Over Megadeth’s career, they’ve had a handful of lead guitarists who’ve received varying degrees of praise, but I’ve always felt, and still do, that Dave Mustaine is the best of them. As the band leader, spokesman, main songwriter, lyricist, singer, guitarist, and troublemaker, his lead guitar playing is often overlooked in favor of the second guy, with whom he splits shredding duties. It’s an unfair side effect of his versatility, but make no mistake, the man not only keeps pace with them, but does better solos.
Why better? I find his solos more musical. After all, he’s a songwriter, and it shows. Guys who can’t write songs have solos that don’t sound like songs either. The best solos usually sound like a song within a song.
Dave’s leads also sound more emotional to me and connected to the song, whereas several others I won’t name sound like they’re doing exercises they practiced, or canned licks they’ve been trying to find somewhere to put. That makes solos sound artificial and, well, not real.
And Dave Mustaine has always been real, whether in a good way or not. The guy is genuine to the bone. It’s part of his appeal.
Dave’s style changes slightly to go with whoever else is playing lead in the band. He still sounds like Dave, but how many players can (or will) do that? He’s kept up with guys with better chops, like Marty Friedman or Chris Broderick, obviously practicing more than before and showing the results. Sometimes I’m surprised by it.
But he surprised me the most when I saw him live about 5 years ago and couldn’t believe his playing. I’ve never seen anyone shred like that in person, not even Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, or Joe Satriani. I kept thinking, “Holy crap!”
Before you think I’m a huge Mustaine fan, I’m actually not. He wouldn’t even make my top ten list of guitarists, lead or otherwise. But I still know damn good when I hear it, and I think his solos are great more often than anyone else who’s played lead guitar in Megadeth.
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