Metallica vs Megadeth: Who are the Kings of Trash Metal?

Within the realm of Metal, the debate over Metallica vs Megadeth is arguably the most contentious. The destinies and origins of both bands couldn’t be more intertwined. What if James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich had given Dave Mustaine another chance and he had stayed with Metallica? The truth is, fans have been fortunate that such a scenario unfolded, as to this day we continue to relish the offerings of the two preeminent bands not only in Thrash Metal but also in the broader musical landscape.
Numerous factors contribute to the emergence of debates regarding which band reigns supreme: the good guys versus the bad boys, a more commercial style versus one more loyal to its roots… Nonetheless, in this post, we’ll endeavor to position ourselves through various valid criteria to assess each band. The band that garners the higher score will be our victor. We’ll establish a scoring system from 0 to 10. With that said, let’s meticulously analyze Metallica and Megadeth point by point:

Metallica vs Megadeth: Who are the KIngs of Trash?

Is Megadeth better than Metallica?

In the Metallica vs Megadeth showdown, the competition is fierce so as to know who are the true kings of Trash Metal. Let’s proceed to break down the evaluation criteria:

  • Musical Skill and Proficiency
  • Discography and Album Quality
  • Live Performances
  • Innovation and Originality
  • Lyricism and Themes
  • Fan Base
  • Genre Impact
  • Critical Acclaim
  • Cultural and Societal Impact
  • Longevity and Legacy
  • Final result
  • RiffRiot´s opinion

Musical skill and proficiency

It’s time to analyze a point that is closely contested in certain aspects. Nevertheless, in general, we believe that Megadeth comes out as the winner here due to the fact that throughout the band’s history, they have had musicians of remarkable caliber, such as Marty Friedman, Kiko Loureiro (current guitarist), Nick Menza… and Dave Mustaine himself. In these specific cases, the virtuosity of Kiko and Marty is evident, as they can execute guitar solos that are virtually impossible, showcasing a variety of styles and scales, an area where Kirk Hammett of Metallica falls short. Despite having created legendary guitar solos, we think there’s a lack of innovation and diversity in his playing, as he predominantly relies on the pentatonic scale. One could argue that this is his signature style, but we believe that his approach doesn’t quite meet the standards to be deemed distinctive.

kiko loureiro and marty friedman
Marty Friedman and Kiko Loureiro

Analysis of further members and ex-members

In rhythm guitar, the duel is closely matched between James Hetfield and Mustaine. We believe this category ends in a draw; both are virtually unparalleled in their craft.

In terms of drumming, Nick Menza was a more skillful and dynamic drummer compared to Lars, even though the latter has superior compositional abilities. Nonetheless, Nick Menza, the most prominent drummer Megadeth had, stood above. Nick Verbeuren, Megadeth’s current drummer, has demonstrated his drumming prowess in the latest album, “The Sick, The Dying and The Death,” just as he did with The Devin Townsend Project.

Regarding bassists, in this case, Metallica surpasses Megadeth, as Cliff Burton in his time and Robert Trujillo currently are compelling reasons to grant this point to Metallica.

In the vocal department, Metallica also triumphs, especially over the years. Dave Mustaine’s performance has declined due to factors like age or the cancer he battled, while James Hetfield, despite his own vocal cord problems, is today a proficient vocalist, as evidenced by every live performance the band delivers.

Based on these criteria, we’ll assign Metallica a score of 7/10 and Megadeth a score of 8,5/10.

Discography and album quality

From our perspective, Metallica has managed to produce 1 very good album: “…And Justice For All,” 2 good albums: “Master of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning,” and 2 decent albums: “Kill ‘Em All” and “Metallica” (The Black Album). We haven’t found enjoyment in the rest of their albums, including their latest release, “72 Seasons.”

As for Megadeth, in our view, “Rust in Peace” is a spectacular album. “Endgame,” “So Far, So Good…So What!” and “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” are very good albums. “The Sick, The Dying and The Death” and “Countdown to Extinction” are decent albums, and “Youthanasia” perhaps falls slightly behind these last two.

Nevertheless, concerning individual songs, Metallica has in its catalog genuine Metal anthems such as “One,” “Fade to Black,” and “Master of Puppets.”

In this comparison, we find ourselves compelled to tie both bands with a score of 6/10, as both have released a relatively limited number of standout albums in comparison to their overall discography.

Live performances

metallica live concert

We believe that in this aspect, Metallica takes the crown, closely followed by Slipknot and Gojira. Metallica’s fame extends from their legendary concert in Russia with an unimaginable number of fans to their performances on every continent, bringing together diverse groups of people, both metalheads and those less inclined towards metal. For these reasons, Metallica unquestionably earns a well-deserved 10/10. The band led by Dave Mustaine doesn’t deliver a subpar live performance by any means, though it can depend a bit on the health condition of their frontman. We would assign Megadeth a 7/10, acknowledging them as genuine professionals.

Innovation and originality

In this section, we will assess the capacity for evolution and innovation exhibited by both bands over the years.

Metallica and Megadeth aren’t particularly known for being highly experimental bands, although there have been instances of subtle shifts in their trajectories. However, not all of these shifts have been entirely successful.

The sound of Metallica through the years

Metallica began with a sound that held immense power, albeit without much restraint. With “Ride The Lightning,” a significant musical evolution became evident, likely influenced by Cliff Burton. By “Master of Puppets,” they had a clear vision of their musical direction, which was palpable. Following the tragic loss of their bassist, they displayed remarkable resilience in producing an outstanding album like “…And Justice For All.” However, in my opinion, this album also marks one with the greatest wasted potential due to certain details: the almost complete absence of bass, combined with other production errors, and a failure to amplify the acoustic sections of songs.

