MANILA, Philippines – Dave Mustaine, frontman and guitarist of legendary thrash metal band Megadeth, did a strange thing for someone answering questions from a TV reporter.
We were at the press conference and he noticed one of the local media guys none too subtly getting his picture taken by his companion, right in front of the band’s table — for sheer bragging rights, from the looks of it.
The blatant way it was being done must have annoyed the notoriously outspoken singer, since he quickly grabbed the pencil in front of him and threw it against the guy’s back.
“I’m sorry, I was throwing a pencil at that guy!” he exclaimed and pointed, then urged the TV reporter to continue. Everybody laughed and the photo bandit duo were quickly ushered out by security.
Megadeth came to ignite Manila’s metal fans with their iconic brand of thrash music for a one-night-only concert. They had just come right off the plane and were ostensibly jet-lagged from their European dates.
They also still had a meet-and-greet plus a soundcheck to do; but in those few hours it was the music press that got them.
Boy, were we in awe to see them in the flesh.
Usually, artists drum up publicity by arriving a few days early; but Megadeth’s gig was the next day, so there was no chance of that. That presscon was purely a show of good manners and politesse.
Megadeth are touring in support of their newest studio album, 2011’s Th1rt3en, under Roadrunner Records. The great tracks on the newest album were a glad surprise to fans and critics, who thought that Mustaine’s recent conversion to born again Christianity would lessen the aggressiveness of the band’s songs.
“I was a Christian before and nobody made a big deal out of it,” shrugged Mustaine, who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. “And the lyrics haven’t changed.”
“It was recorded pretty quick,” added bassist David Ellefson about their current LP.
“Around a few months or so. We were supposed to do a (similarly titled) track exclusively for the Never Dead videogame so we recorded that first and had to do the rest of the album in, like, 7 weeks.”
The Asian concert has a few firsts in terms of playing in the Far East, like going to China, Taiwan and Thailand. It was a definite debut for the band to play on Philippine shores.
Organized by PULP Live World and co-presented by Colt45, Ellefson was also effusive in his excitement about playing in Manila: “It’s long overdue that we play here.”
One of the biggest bands to have come out of the 1980s thrash scene, Megadeth have sold more than 38 million records over the years. They are hailed as one-fourth of the Big Four of Thrash Metal. These include Anthrax, Slayer and long-time rival band, Metallica.
It was after Mustaine left Metallica in 1983, allegedly kicked out of the group over alcohol and substance abuse, that he formed Megadeth.
By minimalizing and streamlining the thrash blueprint, composing more nihilistic lyrics, playing with a faster beat and Mustaine’s growling, seething singing style, Megadeth quickly distinguished themselves with their 1985 debut LP Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!
The next night, we braved the typhoon rains to line up with the rest of the black-shirt, metalhead brigade.
Except for the few metal chicks in the crowd and a smattering of devoted girlfriends and wives, almost all of us were guys.
A story I heard had a Megadeth fan’s girlfriend telling him, “I’ll buy you the darn ticket, if you don’t make me go with you.” Droll enough to cue a drum roll, but with the amount of pent up testosterone just waiting to be moshed out, it was completely understandable.
Mustaine proved exactly why he was ranked number one in Joel McIver’s 2009 book, The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists, when they opened with “Never Dead.”
We were quickly in headbanger heaven with a string of hits like “A Tout Le Monde,” “Hangar 18,” “Trust” and “Countdown to Extinction”; plus the new single “Public Enemy No. 1.”
July 29 at Hall D of the World Trade Center in Pasay City found a very wet couple of thousand people in its confines. There was no front act so the band took the stage a bit past 8pm. They shredded our faces off as Chris Broderick (guitars) stood strong and added his own rippers to Mustaine’s.
A screen stretched across the stage behind them and flashed their music videos or images to accompany each song as a visual add on. Mustaine pulled out Flying V after Flying V, igniting his signature Dean guitars like a firestarter fending off the torrential downpour.
It must have been the combination of the storm thrashing the city outside plus the venue (we were inside the big tent for trade shows beside the actual WTC’s steel and concrete structure), but the sound system and mixing just seemed wonky.
Whenever Dave spoke through the mic, we barely understood him (something about one of his first girlfriends being a Filipina) but we all cheered him, nonetheless. Sometimes the guitars lacked the necessary oomph; on other songs they were too high on the treble and hissy.
Nevertheless, all of us were having fun going loco.
David Ellefson and Shawn Drover (drums) played a cutlass clean and tighter-than-a-hellhole rhythm section, especially on the hit “Symphony of Destruction” and “Peace Sells. . .” where their skeletal album mascot, a politician in a suit and sunglasses with gangrened claws came out to everyone’s delight. It walked around the stage, pointing menacingly at the audience as we howled and hooted.
The mosh pit near the back of the Platinum Section and in the middle of ours got ever crazier.
By the time the finale of “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” came along, we were almost in spinal whiplash but nowhere near tired. From my place in the Gold Section, all of us were jumping up and down, trying to imbibe all that legendary thrash into our system.
Thanks Dave and Co! It took you more than two and a half decades to get here but with my ears ringing and my blood pumping from all the American steel, it was well worth it. – Rappler.com
Karl R. de Mesa is a journalist and the author of Damaged People—Tales of the Gothic-Punk (UP Press) and News of the Shaman (Visprint), nominated for the Reader’s Choice Awards 2012. He also plays guitar for drone metal group Gonzo Army, and the hardcore punk band Kimura.
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