Megadeth versus Metallica: who’s the better band?
These two iconic thrash metal bands have been pitted against each other for decades. Here’s why Megadeth should be more recognized within the heavy metal genre.

As a metalhead, I like the “big four” thrash metal bands: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. There are numerous factors why one band is better than another, but nevertheless, both Metallica and Megadeth are essential to the evolution of thrash metal. The divide between these two bands has lasted decades, with their fan bases joining the ride and dissing each other. 

Unfortunately, it is perceived that if you like Megadeth, then you can’t like Metallica, and vice versa. I have been listening to Metallica songs for a long time, especially from the album, “Ride the Lightning.” However, I will always choose Megadeth as my favourite thrash metal band. Megadeth’s songs have always affected me, through the faster guitar riffs and lyrical symbolism, which ultimately showcase why they should be more recognized and appreciated than Metallica.

Metallica is an American thrash metal band created in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, with the original lineup comprising James Hetfield (rhythm guitar & vocals), Rob McGovney (bass guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), and Dave Mustaine (lead guitar). The lineup then changed as they replaced Mustaine with Kirk Hammett and McGovney with Cliff Burton. Burton was then replaced by Jason Newsted after his tragic death in 1986, and later, Newsted quit and was replaced with Robert Trujillo, who’s now been in the band for more than 20 years.

Megadeth is the second biggest thrash metal band, which formed in 1983, also in Los Angeles. The lineup for this band has changed numerous times over the decades of its existence, however, the most popular and influential members include Mustaine (guitars, main vocals, keys & songwriter), David Ellefson (bass & vocals), Nick Menza (drums & vocals), and Mary Friedman (guitar).

The rift between the two bands started when Mustaine was an early member of Metallica from 1982 to early 1983. He was only a guitarist but wrote some lyrics for their songs. James Hetfield was the main vocalist for the band, friends with Mustaine and Ulrich. The three were close until things went south with multiple arguments and disagreements due to the band members’ copious consumption of drugs and alcohol. Hetfield and Ulrich searched for a new lead guitarist to replace Mustaine without him knowing. Thus, they went to an Exodus show and found Hammett. They offered him a job, and he accepted.

On the morning of April 11, 1983, Hetfield, Ulrich and Burton all surrounded Mustaine to wake him up from a nasty hangover and straight-up tell him he was out of the band. “The thing that really upset me was that they never gave me a warning and I never got a second chance,” Mustaine remarked. He was given a bus ticket to leave New York and head back to California. He packed his bags for a four-day bus ride with no food, water, or money. 

Mustaine wasn’t only kicked out of the band that he co-founded when he was 20, but he was also replaced with another guitarist without his knowledge. Adding insult to injury, Metallica also used his guitar riffs and written material for its debut album, “Kill ‘Em All.” He gave his blood, sweat, and tears to Metallica who couldn’t even give him any credit at the time. 

While he was on his bus ride, full of resentment, anger, and jealousy, Mustaine concocted the idea to create his own band named Megadeth. He wanted a band that was harder, faster, and better than Metallica. With this determination, he achieved his goal and became successful with 16 studio albums and a loyal fanbase. 

Though Megadeth and Metallica have worked hard to cement their roles within heavy metal, Megadeth is better and should get more recognition than Metallica because of its history, song structure, lyricism, guitar riffs, and overall consistency. The members of Metallica used Mustaine’s music on the first album, highlighting that Mustaine’s music is more credible. Though Megadeth has had some tribulations, they kept pushing themselves to produce the best music they could while keeping true to the genre. They are capable of more intricate guitar work and complex song structures, with lyrics representing more political views and social issues. The consistency that Megadeth produces is ultimately more authentic to thrash metal than Metallica. 

When comparing their albums, my personal favourites from Megadeth are “Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?” (1986), “Rust in Peace” (1990), and “Countdown to Extinction” (1992). For Metallica, it would be “Kill ‘Em All” (1983), “Ride The Lightning” (1984), and “The Black Album” (1991). The albums of these two bands repeatedly get compared to each other. Personally, Mustaine’s writing and sound have a harder and faster impact than Metallica’s. His song writing is lyrically complex compared to Hetfield’s, as he provides deep, thought-provoking lyrics and intricate compositions. 

