It’s been an impressive year for the thrash metal pioneers known as Megadeth. After releasing a successful, Gold-certified live DVD, That One Night – Live in Buenos Aires, this past Spring, it’s just as awesome, if not even better than the companion CD last month, and a well-received studio album, United Abominations. The band is cashing in on their newfound success and releasing a mammoth 4-CD + DVD box set this week called Warchest.
Fellow BC writer, Chris Beaumont, provided the full track list, which all told is 78 tracks long. The 16-song sampler I received in advance provided a good taste of what’s in store for Megadeth fans, but a closer look is needed, so here’s a brief overview of this release.
The set has either live, album, or demo tracks from releases dating from 1985 through 2004. Like bandleader Dave Mustaine’s former band, Metallica, Megadeth’s music has aged rather well over time. His unique voice, full of grit and snarl, sounds youthful on the excellent “Tornado of Souls” demo found on Disc One, but not much older on the remastered versions of mid-1980s thrash classics like “Killing Is My Business…” and “Peace Sells.” Yes, the latter two sound better with modern equipment, but some purists may miss and prefer the original versions no matter what.
Songs from compilations and soundtracks made the cut as well, such as “Angry Again” from the very good and rock-heavy Last Action Hero soundtrack (found on Disc Two). Disc Three has an interesting selection, “A Secret Place,” which was taken from Megadeth’s Woodstock 1999 performance. One has to wonder if the band plans on releasing the full show from their Woodstock set in the near future.
Normally, a DVD concert such as the one included in this set (Disc Five), from the band’s 9/30/92 show in London, would be considered highly valuable, but the set is incomplete. Did Megadeth really only play 10 songs at this show? Where is their big hit from that period, “Symphony of Destruction”? How many other songs are missing? Inquiring Megadeth fans would definitely want to know.
If the band really played a show that short, it would be a rip-off for those in attendance and thus would not be anyone’s choice for later release on a DVD. For my money, I want a full or close to a full show like the Buenos Aires live CD released in September. Perhaps I’m being too harsh here, but if you’re going to charge $50 for a box set, you have to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
The Rolling Stones released over seven hours’ worth of music for $30 with their Biggest Bang DVD in June. The Megadeth set has about six hours worth of material. Out of the 78 tracks, only 33 are unreleased, while the rest are either live or remastered tracks.
True, getting old and live Megadeth concerts to be officially released doesn’t happen often, and Disc Four is definitely a winner, as it has a complete, 75-minute show from Wembley Stadium in 1990. Marty Friedman had just started his close to ten-year run with the band at this point and is highly regarded as the best second guitarist Dave Mustaine ever worked with. The band as a whole was artistically at their peak in the early 1990s, so the inclusion of all the live material from this period (1990-1992) highlights this box set.
Folks, it’s up to you to decide, depending on how much Megadeth you already have — remastered CDs included — whether this mix of remastered favorites, scattered demos, live tracks, a 36-page booklet, a full audio concert, and highlights from another show on DVD is worth the hefty price tag. It is a comprehensive look at the band’s 22-year career, but doesn’t include any United Abominations tracks.
From a distance, Warchest is a great, kick-ass collection, but in my humble opinion, it is most valuable to the casual Megadeth fan who only has a few of their CDs and needs a crash-course in how thrash metal is done.
As for the hardcore fans, Dave Mustaine is taking the risk that they will like the remastered tracks, six demos, some scattered live cuts, and one-and-a-half full concerts. I have a feeling only the complete-ists will shell out the dough for this one. The rest, knowing how much they’ve already spent on Megadeth material this year alone, will likely sit this one out unless they have to have the live material.