Battle of the Bands: Metallica V. Megadeth

“The Clash Between Metal’s Biggest Rivals.”


Metallica in it’s early days with Dave Mustaine



Metal music is one of the most popular subgenres of rock ‘n’ roll, and for good reason. The delicious licks, fast tempo and crazy shredding on electric guitars paired with thunderous basslines and clashing drum symbols all blend together so nicely for a headbangin’ good time; I mean, what’s not to love? 


While Metal / Heavy Metal has faded in popularity through the years, reaching its peak in the 1980’s, it’s still one of the more popular genres that’s heavier than rock music. 


Within Metal music, there are a group of bands commonly regarded as the “Big Four”, or the four biggest and most influential Metal bands (like how Pop Music’s ‘Big Four’ would contain M.J., Taylor Swift etc.) Metal’s “Big Four” are: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. 


All four bands had a massive presence in the 1980’s, becoming insanely respected in the music scene and all influencing each other as well as millions of developing musicians. Slayer has since disbanded, with Anthrax falling out of immediate popularity by most accounts. Metallica and Megadeth, though, being the biggest of the four, still reign on as the undisputed kings of the metal scene. Both bands, however, are well known for the massive rivalry shared between the two. 


For context, Metallica was one of the first bands in the Metal scene, and today is bar none the most popular. Back in 1983 when the band was very new, Metallica’s lead singer James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich kicked out lead guitarist Dave Mustaine for disagreements within the band and drunkenness; dejected, Mustaine went on to form Megadeth as an act of revenge against Metallica, swearing to be bigger, better and faster than the band from which he’d been given the boot. 

A Young Mustaine (left) and Hetfield (right)

Megadeth was never bigger than Metallica, with guitarist Kirk Hammett taking Mustaine’s place, the band reached amazing heights selling 110+ million albums in comparison to Megadeth’s 40+ million. With this being the case, many would argue that Mustaine got his revenge in the sense that Megadeth did indeed end up being better and faster (heavier) than Metallica; the two bands have thus been compared ever since, both struggling for the spot of the best Metal band in history. At the very least, each Megadeth album sold is a sale stolen from Metallica. 


The rivalry between the two has settled a bit in recent years, but for the purpose of having some fun, my metalhead friend Ethan and I are going to analyze and compare the strengths and weaknesses of the two bands all for the purpose of settling once and for all which one takes the cake. 


(I’m taking the side of Metallica on this one, Ethan will advocate for Megadeth). 





– Formed in 1981 in LA, California.


– Lineup: James Hetfield (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Kirk Hammett (Lead Guitar), Lars Ulrich (Drums), Robert Trujillo (Bass Guitar) : PAST: Dave Mustaine (Lead Guitar), Cliff Burton (Bass Guitar), Jason Newsted (Bass Guitar)


– Hits: “Nothing Else Matters”, “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Fade to Black”, “One”, “Master of Puppets”, “Blackened”, “Orion”




Metallica, just the name alone evokes visions of heavy headbanging and denim jackets. We’ve all seen the shirts, we all know the riffs. In a sense, although Metallica has evolved drastically in its sound over the years, it’s bound to remain on top as the most popular Metal band ever simply due to its legacy and influence. 

Metallica on Stage in the 80’s

The band has a great sound, but it’s also really easy to get into because of its classic hits and solid variety. It’s not too heavy for new listeners, but it’s also heavy enough to fall right in the middle of the Metal category (particularly the band’s first three albums, which were basically strictly Thrash Metal.) Metallica is often criticized for being ‘sellouts’ because of how much they changed their sound and because they lost their dedication towards solely producing Metal, but this doesn’t mean that their legacy fails in its importance, nor that they’re lacking in quality. 


Even the most snobby MetalHeads have a favorite Metallica song, guilt pleasure or otherwise. Hetfield and Hammett are beloved guitarists who have likely inspired more newer, heavier guitarists than anyone else in the industry as a whole. All in all, Metallica is the bar when it comes to a metal band, but it was also one of the first and most successful as a whole, landing itself at the top because of the immense legacy it will hold when the band finally retires. 




The choice to evolve one’s sound as made by Metallica was hated by many old school fans and Metal Snobs as I’d noted above, but it made Metallica realistic. 


Music as a whole evolves with the industry constantly changing; in order to succeed in a developing industry, you need to move along with it. This is part of the reason why Metallica got so big, simply because they were able to go with the flow and appeal to newer audiences. 


Metallica’s lineup has also kept relatively consistent as opposed to Megadeth, with a few (sad) exceptions the band has kept the same musicians for a very long time. 