This prevents the album from achieving its full potential. Without further digression, from this point onward, Metallica aimed for a more commercial sound, achieving their goal but disappointing some more conservative fans. From 1988 to 2023, with the release of “72 Seasons,” there was little within Metallica’s discography that resonated with my preferences, save for a couple of tracks. This is clear-cut. With this recent album, they’ve at least managed to recapture a fraction of their essence.

Megadeth´s irregular evolution

In the case of Megadeth, a similar trajectory is observed, although the period during which Megadeth lost their way is more sporadic and brief. We could delineate the time between Megadeth’s debut album and Marty Friedman’s departure as a promising era, with a golden period marked by the releases of “Rust in Peace,” “Countdown To Extinction,” and “Youthanasia.” After “Youthanasia” and Friedman’s exit, they produced some albums that were good and others not as much. They also ventured into more commercially appealing sounds with tracks like “Trust” and hit a low with “Super Collider.” Chris Broderick, despite being a skilled guitarist, couldn’t shine as brightly as expected. With the current guitarist, Kiko Loureiro, I anticipate an elevation in quality.

In conclusion, I believe a score of 5/10 is fitting for both bands in terms of innovation.

Lyricism and themes

Both bands have two remarkable lyricists: Hetfield on Metallica’s side and Mustaine on Megadeth’s side. On numerous occasions, both songwriters have bared their souls to reveal their hardships, traumas, and struggles with depression. Their lives have been marred by alcohol, drugs, and the loss of a dear friend they shared, Cliff Burton, who tragically passed away in an unfortunate accident.

Nevertheless, I believe that James Hetfield is slightly ahead of Mustaine when it comes to crafting song lyrics. My opinion is grounded especially in classics like “Fade to Black” and “One.” With the latter, they manage to convey the possible emotions of that unfortunate soldier who was mutilated and confined to his bed, consumed by pain.

Thus, I would assign Metallica a score of 8,5/10 and Megadeth a score of 7/10 in this category.

Fan base

I have no doubts here: the winner is Megadeth. Just observe the reaction of South American fans when Dave Mustaine’s band is performing there. “Megadeth, Megadeth, aguante Megadeth!” It’s a classic chant. If we judge by the type of fan, Megadeth’s followers could be described as fiercely loyal to the band, although occasionally you might encounter the stereotype that dislikes Metallica, as if it’s a rivalry in sports.

Conversely, Metallica’s fans are quite diverse. Various types of fans attend their concerts, but the true die-hard fans are the minority, one might say. The average Metallica fan tends to get stuck in the classics, arguing that Metallica is the best band in the world while having only heard about 1% of what’s out there (just talking in general, no offense).

Given this, I would give Megadeth a score of 8,5/10 and Metallica a score of 6/10 in this category.

Genre impact

There’s little to discuss in this category. Metallica is considered the foremost exponent and pioneer of Thrash Metal, although there’s a rumor that the band Queen with one certain song actually predated everyone else in 1974 with a form of Thrash Metal.

With that said, it’s evident that Metallica deserves a 10/10 in this aspect. For Megadeth, given that Mustaine was part of the pioneering formation of Thrash Metal and Megadeth is one of the Big Four bands, we’ll award them a 9,5/10.

Critical Acclaim

Here, there’s no need to elaborate extensively either: Metallica has won the hearts of specialized critics in general, while Megadeth faces a tougher road and relies more on the affection of their fans.

Taking this into account, Metallica deserves a 9/10 and Megadeth a 7,5/10 in this regard.

Cultural and societal impact

Metallica has successfully produced several documentaries, made appearances in well-known series like “Stranger Things” through “Master of Puppets,” collaborated with numerous clothing brands, and you can spot many pedestrians on the streets, whether fans or not, sporting shirts adorned with their logo… This is an accomplishment that Megadeth has never quite achieved (although in South America, fans wearing their shirts in public might be more common), and it seems to be a goal still beyond their reach.

Megadeth live in Chile
Megadeth live show in Chile, 2010.

With that in mind, we can unquestionably grant Metallica a 10/10 for being the most recognized metal band and also serving as the gateway to this genre for newcomers. For Megadeth, I’ll assign an 8/10 because they are essentially the next step after Metallica, which is indeed quite impressive.

Longevity and legacy

The truth is, in these final points, there’s not much to debate. Today, I can think of few bands with a greater legacy than the ones we are analyzing in this post. And when it comes to longevity, it’s the same story. And they have more to offer in the future. A well-deserved 10/10 for both Metallica and Megadeth.

Metallica vs. Megadeth: Which band is the winner?

The great debate. With the established scores, let’s do the tally:

  • Metallica: 81,5 points.
  • Megadeth: 77 points.

Therefore, Metallica has emerged as the winner of the battle named: Metallica vs Megadeth: Who are the Kings of Trash Metal?

The opinion of the author, RiffRiot

Regarding personal preferences, I lean slightly towards Megadeth because, overall, I enjoy a greater number of the band’s albums and songs. However, there are specific songs by Metallica that I really like. But on the whole, if I had to listen to one band for the rest of my life between these two, I’d go with Dave Mustaine, Vic Rattlehead, and those who decide to accompany the leader and the band’s icon on their journey.

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