Concerning the guitar riffs, Mustaine’s musical style and solos are highly regarded by many fans as innovative. Metallica should have given Mustaine more credit for the creativity and written material he provided the band. Metallica wouldn’t have become what it is without the help of Mustaine and I am thrilled to be a fan of both bands (no bad blood to you, Metallica fans—I love them too). 

Currently, Megadeth is on its 2023 “Crush the World” tour and Metallica is on its 2023 “M72 World Tour.” You can decide who you think is the better band.

Staff Writer (Volume 50) — Karissa is a fourth-year student pursuing a Specialist in the Digital Enterprise Management program. When she's not studying marketing, you can catch her at the gym doing yoga or hanging out with her friends playing poker. Karissa loves writing about movies, music, and anything that she's passionate about. She can talk about horror movies and heavy metal music all day! She also enjoys baking, reading, and fashion.

4 Comments

  1. Listen i am a fan of both both bands but its not even close. Metallica is by far the better band. Most of Megadeths albums are average at best and thats being kind. Metallica has better lyrics, better composition of songs …its no contest. Want to look at sales numbers? Megadeth has many more releases but doesnt even com close. Sorry but bad take here. Megadeth has many good songs but no…not even close

    1. I’ve been a fan of both since the mid 80’s, before the Black Album made Metallica a household name. While it is hard to say any band is “better” than Metallica in terms of popularity and album sales, Megadeth have still sold 50 million albums worldwide without switching over to doing the softer, “radio metal” that Metallica was able to cash in on. And to say Metallica has better lyrics and song composition is been debated for decades, especially considering Dave Mustaine wrote several of Metallica’s earliest songs, including Four Horseman, Jump in the Fire and Ride the Lightning. Honestly, I believe that neither would exist today without the other. Lars was a rich kid and wanted to be in a rock band. So he, James and Ron McGovney played together in Ron’s parents garage. Hence the “Garage Days Re-Visited”. Anyway, they were not very good. UNTIL, they found Dave Mustaine. He taught them how to write and play the type of music they wanted to play. And he also taught them how to play the part of a Thrash metal band, by excessive drugs and drinking and women. This didn’t sit well with Lars and since he was bankrolling the operation, he had Dave booted. They approached Hammett while attending an Exodus show and asked him to join. So one morning while hung-over, they woke Dave up, told him he’s out of the band and gave him a bus ticket back to California. So for 4 days from New York to California with no food or money, Dave had nothing but time to plan his revenge. He wanted to make a band better than Metallica. However, Metallica knew that Mustaine being gone was a lot of lost talent, so they focused all their energy on being great (which they certainly were). Dave on the other hand spent years coming up with ways to “out play” Metallica and while his politically based lyrics may not have been as “radio-friendly”, his guitar riffs were much better than anything Metallica could do. Bottom line, Metallica became great because they wanted to prove that they didn’t need Dave and Megadeth became great because he wanted to show Metallica that they fucked up by kicking him out. I just wonder how good they could’ve been if Dave would’ve stayed. Who knows??

  2. Disagree completely. Megadeth is by far the better band. Your take that Metallica has ‘better composition of songs’ to me is a joke of a statement. Megadeth has far more complex songs, consistently has put out relevant material, albeit there have been some duds along the way. Metallica’s first 4 albums were good. Anything after that is garbage,

  3. Both bands hand a fantastic initial 5 album run – but I’d have to give it to Metallica for the beginning of their career, but Megadeth (although they did have a couple of duds too) win out for latter career albums, with stronger material towards the end.
    Although Megadeth did have a couple of poor albums, they were nowhere near the disaster of St Anger and Lulu,
    So, for me, Megadeth have more good albums than Metallica, but Ride, Master,Justice and Black are the standout albums from the entirety of both bands.

    So Metallica for the win. But Megadeth are also a great band with a couple of bona fide classics themselves,

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