Review by Kevin Kuhlman
Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents (https://www.dannyzeliskopresents.com/ )
Venue: Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ (https://crescentphx.com/ )
Date: October 13th, 2022
“Thirty-seven people have been in this band over the years” – David St. Hubbins, This is Spinal Tap
It might not quite be that high, but nearly the same could be said of legendary thrash metal band Megadeth since its inception in 1983. Twenty-five musicians have been full-time members of Dave Mustaine’s outfit, and that’s before counting session musicians, live members and guest artists. No one spent more time beside Mustaine than bassist David Ellefson, the band’s co-founder who spent two stints in the band (1983-2002 and 2010-2021). After being fired from Megadeth last year for allegations of sexual misconduct, Ellefson founded Kings of Thrash, reuniting with former Megadeth guitarists Chris Poland (1984-1987) and Jeff Young (1987-1989). They are joined by singer/guitarist Chaz Leon and drummer Fred Aching (BulletBoys). Ellefson, a Phoenix local, mentions that this brief tour was a celebration of two of Megadeth’s classic albums that haven’t quite gotten the appreciation the band’s other albums of the era have – Killing is My Business… And Business is Good and So Far, So Good… So What?
Ellefson’s second stint in Megadeth began with the 2010 tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band’s landmark album Rust in Peace, and similar tours celebrating Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? and Countdown to Extinction would follow. Outside of “In My Darkest Hour”, nothing on Killing is My Business or SFSGSW received much play over the past decade of Megadeth’s touring. There’s a lot of great material on these albums and the band Ellefson put together did an incredible job of bringing that to life on stage.
Jeff Young and David Ellefson are clearly the brainchildren of Kings of Thrash, reuniting after thirty years to make this happen. Young in particular looked like he was having a blast playing this music again with his former bandmate and the man he replaced in Megadeth in the first place, Chris Poland. Poland, who is one of my all-time favorite guitarists, was only on stage for a handful of songs, but his passion was infectious and his skills have not eroded an iota over the decades. I never imagined seeing Poland or Young playing these songs live, and it was fantastic to see.
Chaz Leon in particular was a revelation. There might not be a harder job in all of heavy metal music than being able to cover Dave Mustaine’s guitar parts and vocal deliveries without the latter coming off as either a comedic impression or feeling completely wrong for the material. Mustaine’s vocals are arguably the most unique in the genre – a bit of a backhanded compliment, I admit – but Leon does an immaculate job of sounding just enough like Mustaine while clearly not straining and forcing himself to sound exactly like Mustiaine. He’s never straining or mimicking, rather finding a natural groove with the music. Ellefson, Young and Poland might have been members of Megadeth who the crowd knew by name, but Leon is the one who makes this tribute work.
If there’s one thing that made the Kings of Thrash show work, it was the intimacy of the venue combined with the rawness of the material being played. With something like 150 people at the Crescent Ballroom, it felt unlike any Megadeth show I’ve ever seen before. The second half of the show, playing Killing is My Business in its entirety, particularly crushed because that music was written for that kind of club show. The music on that album is fast, heavy, and grody – it was never meant for arenas or 10,000 seat theaters; it was written for a few hundred people to lose their minds over in converted bars or clubs. There was something eye-opening and special about seeing these albums live in such a close knit setting. Killing is My Business has never been my favorite Megadeth album, but it has been rattling in my head – pun intended – ever since. I’m not sure it counts as a “cover band” if it features three former members of the band, but if it does then musically this is the best one I’ve ever seen.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved
Kings of Thrash Setlist:
So Far So Good… So What
Into the Lungs of Hell
Set the World Afire
Anarchy in the UK
In My Darkest Hour
Hook in Mouth
Killing is My Business… and Business is Good
Last Rites/Loved You to Deth
Killing is My Business
Looking Down the Cross
Skull Beneath the Skin
Wake Up Dead
Empire of Dezire
Opening for Kings of Thrash were local act Empire of Dezire, bringing a less thrash-y, more melodic sound to the evening. The slower pace of the music was a nice contrast to the intense, blistering music that would come. Empire of Dezire are a fun, polished band that put on a hell of a show and have an exciting stage presence, equal parts theatrical — singer Tulin Howey’s face is covered in paint and she’s constantly engaging with the crowd like she’s conjuring a spirit —and down-to-earth — guitarists Ken Howey and Jeremy Dasher appear more like what you’d expect from a local metal band, and are more matter-of-fact in their performances. They were the perfect band to open this particular show.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved