Let’s talk about truly unique voices in metal.

In the 1980s, “heavy metal” music was still congealing as a genre. By that decade’s end, four bands were regarded as the kings of American metal: Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth. Despite each group’s various faults and dalliances with the law and/or substance abuse, all four are as reliable now as they ever were. Metallica’s legal shenanigans during the Napster era don’t change the fact that their first three albums were utterly stellar. Anthrax holds a special place in many a metalhead’s black heart (plus they once kicked Beavis and Butthead off their tour bus), and I think Slayer’s Reign In Blood is the greatest metal album of all time, with a back cover that shows they have great taste in beer.

But when I think “metal”, I mean head-banging, devil-sign-throwing METAL, the kind so heavy that only Satan could lift it, I think of Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction”, from Countdown to Extinction (1992). The proper version.

The only thing that isn’t perfect about that track is the fact that it ends. It could conceivably and easily go on ad infinitum.

Do yourself a favor and take in that song for a few moments. Feel the intense grind of the rhythm guitar, like a musical killdozer. That’s Marty Friedman. Marty Friedman is so metal he lives in Tokyo. Even though he was born in D.C., our nation’s capitol anus, he was too metal for his own homeland. Like Godzilla, only Japan can handle Marty Friedman. That’s how fucking metal he is.

At the age of 14, after attending a KISS concert, Friedman took up the guitar,and is largely self-taught. He rushed to form a band and started playing original songs, the reason being that originals are easier to play than covers. “Because,” he says, “even if you screw up, you just claim that the song is written like that and no one can challenge you.”

[Wikipedia, even though they can be biased and sketchy, and I don’t really want to continue linking them, but what else is there?]

(I could swear that the opening guitar riff was sampled for the proper introduction of Rufus the Stunt Bum in the original Bumfights, but I’d have to dig out my copy to verify and youse guys get grumpy whenever I bring up Bumfights.)

On the drums is Nick Menza, who unfortunately passed away in 2016, of congestive heart failure. On stage, after playing three songs. (Do I have to point out how fucking metal that is?) Nick was born in Munich, Germany, and began to play drums at the age of two. Two! In public! And apparently well, I mean, not like one of us might have, like a toddler banging on borrowed drums!

At twenty seconds into the track, you hear one of the most historic and unique voices in heavy metal. It almost doesn’t sound like singing; it’s more like a threat, delivered in a tone that disturbs you with its calmness.

You take a mortal man,
And put him in control
Watch him become a god,
Watch peoples heads a’roll

Try to picture the origin of that voice as you hear those words. What do you see? How much physical presence is there in that voice alone, even before the chorus begins?

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes,
Swaying to the symphony
Of destruction

Is it possible for a song to make uncomfortable eye contact? I don’t mean video footage, I mean the song itself?

The disturbing voice becomes more condescending, even accusatory:

Acting like a robot
Its metal brain corrodes
You try to take its pulse
Before the head explodes

Did he say “pulse”, or “boss”? Or was it “balls”? Are you sure you want to ask him, and not just quietly absorb the lessons in these words instead? Don’t you know whose voice this is, as the chorus returns complete with lead guitar solo?

It’s Dave Motherfucking Mustaine.

Maybe you find my words sycophantic. Let me ask you one question; can you sing these lyrics like Dave Mustaine? Before you even try, the answer is no. You can’t. No one can. There is only Mustaine.

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes,
Swaying to the symphony
Swaying to the symphony of destruction

The earth starts to rumble
World powers fall
A warring for the heavens
A peaceful man stands tall

We get one more run of the chorus and then we’re out at four minutes. At no point does Mustaine raise or strain his vocals. He maintains a control in his voice that I would call superior to his contemporaries. Metal singers were shredding their lungs out and not achieving half the menace that Mustaine does in this one song. Which, by the way, was partly inspired by a cluster headache Mustaine had endured. A Mustaine Migraine, if you will.

Such is the nexus of what we love and what endures in heavy metal, and such is the truly unique power of Mustaine.

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