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Megadeth - Arsenal of Megadeth Review

by Travis Becker

A few years ago, when VH1's Behind the Music series was gaining momentum, Megadeth was featured on that program. Dave Mustaine had crawled out of the pit of addiction again, but the band was in dire straits and eventually broke up. Metallica's edition of the show, after running continuously for months, reigned as one of the more popular installments. One would have thought, at that time, that Metallica's legacy was secure and that Mustaine would go down as "the guy who got handed a bus ticket by Metallica". Fast forward to today. Following the hilarious debacle of Some Kind of Monster, Metallica now looks like the butt of the joke and Mustaine, with the reformed Megadeth, looks to be the icon held aloft by the rock underground. Arsenal of Megadeth serves to basically summarize the history of Mustaine's juggernaut on video, from their extensive collection of Headbanger's Ball favorites to a pot luck luncheon of extra live footage, television appearances, interviews, and random wreckage. The entertaining journey that this DVD proves to be just goes to show you that artistic vision and great songs will trump whining about therapy any day.

Normally, collections of music videos don't interest me very much. They're a poor substitute for a good live show. However, quite a bit of Megadeth live material already exists out in the ether and they do possess quite a collection of videos, some of which are exceedingly entertaining for the format. Everyone remembers the heart to heart Dave had with himself in the video for "Sweating Bullets", one of the most entertaining videos ever to grace the airwaves of MTV, but Megadeth also produced several more memorable vignettes. "Peace Sells" represents the earliest video output of the band included on this collection and proves that metal bands were politically relevant even back in the eighties. With its stock footage of rioting crowds and dictators, "Peace Sells" pioneered the visceral format later copied by System of a Down. "Hanger 18" ratchets up the production value with foam rubber aliens and huge set pieces, falling somewhere between "Thriller" and a GWAR experience.

While some of these videos do languish in the desert of metal video convention, think rabid long-haired teenagers and shirtless live footage, most of them showcase a band with an admittedly visual bent pushing the limits of the technology and of the outlets for media exposure available to them at the time.

The material on Arsenal is arranged chronologically over two DVD's and presents a history of Megadeth from 1986 right up until the Gigantour of 2005. Interspersed throughout the videos are snippets of interviews with the band that serve to put various songs and videos in context. Dave Mustaine, as always, remains engaging interview subject. His candid and often humorously tongue-in-cheek responses balance his stage image as a dark and angry individual, but the tiny pieces of interview leave the viewer hungry for a little more depth and a greater sense of "what comes next?"

The set becomes something of a catchall in that you also get memorable television appearances by the band on Headbanger's Ball and other MTV shows, and some promotional material, like commercials for some Megadeth albums and Mustaine's spots for the Rock the Vote campaign in the early nineties. Solid live footage also peppers the video collection, but again, it's sparse. "Rattlehead" from Clash of the Titans slays, but the advertised acoustic performance from Argentina doesn't even present a full song. In that way, Arsenal of Megadeth exists as something of a mixed bag, almost a giant promotional piece instead of the comprehensive collection it could have been.

Arsenal of Megadeth, as a portrait of an important band over the course of a long career, ultimately proves a satisfying experience. Through sheer length, the DVD collection makes the case that Megadeth deserves a place in the cannon of Rock and Metal. It also presents a history, of sorts, of Metal music on video and how it evolved on MTV. From the jump cuts and stock footage, to high concept masterpieces, Megadeth was always at the forefront of the video revolution and you get a good sense of that progression through watching Arsenal. Dave Mustaine is a polarizing type of person, but this collection proves that he deserves the praise of the metal community that he often doesn't get.

Here's to a man who never cut his hair.

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