Although Megadeth had hoped to record the follow-up to their 2016 album Dystopia this year, frontman Dave Mustaine’s cancer diagnosis sidelined their progress. But despite the medical setback, the singer-guitarist is promising to release a handful of new tracks ahead of the band’s winter European tour.
Before Megadeth paused work on the LP, Mustaine tells Rolling Stone that they had composed “nine really crushing songs.” They presented those to their management, and Mustaine was pleased when various people who worked with them all picked the same three tracks to release. (The group will put finishing touches on those in the coming months.) “All we need to do is get in the studio and capture them,” he says. “We’ve got scratch drum tracks. We just have to get Dirk [Verbeuren, drums] to play through the songs once or twice and then it’s up to me and David [Ellefson, bass] and Kiko [Loureiro, lead guitar] to finish.”
He doesn’t have finished names for the songs yet, just working titles — “The Dogs of Chernobyl” has a feel similar to Dystopia, while he says “Faster Than Anything Else” and “Rattlehead, Part Two” speak for themselves. The exact number of songs Megadeth will release as “early offerings,” as he called them in an interview with Rolling Stone this week, is still up in the air. “It might be two, it might be four,” he says.
Beyond those tracks, Mustaine has high hopes for the rest of the album. He has been encouraging Ellefson, who cofounded Megadeth with Mustaine in 1983, to write a song that would spotlight his playing. Ellefson has had a tenuous relationship with Mustaine and tried to sue the frontman when he was away from the band; they mended fences and Ellefson rejoined the band in 2010. “I said to him, ‘What was the biggest song that Kiss ever had?’” Mustaine says. “He goes, ‘Beth.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we should write a song like “Beth,” where it’s a ballad and it’s just you singing it. I think you should write a song about what it’s like being in Megadeth with me, because I read all your lyrics, and I know that your lyrics are aimed at me. You’re upset. So why don’t you write about it?’”
Mustaine heard an early version of Ellefson’s ballad and was happy with it, but it still needs fine-tuning. “I’m going to try to work on it now for this record, and if it doesn’t get on this record, I’m going to try to work on it on the next record,” Mustaine says. “Because it was actually really cool to see Ellefson writing something and hear him singing.” He hopes fans will appreciate their story of forgiveness.
Mustaine says that Loureiro and Verbeuren have also both contributed “some monstrous fucking tracks” for inclusion on the new LP. The band just has to decide on how many songs it needs to record; the band’s label wants at least 11 tracks, but Megadeth also need to write bonus tracks. “You need another track for Japan and another track for Best Buy, and another track for Apple, and another track for Spotify, and it’s like, fuck, when does it stop?” Mustaine says. But despite the malaise, he says, “We’re so ready.”
In the meantime, Mustaine and Megadeth are gearing up for the European tour, which kicks off in Helsinki on January 20th and will run to the end of February. “I’m so excited,” Mustaine says. “I can’t wait to fire up my guitars.”