Megadeth BY Myriam Santos Web@ Newcastle O2 Academy, June 3 2013

The tragic death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman last month brought into sharp focus the contribution he – and other members of the thrash ‘big four’  – have made to heavy metal.

Without the likes of Hanneman, James Hetfield, Scott Ian and last tonight’s big draw – Megadeth frontman and virtuoso guitarist Dave Mustaine – the globe-spanning genre would have a very different flavour. 

You only have to listen to Glaswegian quintet Bleed From Within, opening for Mustaine and his cohorts on this tour, to realise that. Riding high on the back of their new album, Uprising, the impressive Scots, chugged, blasted and pounded their way through a short but sweet set.

Lead from the front by engaging vocalist Scott Kennedy, the band are reminiscent of Virginian titans Lamb Of God – and are partial to a mosh-friendly breakdown or two. Look beneath the surface and take away the sheen, though, and you’ll see the bedrock of their music is thrash metal, pure and simple. And Bleed From Within were clearly delighted to be on the bill last night, supporting an act with little left to prove, but plenty more to give.

For while Megadeth may have sold millions of albums, they aren’t resting on their laurels, or simply trading on past glories to shift tickets. Their well of inspiration has yet to run dry, as critically acclaimed new album Super Collider – following hot on the heels of 2009’s Endgame and 2011’s Thirteen, illustrates.

Last night, the US legends seemed to be in jubilant mood – happy to be marking their return to British soil with the release of a brand new opus, happy to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their landmark full length, Countdown To Extinction (though making a few fans feel rather old in the process).

As Mustaine – well-known for his on- and off-stage rants – recently revealed to RUSHONROCK, he is a happier man these days. And it showed, with the thrash overlord relaxed, confident and seemingly delighted to see a packed Academy sing an entire verse of Sweating Bullets with great gusto. Alongside the rarely played Architecture of Aggression and Ashes In Your Mouth, it was one of several Countdown-era classics aired in a mid-set section dedicated to the album.

But with a career spanning years, there was plenty of room for both old and new. 1997’s slick, streamlined Trust opened the show, followed by the timeless Hangar 18, from 1991’s Rust In Peace, while Supercollider’s Kingmaker showed Mustaine has lost none of his fretboard dexterity, and the snarling Who’s Life (Is It Anyways?), from Thirteen, dripped with venom.

At times however, Shawn Drover’s drumming threatened to drown out Mustaine and fellow axeman Chris Broderick’s complex riffing… a good job then that Megadeth’s songs are so powerful, and laden with hooks. Enhanced by a stunning visual backdrop, which spliced modern TV footage and dazzling graphics with old promo videos, there was a sense of occasion to this show, one which a booming snare drum just couldn’t dent.

There were plenty of highlights last night, with the setlist offering rich pickings for fans. But the final salvo of Symphony Of Destruction, Peace Sells and Holy Wars… The Punishment Due – surely three of the best metal songs ever written – were as devastating as the scenes of riots, warfare and nuclear detonations depicted behind them. They’re anthems for generations of metalheads, timeless tracks which have few equals.

Not every band has that kind of arsenal in its locker, granted,  but then Megadeth aren’t any old band – as this performance proved.

Richard Holmes

Check out RUSHONROCK‘s exclusive interview with Dave Mustaine right here