Still luminaries of thrash metal

Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine can execute complex riffs and intricate tempo shifts as fast as any new guitarist who came after him.
Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine can execute complex riffs and intricate tempo shifts as fast as any new guitarist who came after him.ST PHOTO: JASTER NGUI

REVIEW / CONCERT

MEGADETH - LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Kallang Theatre

Tuesday

American metal veterans Megadeth's concert at Kallang Theatre, their third time playing in Singapore, was a reminder why the band are still considered one of the luminaries of thrash metal, more than three decades after they helped popularise the genre.

While there may be plenty of bands that play faster, sound heavier or are more ferocious musically, not many can peddle thrash metal music with as much finesse as frontman Dave Mustaine and company.

Mustaine, 55, the rare musician in a dual-guitar band who plays both rhythms and lead, could execute complex riffs and intricate tempo shifts as fast as any of the young guns who came after him, most notably in the flawless live rendition of genre classics such as Holy Wars... The Punishment Due (1990).

But the Megadeth founder and main man was also savvy enough to understand the power of hooks and that to sacrifice melodies for super-fast riffings and ultra-low tunings would result in metal music's version of empty calories.

Hence the inclusion of songs such as A Tout Le Monde (1994) and Trust (1996) in the setlist, tunes with memorable choruses that you can sing, or at least hum along, to.

The band's Grammy win for Best Metal Performance earlier this year (2017) for their latest album Dystopia - their first time taking the trophy after losing out in 11 previous nominations - affirmed their relevance in contemporary metal circles.

While at least a third of the songs in the 90-minute set are off Dystopia, the other two-thirds come from albums released from 1986 to 1997, arguably at the peak of the band's creativity.

There were quite a few choice songs from fourth album Rust In Peace (1990), hailed as one of the finest thrash metal records, which went down very well with the mostly black-clad metalheads in the audience.

Unlike Mustaine and fellow founder and bassist David Ellefson, newer members Kiko Loureiro, on guitars, and Dirk Verbeuren, on drums, did not play on the album versions of their earlier repertoire, but replicated the predecessors' parts well.

Thankfully absent were material from late-1990s albums such as Risk (1999), which contained failed attempts at simplifying their songs for a more mainstream audience.

Megadeth's almost flawless metal show was, however, let down by the venue. Kallang Theatre, with its fixed chairs, multiple levels and ageing ambience, did not lend itself well to an audience looking to headbang and rock out instead of being confined to their seats.

The ones sitting in the first few rows got a chance to run up and stand close to the stage, but a metal show should have a large mosh pit so that more fans could be part of the action.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'Still luminaries of thrash metal'. Print Edition | Subscribe