Hot off the Press

Megadeth | Countdown to Extinction 20th Anniversary

by John Kindred
– Publisher —

MegadethHas it really been 20 years? By now, we all know the story of Dave Mustaine’s exile from Metallica. After four albums, Mustaine had established Megadeth among his peers as a premier speed-thrash-metal band, featuring high-caliber musicians, backed by brilliantly crafted songs. Mustaine, never afraid to say what he felt, had been dissing the backwards social and political agendas in the United States for nearly a decade. In ’92, he had fresh fodder with racial tensions on the verge of imploding into anarchy in Los Angeles, a Presidential election and the first Gulf War stealing the headlines on a daily basis. Megadeth’s fifth album, Countdown to Extinction, was Mustaine’s response to this turbulent time period.

Flashing forward 20 years, EMI has released the Countdown to Extinction 20th Anniversary two-CD, lift-top box edition and digital release of this historic studio album. The package contains the re-mastered studio album and is paired with a live concert recording of the band when they appeared at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Also included is a stunning 24″ x 36″ fold-out poster, four postcards of each band member, and the booklet contains liner notes from music journalist Kory Grow.

Countdown to Extinction 20th Anniversary contains the same 11-tracks as the original release from ’92. The most noticeable difference is the increase in overall volume of the re-mastered version. “Skin O’ My Teeth’s” initial drum roll introduction sounds as if the meters are pushing well into the red, even when you pull your EQ down into negative numbers. It’s definitely a hotter mix than the original CD. The album was produced by Max Norman and Mustaine. It is the second release to feature the lineup of Mustaine, Ellefson , shredder Marty Friedman and drummer Nick Menza. And while Mustaine handled the majority of the songwriting on Countdown, each of the band members have a writing credit or two along with Mustaine.

The social and political climate of the time shaped the lyrics on Countdown. Several songs are about the military and war, such as “Symphony of Destruction,” “Architecture of Aggression” and “Ashes in Your Mouth.” While politics on the home front was covered on “Foreclosure of a Dream,” which is highlighted by snippets from George Bush’s infamous “read my lips …” speech, hammers home the sentiment of governmental greed as many farmers lost their livelihoods during this time. Remember, all the Republicans like taxes just as much as Democrats, so don’t be fooled by rhetoric from either side. Suicide, schizophrenia and failed relationships, all, were topics open for discussion. The music still sounds amazing, and the messages are still relevant. Mustaine always did deliver very heavy, if not thought-provoking, concepts to the table that were backed by superb musicianship. It’s kind of funny that we seem doomed to repeat the past as we find ourselves practically in the exact same predicaments 20 years later. Friedman’s and Mustaine’s mastery of the fret-board produced heavy riffs and blistering solos. While Menza and Ellefson provided the rhythmic groove that hammered listeners into submission.

The second CD, Live At Cow Palace, was recorded in San Francisco in ’92. The CD features 17 songs, and this is the first time that the performance has been released in its entirety. Here, we have the band in the live setting. All the angst, aggression and rebellion pour out on the audience. Some fans were throwing items on the stage, such as gummy bears candy, and Mustaine was quick to quip out a comment or two at them. The set included songs from the then-new album and songs from Rust In Peace. “Holy Wars ..,” “Wake Up Dead,” “The Conjuring,” also are performed. The set actually is unique, as Megadeth performs a majority of the songs from Countdown instead of playing a greatest hits set and only including a couple new songs.

Overall, Countdown to Extinction 20th Anniversary is a nice package for Megadeth fans. If you didn’t listen to the original CD side by side with the 2012 re-master, you probably would miss the subtle changes, except maybe the increase in the overall volume of the music. Listening to both CD versions, side by side, die-hard fans may not be willing to let the original release go and instead opt to keep both for their listening pleasure.

Genre: Heavy metal, thrash metal, speed metal, hard rock

Dave Mustaine – rhythm guitar, lead guitar, lead vocals
Marty Friedman – lead guitar, backing vocals
Dave Ellefson – bass, backing vocals
Nick Menza – drums, backing vocals

Track Listing:
CD 1
01. Skin O’ My Teeth
02. Symphony Of Destruction
03. Architecture Of Aggression
04. Foreclosure Of A Dream
05. Sweating Bullets
06. This Was My Life
07. Countdown To Extinction
08. High Speed Dirt
09. Psychotron
10. Captive Honour
11. Ashes In Your Mouth
CD 2 – Live At Cow Palace, 1992
01. Intro
02. Holy Wars…The Punishment Due
03. Skin O’ My Teeth
04. Wake Up Dead
05. Hangar 18
06. Countdown To Extinction
07. Foreclosure Of A Dream
08. This Was My Life
09. Lucretia
10. Sweating Bullets
11. In My Darkest Hour
12. The Conjuring
13. Tornado
14. Ashes In Your Mouth
15. Symphony Of Destruction
16. Peace Sells
17. Anarchy In the UK

Label: Capitol, EMI


Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10