating 35 years together. In honor of that, let’s take a look at 10 tracks you may have overlooked.

If you have been paying attention to Megadeth at all this year, you have likely noticed that they have been celebrating 35 years together; rather, Dave Mustaine has captained this ship for all these years when it very well could have capsized for a myriad of reasons. Shout out to David Ellefson for being his most consistent…err … first mate? It is quite impressive considering how many members have walked the plank, including Ellefson for a brief stint in the 2000s. Sorry, I had to see that ship metaphor all the way through ye scalawags.

Megadeth is a legendary metal band thanks to the sheer will and determination of Dave Mustaine, something that should not be understated. An interesting thought experiment, if any other member of Metallica got kicked out of the band, do you think they would have been more or less successful than Dave?

What I have attempted to do is make a definitive and thorough list of the 10 MOST UNDERRATED MEGADETH SONGS! How did I do this? I analyzed the entirety of the Megadeth catalog and made sure NOT to include more than one song per album/EP and, as hard as it was, Megadeth’s “classic” albums will not feature songs on this list because I was conflicted with how songs from Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction could be considered underrated. I know that will not sit well with some of you, so, let’s have a moment of silence for “Good Mourning/Black Friday,” “Lucretia,” and “Captive Honour” (or whatever songs you had in mind off those albums).

…Presenting the diadems in the rough!

10.  “The Disintegrators”

             From: Cryptic Writings (1997)

Oh, the ‘90s, where thrash titans like Metallica and Megadeth exchanged complicated song structures for a more accessible sound that resulted in increased sales and radio airplay as grunge threatened to destroy heavy metal (they failed). Megadeth was on a roll with this formula starting with Countdown To Extinction through Cryptic Writings. This resulted in a higher frequency of mid-tempo rockers but this track offers a nice respite, clocking in at around 150 BPM (fast for this album), near the midway point of the Cryptic Writings. Yes, “Vortex” also gets my nod but, in my opinion, “The Disintegrators” is a stronger track. Plus, am I the only who thinks “Vortex” sounds like a mid-tempo cousin to “Tornado Of Souls?” There’s nothing wrong with that but I’m docking points for originality.

BEST MOMENTS

Dave’s vocal delivery, timing and melody are on full display throughout this song held together by throwback riffing that injected some much needed adrenaline halfway through the album.

BEHIND THE MUSIC

Dave was quoted on Genius as saying that he wrote the lyrics to this song while stuck in LA traffic. He envisioned “The Disintegrators” appearing and clearing up the traffic by destroying all the poor drivers.

9.  “Diadems”

          From: Hidden Treasures (1995)

Hard not to include this track when you name the list after it but it is a worthy addition. The track was featured on the Hidden Treasures EP, which was a collection of songs from movie soundtracks and tribute albums. There are plenty of strong moments on this EP and I was torn between this track, “Go To Hell” and “99 Ways To Die.” However, “Diadems” is sonically more dynamic than those other tracks and it features one of the best acoustic guitar harmonies in Megadeth’s catalogue.

BEHIND THE MUSIC

This song is featured in 1995 horror film Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight that included a soundtrack featuring Machine Head, Biohazard, Pantera, and the Melvins. Watch Megadeth’s inclusion in the film here.

BEST MOMENTS

The acoustic intro and when the song breaks down at the two minute mark.

8.  “Victory”

          From: Youthanasia (1994)

This song features Dave giving himself an epic pat on the back, and I know I may get some flak for choosing this song on an album full of perfect candidates for this list but I’ll take Dave complimenting Dave any day (“Great job Dave.” “Thanks Dave you rock!”). Dave’s ability to use previous song titles from past albums in the lyrics while still maintaining a consistent theme throughout the song is an accomplishment in itself. The riffs kick ass and the solo is blistering and one of my favorite on the entire album.

MEMORABLE LYRICS

“Then I started seeing ‘Bad Omens’ in my head

‘Good Mourning/Black Friday,’ will I ‘Wake Up Dead’?

If ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ then this won’t mean a thing

But some crazy shit has happened since ‘The Conjuring’

Not even close… To overdose!

Had fingers in my eyes, had needles in my veins

A knife right through my heart, I am a victory”

BEHIND THE MUSIC

“The guys in the band had said something, ‘Why don’t you do a song that has all of our song titles in it?’ I thought, ‘That reminds me of those K-tel Records.’ We started goofing around, doing music, and talking about the titles and how they fit. It seemed clever, but I hadn’t done anything like it” recalled Dave Mustaine to Artist Direct.

7.  “How The Story Ends”

         From: Endgame (2009)

Endgame is widely regarded as Megadeth’s finest hour of the 2000s. It features an albums worth of non-filler and is deserving of all the recognition it receives. Personally, The System Has Failed is my favorite of that era but, I digress, this track is oft forgot at the bottom of the track list. It features an arena rock main riff and a hard-hitting breakdown with Dave adding his usual snarl to make this song a homerun (sports!).

BEHIND THE MUSIC

Dave states to Rolling Stone that the song, “is a song about to The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and talks about if you were in battle back in ancient times, when you went to war and could not hear the commands from your commanding officer, what they would do is use flags. So you see the flag, and, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got to retreat. Can’t hear him, but I see the retreat flag.’ Y’know, that is if you’re looking backward and you don’t get your f–king head cut off.”

BEST MOMENTS

Solo from 2:22 leading into the breakdown that slams back into the chorus.