Thus, Metallica isn’t as consistent with its Thrash Metal roots as is Megadeth as led by Mustaine, yet it’s definitely continued to grow in places where Megadeth has merely stagnated. 




James Hetifield and Kirk Hammett are both amazing guitarists (though, in taking a knee, neither are as skilled as Dave Mustaine); Lars Ulrich is generally considered to be passable on the drums for a heavier band. Metallica had a boon, however, in the early to mid 80’s, one that helped bring about not only their signature sound but also their popularity and many of their hits. 


Cliff Burton performed on Bass Guitar for Metallica’s first three albums, with some writing credits on their fourth. Burton was tragically killed in a bus accident at the age of 24 while on tour with the band in 1986, though in his brief musical career he quickly cemented himself as what most people will tell you is the greatest Metal bass guitarist of all time (some would even go as far as to call him the greatest Bass Guitarist ever). 

Cliff Burton on stage with his signature Bass Guitar

Burton’s signature style featured him playing his bass like a booming electric guitar (creating a sound sort of like bursts of thunder.) The rapid speed in which the young musician played alongside his creative basslines and solos all filled to the brim with articulations imparted a genuine sense of life and terror into Metallica’s earliest songs. 



Although Cliff Burton has long since passed, with Metallica going through bassist Jason Newsted before settling on Robert Trujillo, his legacy alone is one for the books; without him, it’s certain Metallica would never be where it is today, as his sheer skill helped to send them right to the top. 




Metallica has stood the test of time, surpassing every other Metal band in its path. It’s likely that there will never be another heavy band of Metallica’s caliber, at least in regards to its legacy and how much it appeals to both its fanbase and newer generations to come. 

Cliff Burton (left) & James Hetfield (right)

In the wake of their destruction, Metallica has left us 10 albums and over 100 songs, but a whole lot more manic-musical-memories.


“To live is to die.” – Cliff Burton 


Sorry Dave! Close but No Cigar! 





– Formed in 1983 in LA.


– Lineup:

Dave Mustaine (OG, Guitars, Main Vocals, Keys, God)

David Ellefson (OG, Bass, Vocals)

Kiko Loureiro (Guitars, Vocals, Piano, Conquer or Die Guy)

Dirk Verbeuren (Drummer)

  • Notable Former Members

Nick Menza (Drums, Vocals, RIP)

Mary Friedman (Guitars)


– Bangers: “Hangar 18”, “Holy Wars – The Punishment Due”, “Conquer or Die”, “Tornado of Souls”, “Take No Prisoners”, “Symphony of Destruction”, “Angry Again”, “Peace Sells”, “A Tout Le Monde”



What do you mean I can’t make my own band? What do you think I’m drunk? Opportunity for success lurks in the most odd places, and in the case of Dave Mustaine, it’s kicking Hetfield’s dog and forming a thrash metal band with your new neighbors.

Dave Mustaine shredding

Leaving Metallica allowed Mister Mustaine to make his music heavier and faster than Metallica. Sometimes I forget that Metallica was originally a thrash band. Early Megadeth produced great albums you could listen all the way through with a consistent tempo speed, compared to those Metallica songs that take twenty-two years to actually get to the good part. Also the better solos. While Metallica had Cliff Burton who was god on bass, we have Mustaine, who is a god on the guitar.


11 Solos. 11. You’re not going to find that in a Metallica song. Also I’d like to point out that the original is better than the remaster. (I mean listen to that!)


And yes, while we are on it, we have to talk about Mustaine. He is the star and soul of the band. Most people consider him a role model and hero (after rehab of course), and his personality embodies the carefree and do-it-myself attitude of his band, and nowadays, his wholesome appearance and outlook of his success is something to be admired. 


And again, consistency matters! Metallica made three good metal albums when Cliff was still alive and even then they were banking off of Mr. Mustaine’s riffs. After that, they should have removed the “Metal” from their name, as they totally became complete sellouts a little while after “Master of Puppets”. Sure Metallica has a larger, ‘normie’ fanbase with more sales, so what!? Megadeth still has the most loyal fanbase because they stayed consistent with putting out beautiful metal albums that only evolved the formula without changing it completely. 


So that’s all there is to be said, and what of it? If the other side has so much to say about Metallica – well all I have to comment on that is: “Nice story, tell it to Reader’s Digest!” 




It’s definitely not an easy choice when it comes to settling on one of these two Metal Legends. Both have a serious legacy, and both have seriously tasty licks. As to which one is best? I guess we’ll just have to see which band breaks up first. 

Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield on stage together

In the meantime, it’s worth checking out both bands catalogues as there are decades worth of albums and EPs to be explored. 


Which do you think is the better band? Leave a comment or DM our Instagram. Be sure to check out other music related articles.