Let's take you back to when both these bands were at their beginnings (and their best!). The 1980's and (very) early 90's. In this time Metallica released Kill 'em All (1983), Ride the Lightning (1984), Master of Puppets (1986), ...And Justice for All (1988) and Metallica (1991). During this time there was no comparison to their dominance and style. Every song on these albums was a masterpiece, any of them could be played at any live performance today and the fans would go home happy. Last year they played the entire Master of Puppets album at every stop on the tour in recognition of the albums' 20th anniversary.
Now after that things went slightly downhill. The next album we had was Load (1996) five years after the Black Album. Fans expected it to be the equivilent of "Black Album 2". Not the case. While the album had its hits such as "Until It Sleeps" and "King Nothing", the general feel from the album was a disappointment. The same can be said for Reload (1997) which contained the remaining songs from the same recording sessions as Load. Though slightly better, including songs like "Fuel", "Memory Remains" and "Unforgiven II", the songs still failed to reach the summit that had been conquered and flagged by the albums from the 80's.
1998 saw the release of Garage Inc. a cover/compilations album. This album was of shear quality. By far the best thing released since The Black Album, but also because it included songs from the semi-unreleased album Garage Days Re-visited which was recorded in 1987. So obviously the calibre of songs from this time was good. In 1999, we were treated to S&M, which was a live performance recorded with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen. The songs played were from a mix of their albums, but the singing and playing was by far at the best it had been for a long time. We also heard for the first time 2 other songs, written especially for the occasion, namely; "No Leaf Clover" and "-Human". Would these two songs appear on the next studio album? Following that Metallica performed the song "I Disappear" for the film MI2. Would this song also appear on the next album?
The answer was no. Instead, in 2003, we were plagued by the god-awful St. Anger. There are too many problems to name here. Some of the issues were: no guitar solos, grunge sound to the music, repetitive lyrics, too many filler tracks. The only tracks worth mentioning are the ones that had a video; "Frantic", "St. Anger" and "The Unnamed Feeling". Strangely enough this album appealed to more non-heavy metal fans than anything else. Something had to be done!
The band toured in 2003, 2004 and 2006. They took a break out in 2005. In 2006 we learned that a new album was in the works, and we were assured by the band themselves that the music would go back to their roots. They fired their producer Bob Rock and instead brought in Rick Rubin, who has worked with the RHCP, System of a Down and Rage Against the Machines. During the 2006 tour, certain stops (not including Dublin unfortunately) were treated to "The New Song" (see above) which will appear on the new album. After hearing it only once, we knew it was an incredible step up from St. Anger. We had the return of Kirk's solos, a return to 8 and a half minute tracks and decent drumming on Lars' part. The Asian leg of the tour were treated to "The Other New Song", a shorter song which was reminiscent of Garage Inc.. Later on, Metallica's guitar interpretation of "The Ecstasy of Gold" (see below) was leaked to youtube, a further indication of good things to come.
It is quite evident that Metallica have managed to bring about a renaissance in their style of playing, a feat which was achieved by Megadeth in 2004.
In the early 80's, Megadeth were formed after Dave Mustaine, the then lead guitarist in Metallica was fired. It is no wonder then that Megadeth are up there with Metallica at the forefront of heavy metal. In 1985, they released their first album Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!, followed by Peace Sells..But Who's Buying? (1986), So Far, So Good....So What! (1988), Rust in Peace (1990), Countdown to Extinction (1992) and Youthanasia (1994). I'll stop there. Arguably the last three albums mentioned are the best. With Countdown to Extinction being the Megadeth equivilent of Metallica's Master of Puppets and Youthanasia the equivilent of the Black Album.
After than, Megadeth went through a bad phase like Metallica. Their albums really failing to produce anything special, with Risk (1999) and The World Needs a Hero (2001) being the bottom rung of the way things were going. Unfortunately things got worse, when Mustaine was told he could never play guitar again after injuring his arm by sleeping with it over a chair. As a result, Megadeth released Back to the Start, a greatest hits album.
However, shock horror, we learned around 2003 that Megadeth were beginning work on a new album, released as The System Has Failed in 2004, which in my opinion rivals Countdown and Youth for shear masterpieces. Everything is right, sound, voice clarity, everything. Then in late 2006, we learned that Megadeth were once again hitting the studio for the album United Abominations out today. Unfortunately I haven't bought it yet, but Mr Conway tells me that it's absolutely brilliant, better than System. I've only heard one song off it which is a new version of 'A Tout le Monde', which originally appeared on Youthanasia. This one is also better thanks to the wonderful singing of the ever so foxy Cristina Scabbia of Laguna Coil.
Bring on Metallica's 9th studio album this summer!!! Complete the Renaissance!