Megadeth is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its classic, double-platinum album, “Countdown to Extinction,” by playing the record in its entirety on a tour that includes dates at the Best Buy Theater in New York on Wednesday, Nov. 14, and the Atlantic City House of Blues on Friday, Nov. 16. This month the band released a “Countdown” double-disc package: a remastered version of the album and a live show recorded in 1992.
“Countdown to Extinction” is a high watermark in Megadeth’s nearly 30-year career. The band’s fifth album, “Countdown” saw Megadeth, led by singer-guitarist Dave Mustaine, begin to incoroporate more melody and mid-tempos into its pioneering and precise brand of thrash metal.
Yet “Countdown” is in no way a commercial album, as opener “Skin O’ My Teeth” makes clear, smashing through the gates with a salvo of razor-sharp guitar riffs, frenzied solos, battering ram drums and Mustaine’s trademark sneer. Lyrically, Mustaine explores a wide variety of subjects on the album, from politics (“Symphony of Destruction”), war (“Architecture of Aggression”) and the environment (“Countdown to Extinction”) to paranoia (“Sweating Bullets”), the early 1990s recession (“Foreclosure of a Dream”) and his skydiving adventures (“High Speed Dirt”).
Patch.com recently caught up with Mustaine.
Patch.com: What was the band’s mood as you entered the studio to record “Countdown to Extinction” 20 years ago?
Mustaine: We were really excited about what was taking place at the time. The music industry was very confused with the success of Nirvana and all of the grunge bands. The only real hope in metal was what we were calling poseur metal, like Def Leppard. We were on our own and had to make a decision: Were we going to listen to the labels, who wanted us to write an alternative album, or go the way of the Def Leppards. We didn’t want to do either; that wasn’t who we were. The only choice we had was to follow our hearts and do what we thought was right, which was an experiment for us, a melodic, though not commercial, metal record.
How do you think “Countdown” has aged over the past 20 years?
I think it’s timely and timeless at the same time, and I think that’s one of the most difficult things for a musician to do. Very few records in our genre are like that. “Countdown” is one of those records you can listen to and say, ‘This could have been written today.’ Musically it’s heavy and the lyrics are very symbolic.
You’re playing many of the songs for the first time in many years, and three (“Psychotron,” “Captive Honor,” “Architecture of Aggression”) for the first time ever. What has it been like revisiting the album?
It has been such an absolute joy to play this stuff and to be able to go back and introduce our newer fans to do it. Our first shows on this tour were in South America and were overwhelming. I’m looking forward to playing this concert in the states.
Is the stage show elaborate or more back to basics?
We’ve added video production to our show. We’ve tried some pyro, which is cool, but I think concussion bombs are kind of passé. So I got this fabulously talented video director, Charles Terrell, he’s worked with Trent Reznor and Bruce Springsteen to give you an idea of his caliber, and he did his own interpretations of the songs. There wasn’t one video where I had to go back and say, "I need you to change something.” He got it. Doing something like this has always been a matter of affordability and I finally just said, ‘I don’t care what happens, I’m successful, I’ve had a great run. If we go in a hole and I have to use up my savings to change this band from being a normal band with a backdrop to having really incredible production I’m going to go for it. It’s one thing to see Megadeth and one thing to hear it, but it’s another thing to feel it.
IF YOU GO: Megadeth, with opening act Kyng.
8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Best Buy Theater, 44th Street and Brodway, Manhattan. Tickets are $41.50. 212-930-1950 or www.ticketmaster.com.
8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at Atlantic City House of Blues. Tickets are $39.50 and $49.50. 609-236-2583 or www.houseofblues.com/venues/clubvenues/atlanticcity.