Since heavy metal's inception 40 years ago, back when Black Sabbath's eponymous debut was released, the notorious genre has been politically aware and sensitive to the state's growing power at the expense of individual liberties.
Well before today's Tea Party began harping on issues like the Federal Reserve and the soon-to-arrive New World Order, thrash bands like Megadeth and Metallica framed the issues in sonically punishing terms.
Indeed, what scared people like Tipper Gore (Al's wife) were the superficial aspects of metal—violent lyrics, sexual content and sensational packaging. If she'd dug a bit deeper, however, into works like Megadeth's 1986 magnum opus Peace Sells ... but Who's Buying?, Gore might have fainted dead away. That's because the title track is prophetic rather than prurient. "It's still 'We the people,' right?" sneers Megadeth mastermind Dave Mustaine, citing the Constitution's preamble in his song's lyrics. Then there's the Peace album cover, depicting longtime Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead leaning on a FOR SALE sign in front of a nuke-ravaged United Nations building.
Mustaine, who recently converted to Christianity, doesn't apologize for his band's overt anti-government message. In fact, he's shouting it from the stage in support of Megadeth's 12th studio album, Endgame. The title is borrowed from the Alex Jones documentary, which makes the case for conspiracies like the Bilderberg Group (or global elite) engineering the North American Union (bringing together the United States, Canada and Mexico) and, well, a plan for mass extermination and the corporate enslavement of any survivors.
"I'm sure Alex and I disagree on a number of issues," admits Mustaine. "But overall, we're probably in agreement on plenty of others. From what I can tell, he's a true patriot who loves his country, and I'm the same way."
The Austin-based talk-radio host and filmmaker may be eccentric in his views, but it's difficult to prove Jones to be completely off his rocker. After all, he warned his listeners for years about the inevitable collapse of the American economic system, which basically came to pass. Of course, Mustaine had an inkling of the current crisis, too. In an effort to learn about money and the economic system, he'd already applied his intellect toward getting licensed as a Citigroup stockbroker.
"The more you learn and discover how things work—or don't work—and how they're actually manipulated, the more afraid you become," he says.
The fear, anger and disappointment regarding his experiences in the music and business industries culminated in last year's Endgame. Despite his recent religious conversion, this is Mustaine's most pissed-off, uncompromising and aggressive effort since his late '80s heyday. Consider the title track's lyrics:
I woke up in a black FEMA box.
Darkness was all around me, in my coffin.
My dreams are all nightmares anymore,
And this is what I dream every night.
"One world government and currency is part of the master plan. That's the endgame as I and others see it," he says. "We're watching our country disintegrate. Nothing has changed with the current administration. People with money still call the shots."
Mustaine insists he's not simply casting aspersions at the system, but instead documenting what it feels like to endure the decline of America as an American. He also prefers to discuss the renewed power of his band, which now includes guitarist Chris Broderick (ex-Jag Panzer), to politics.
"The guy's an unappreciated genius and has taken us to a whole different place," Mustaine says. "I feel like we're just starting to scratch the surface as far as what this band can accomplish musically, and where we can go."
The guitar-shred level of Endgame is off the charts, with the blistering instrumental "Dialectic Chaos" leading straight into the fret-burning, Sun Tzu-inspired monster of "This Day We Fight!" Megadeth's latest serves as the prime example of an album that is both impassioned and technically precise.
Reviews of Endgame have been tremendously favorable, especially compared to the latest reviews of Mustaine's ex-band and primary rival, Metallica, whose own 2009 release, Death Magnetic, received mixed praise. The Megadeth frontman isn't one to rub something like this in his peers' faces, however.
"Our record is probably better than theirs," he says. "But I'm already looking ahead to what else we can accomplish. I'm not thinking about who we're beating."
For all of his looking ahead, at the Rialto Theatre, Megadeth is slated to perform the entirety of Rust in Peace—another grim, albeit Cold War-tinged, vision of future America—in celebration of the album's 20th anniversary. Furthermore, the band will perform with two other classic thrash acts, the biblically named Testament (who will be performing their own landmark album, The Legacy, front to back) and Exodus.
"It's a moment for us to revisit and appreciate (Rust)," says Mustaine. "It's a great work of art; there's no denying it."