6.  “Never Walk Alone… A Call To Arms”

          From: United Abominations (2006)

I still contend that The System Has Failed through Endgame was one of the more spectacular career rebounds in rock n’ roll history. United Abominations further proved that Megadeth was back on track after some of the lowest moments of Dave’s career (back to back critically maligned albums, a nerve injury and Ellefson’s exit from the band) and it was because of tracks like this. Everyone remembers “Sleepwalker” and “Washington Is Next!” but don’t sleep on the infectious riffs and blistering solos provided here.

BEST MOMENTS

The solo starting at 2:05 may induce ‘80s flashbacks.

DID YOU KNOW?

Dave Mustaine turned to Christianity prior to his career rebound, something that is more controversial than saying you worship Satan in the metal world, and claims that this helped him through his nerve injury and subsequent return to form. The following lyrics are a clear reference to his religious conversion:

“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 coming and it won’t be long

It’s time to reap what I have sown

Never ever let you walk alone

I know your enemy, it once was me”

5.  “Lying In State”

          From: Dystopia (2016)

Now, I will admit there’s recency bias here but have you given this song a thorough listen? It’s buried at the end of the album but holy shit, that opening riff. I can’t overstate that Dystopia was yet again a return to form after a less than stellar album (sound familiar?). Kiko Loureiro was a worthy addition along with Dirk Verbeure joining after the recording of Dystopia, bring on the blast beats!

BEHIND THE MUSIC

Can’t say it any better than Dave does here.

BEST MOMENTS

I would put 1:46 (studio version) to the song’s end up with anything Megadeth has done in the past 35 years, it’s that good. By the way, if you ever wanted to see Vic slit some throats with a samurai sword, I suggest checking out the music video below.

4.  “Looking Down The Cross”

          From: Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! (1985)

There are so many tracks that stick out on the debut album that this one tends to get lost in the shuffle. The song takes the perspective of Jesus and what his last thoughts, prior to his crucifixion may have been, which is an interesting juxtaposition to Dave’s views on religion today. This song oozes with all the danger and mystique that only early Megadeth records can provide.

DID YOU KNOW?

This song references the design of Megadeth mascot, Vic Rattlehead (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).

BEHIND THE SCENES

Dave had the following to say to Metal Hammer #271, “Looking Down… had to do with my guilt about being brought up with religion, and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ attempts to brainwash me.”

3.  “Back in the Day”

          From: The System Has Failed (2004)

This was the album that set Megadeth on the path towards career redemption and it delivers. Allow me to be upfront with you, this remains my favorite Megadeth album of the century and “Back in the Day” sees Dave singing about the thrash metal uprising of the ‘80s that “knocked “rock n’ roll off its ass and put metal on the course.”

BEHIND THE MUSIC

According to Genius, Dave had this to say about the song, “this talks about the 4 corners of the US that mattered. San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Old Bridge. San Francisco was Exodus, Los Angels was Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth, New York was Anthrax, and Old Bridge was where Metallica moved to. A lot of people don’t believe that Exodus was part of the 4 horsemen, but if you weren’t there, it doesn’t matter, cause you wouldn’t understand.”

DID YOU KNOW?

This song was featured on the Duck Dodgers episode “In Space, No One Can Hear You Rock” in 2005, which featured an animated version of the band performing the song in order to stop an interplanetary crisis.

2.  “Mary Jane”

          From: So Far, So Good… So What! (1988)

The album itself could be considered a diadem if it didn’t included the immortal “In My Darkest Hour” but “Mary Jane” contains all the elements of those early Megadeth tracks that I love and previously mentioned (danger, mystique, macabre), who doesn’t love a good ghost story?

BEHIND THE MUSIC

The legend of Mary Jane Twilliger originates in a small Minnesota town within driving distance to where David Ellefson grew up and is the inspiration behind the song. Read more here.

MEMORABLE LYRICS

“Beware, my friends, as you pass by

As you are now, so once was I

As I’m now, so you must be

Prepare, my friends, to follow me”

1.  “13”

         From: Th1rt3en (2011)

This is the most vulnerable you’ll probably ever hear Dave Mustaine. The album itself is not as strong as its predecessor but it ends on a forgotten masterpiece that beautifully sums up Megadeth’s career and Dave’s life. You may take issue with what he says to the press or what he believes in but this guy has been an underdog all his life and the ability he’s shown to overcome all that and still be successful is worthy of respect.

BEHIND THE MUSIC

Ellefson states to MusicRadar.com that this track “really epitomizes the story of Megadeth.” He goes on: “Before starting the record, Johnny K had read Dave’s autobiography, and I think that helped him understand Dave’s psyche, as well as what Megadeth is all about. As the song was being developed musically, the words started to spill out onto the page, largely from Johnny’s conversations with Dave. If you ever wanted to hear a song that summed up the arc of Megadeth as a band, ‘13’ is it.” He continues: “The song ends on such a high. Megadeth hasn’t had a big, theatrical kind of song since ‘In My Darkest Hour,’ so now we’ve got another one with 13. It’s the perfect ending to a great album.”

MEMORABLE LYRICS

“Thirteen times and it’s been lucky for me

After everything, you still want me to bleed

Thirteen ways to see the devil in my eyes

Because I stood here thirteen times and I’m still alive”

Ty is the co-creator of Super Metal World and co-host of Super Metal World Podcast. His favorite genres include thrash, metalcore and hardcore.