Former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson has been quite the busy individual in recent years. From founding the independent record label, EMP Label Group in 2015 to helping resurrect the well-known hard rock label, Combat Records, two years later in 2017 to launching his own coffee brand, Ellefson Coffee Co. three years after that in 2020, Ellefson has clearly not rested easily on his laurels. Early last year, he added to his resume again when he co-founded the super group (of sorts) Kings of Thrash with fellow former Megadeth members Chris Poland and Jeff Young, vocalist Chaz Leon, and drummer Fred Aching, and on Friday, the band released its debut live recording, The Mega Years: Live at the Whisky A Go Go through Cleopatra Records. The 17-song concert recording is an intriguing presentation. That is due in part to its featured set list and the band’s performance thereof, all of which will be discussed shortly. While the set list and its performance are clear positives to the recording, the performance is also slightly problematic, as is the lack of any information on the songs anywhere in the recording’s packaging. This will be discussed a little later. The concert’s production pairs with the set list and the band’s performance thereof to make for more interest. It will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered they make The Mega Years: Live At The Whisky A Go Go a live recording that Megadeth fans will find worth watching at least once.
The Mega Years: Live at the Whiskey A Go Go, the debut live recording from the thrash super group Kings of Thrash, is a presentation that longtime Megadeth fans will find interesting and worth watching at least once. That is due in large part to its featured set list. Spanning 17 songs, the concert – recorded Oct. 15, 2022 at the famed Whisky A Go Go (which has hosted acts from across the musical universe) – lifts from Megadeth’s first three albums, Killing is My Business…And Business Is Good (1985), Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying (1986) and So Far, So Good…So What! (1988). It lifts most liberally from that first and third album while pulling half of Megadeth’s sophomore album to round out the set list. There is also one lone track not included in any of the albums in the form of ‘Orange Light’ which was included in the soundtrack for the timeless movie, Apocalypse Now.
The albums each have their own importance to note here. Poland was fired from Megadeth after the release of Peace Sells…but would return as a session member much later in 2004 for the band’s album, The System Has Failed. So Far, So Good…So What? Would end up being the only album on which Young would record with the band. Ellefson had multiple stints with the band until being fired himself in 2021. So in essence, the set list featured here is composed of music from the albums on which the trio of former Megadeth members recorded. It is an intentional directed attention, and also a focus on what is part of the band’s formative years. Keeping all of that in mind, the set list featured in this recording forms a solid foundation for the recording.
The band’s performance of the set list adds even more appeal to the recording. That is because it really takes audiences back to the glory days of not only Megadeth but thrash metal in general. Leon’s person as he filled in for Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine was just as strong as that of Mustaine or any old school thrash front man. Young’s rapid fire guitar riffs add their own touch as Poland and Young make their way through each song, too. There is something about the duo’s presence that throws back to the old days of thrash metal, too. It is something that really must be seen to be understood and appreciated. Even drummer Fred Aching’s presence behind the kit adds its own touch to the performance, his hair flying as he pounds his way through each high intensity song. The whole of the group’s performance manages easily to keep the audience engaged and entertained. On the same level, it will also keep audiences at home just as engaged and entertained. To that end, the overall performance adds that much more to the recording’s appeal
While the band’s performance obviously adds to the recording’s appeal, it is also something of a negative. The negative to the band’s performance is that as much as the band keeps the energy going from beginning to end, there is no point at which the band stops to interact with the audience. There is no discussion on which songs the albums were taken from and why the band opted to pull from the albums in question. It forces audiences who might be less familiar with Megadeth’s catalog to have to go digging on their own. Now while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it can also be bad because people want at least a starting point and deserve that much. So to that end, this is still a negative aspect of the performance.
On a related note, there is no information in the form of background on the songs anywhere in the recording’s packaging, so that makes things even more concerning. Audiences are otherwise left to wonder if the songs are originals or covers. Again, this can be problematic primarily for audiences who are less familiar with the band’s catalog. Even those who might be more familiar with the band’s catalog might have to remind themselves of the songs, too. So again, here is another problematic aspect to the recording. It and the lack of any real interaction with the audience other than the performance detracts notably from the recording but not to the point that it dooms the concert’s presentation. Keeping that in mind, there is one more positive to note. That positive comes in the form of the concert’s production.
The production here is actually a positive especially because of how it creates the sense of a vintage thrash metal concert. The shot edits give audiences so many angles of the intimate venue and the sound editing manages to expertly balance all of the instrumentation and vocals for a largely welcome general effect. Seeing audience members actually getting up on stage and stage diving from various angles as the band makes its way through the expansive set list is just so engrossing. The angles that are used really immerse audiences in the venue, helping audiences to really see just how intimate the setting is, which adds even more to the presentation. The whole of all of this creates a positive impact in its own right to the whole of the recording. When it is paired with the show’s set list and the band’s performance thereof, the whole does just enough to make the concert worth experiencing at least once, whether by Megadeth fans or by vintage thrash metal fans.
The Mega Years: Live at the Whisky A Go Go, the debut live recording from thrash super group Kings of Thrash, is a presentation that thrash and Megadeth fans alike will find intriguing. That is due in large part to its featured set list. The 17-song set pulls liberally from the band’s first three albums, each of which were key moments for Megadeth, as they were rare performances for at least two of the group’s members. They were also key moments in the band’s formative years. The band’s high energy performance of each song adds to the appeal of the recording. That is because of how breathless it will leave even home viewers. At the same time that the band offers so much energy through its performance, the lack of any interaction with the audience is also slightly problematic. That is because of the information that is left up in the air, so to speak. The lack of information on the songs anywhere in the packaging detracts from the appeal, too, but collectively is not enough to doom the recording. The concert’s production creates a mostly positive general effect, helping audiences to travel back to the golden age of thrash metal. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered they make The Mega Years: Live at the Whisky A Go Go a welcome watch at least once for Megadeth and thrash metal fans alike.
The Mega Years: Live at the Whisky A Go Go is available now through Cleopatra Records. More information on the recording is available along with all of Kings of Thrash’s news at:
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